Back to blog

Engaging content: Lessons from the FT and the B2B Marketing Summit

by AprilSix Proof

Proof attended two events this week that gave us greater insights into content, and audience engagement trends. The first, was Imperial College’s Disrupting News Event. Tom Betts, the Financial Times’ Chief Data Officer discussed how Big Data is transforming the future of news and media.

Tom spoke of the changing trends in news consumption. Now, news is increasingly digital and often served up on social media sites with the reader paying little attention to where the news came from (more on this and other trends can be found in the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2016). So, this is a real challenge for publications wanting to foster brand loyalty and drive engagement.

In the past buying a paper copy of the FT would be incorporated into the average reader’s daily routine. Tom spoke nostalgically of city workers perfecting the art of folding the large paper into small sections suitable for reading on a crowded commuter train.

In 2012 a tipping point occurred for the FT, where it saw its volume of digital subscriptions overtake print. Now, 70% of the FT’s readers are digital subscribers. And, Big Data is providing the FT with the necessary insights to tailor news in order to make readers more engaged with the publication.

An audience member questioned the ethics of writing more of the popular stories, but Tom responded that a balance is struck, and if the FT did purely focus on writing about the topics of most interest to their readers, the FT would just be full of stories on bitcoin, china and gold (yes, apparently so).

Finally, one of the most memorable take-aways about digital news trends, was learning about the use of artificial intelligence in journalism. The LA Times signs off its earthquake news with This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service and this post was created by an algorithm written by the author.” 

The second event we attended was the B2B marketing summit. Joe Pulizzi gave the keynote, providing very clear guidance on how to run a successful content strategy and gave a few compelling case study examples.

A couple of things really stuck in my mind. Firstly, don’t build content on a platform you don’t own. You could invest a lot of time and money running a content campaign on a channel you don’t own, and one subtle algorithm change could impact engagement levels. Also, the most prized subscribers are email subscribers (far and above Youtube subscribers and Facebook fans).

Joe also stressed the importance of building an engaged audience first before trying to monetise content. He also said this is the reason why we are seeing more companies acquire content platforms. For example, Microsoft’s recent acquisition of LinkedIn and, on a smaller scale, Adorama buying jpg mag. More on Joe’s perspective on this trend can be found here –

Finally, building a loyal audience base takes time. Joe said 15-18 months is average time it takes to go from content creation to monetisation. He also emphasised the need to develop niche content that is targeted at one specific audience. He used the Chicken Whisperer case study a few times – this is an example of a man who found a very niche audience, built a loyal base, then launched a radio channel, a magazine, and bestselling book (Joe writes more about this case study, and others here –

If you’d like to discuss this blog further, please email me on