The FT’s digital revolution bears fruit with fastFT

An intriguing-looking package arrived at my house on Saturday, delivered by special courier.

"fastFT Markets Survival Kit," said the little pink card tied with red ribbon to the top of the square box. I knew immediately who it was from – the Financial Times: the combination of the pink-coloured card and that "FT" logotype were instantly recognizable.

Opening up the box revealed some rather nice goodies (more on those in a minute) accompanied by a letter from Lionel Barber, the FT’s editor.

"Dear Neville," the letter began. Personalized marketing, that’s for sure.

Barber’s letter introduced me to fastFT, "a groundbreaking service coming soon from the Financial Times that will provide market-moving news and views, 24-hours a day."

This is actually a big deal, and it’s coming tomorrow. It’s something Barber outlined a few months ago in an interview with The Guardian talking about editorial and business changes and restructuring at the FT as part of his ambitions for a "digital revolution" dominated by online news rather than ‘print’ news.

His letter on Saturday explains what fastFT is and how the new service will work:

[…] fastFT will deliver up-to-the minute reporting and comment in short, sharp and informed dispatches – giving FT readers the edge they expect and the agenda-setting analysis they rely on. When 140 characters doesn’t cut it, fastFT will go beyond the headlines, providing context and opinion in quick, authoritative reports with a level of transparency and personality that isn’t available elsewhere.

Staffed by a dedicated team of journalists around the world, fastFT will be live and updated 24-hours a day, Monday to Friday, and supplemented with exclusive content from the FT’s renowned network of journalists and guest contributors. It will expand on the FT’s existing offerings – from breaking and investigative news, opinion and analysis to blogs, interactive journalism and videos – by adding a live and dynamic layer of reporting and commentary.

I’d describe it succinctly like this: it’s a live 24×5 online breaking news service tailored to the news and information requirements of the FT reader wherever he or she is located in the world.

If you go to the fastFT section on the FT website today, you’ll see just a digital timer counting down the hours and minutes to the launch of the service on May 29, tomorrow.

There’s also the hashtag #fastFT that I’d expect to see lighting up with tweets at and after the launch tomorrow.

Barber’s letter goes on to explain the advantage of the single-platform that is fastFT:

In an environment where readers increasingly rely on their mobile devices for the latest headlines, fastFT has created a single platform for market-moving news, allowing us to engage more deeply with our readers on whichever device they choose, wherever they are.

That strongly suggests fastFT is more than simply a broadcast news channel, making it a more interesting-looking proposition than it might first appear. If you are able to engage with FT journalists via the device you’re using to get at your fastFT content, rather than just read the news, it opens up opportunities for knowledge acquisition and sharing, far more than you could expect from a traditional news medium.

And what about those goodies I mentioned earlier that were in the intriguing-looking box I received on Saturday?

fastFT Markets Survival Kit goodies

Here you see the two major ones that caught my attention:

Along with a squeeze ball and a Fair Trade chocolate Geo Bar, the "Markets Survival Kit" is a nice approach to introduce fastFT to people the FT wanted to reach out to in an unusual way. Works well for me!

Check out fastFT from 10am UK time on May 29.

[Update May 29:] fastFT went live at 10am UK time this morning, with content available to FT subscribers (and registered users within their metered page-access allowance).

To get a sense of what it looks like – what type of content you’ll see there plus a range of information on journalists’ contact info – here’s a screenshot:

And the FT has published a short video that describes the new service.

(if you don’t see the video embedded above, watch it at YouTube.)

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