FT and Factiva
VP of Content
With a daily circulation of 435,000, a readership in 140 countries, and more than 500 journalists working for its paper and online versions the Financial Times can reasonably claim to be a worldwide newspaper. To maintain that position FT editorial staff need to be up to speed on stories from colleagues and competitors alike around the globe. They need to be able to provide instant analysis and track stories, with email alerts of new developments, plus they need to be sure that their sources are as authoritative as their own paper.
According to a Factiva press release, Factiva.com was chosen as the solution to that need because it catered both for far-
In the wake of the successful trial, Factiva.com was rolled out across the organisation with classroom training sessions in New York, London, Brussels, Chicago, Boston, Mumbai, Beijing, and Sydney with Factiva staff showing how to get the most of the tool. An automated registration system was then put in place and in the first month of implementation more than 70 percent of editorial logged on to the service and 75 percent of users signed up for daily email alerts. The ability to go back through two decades of material with selective searches by subject or source proved instantly popular.
While hard figures remain unavailable, Factiva points to the productivity benefits of the tools as a fast route to ROI. Users themselves have commented on the speed and ease with which the XML based platform gives access to 9,000 carefully selected sources
Interview with Factiva VP
With the news that the Financial Times has opted for a search and data mining solution from Factiva, newspaper techniques asks Simon Alterman, Factiva’s VP and a former Reuters reporter, what the service offers newspapers.
newspaper techniques: With the range and increasing sophistication of free-
Simon Alterman: The key thing is simply the range and the quality of the content. Standard search engines don’t select the target content, but Factiva does. Business and journalists are a very particular audience – you expect them to use all available online sources but they still need to rely on authoritative references from well-
nt: Factiva’s service gives access to 9000 sources including its parents Reuters and Knight-
S. Alterman: We are not trying to sell people back their own content, no. Though, that said, a lot of clients tell us that we offer a far more efficient way of searching their own material.
nt: So is Factiva a potential replacement for the traditional archive?
S. Alterman: We don't position ourselves as a replacement for the archive and there are certain things we don’t do – for example a paper wants to archive every version of a story and we don’t. Where we could possibly replace the archive is the business of looking up what was published elsewhere for reference purposes. Factiva has a long bloodline – Reuters Textline is the grandparent, and that begat the Reuters Business Briefing which in turn married Dow Jones Interactive which gave birth to Factiva. With material going back to Textline we have a well-
nt: Can you reflect the use of a client’s own material in the pricing strategy?
S. Alterman: There are different payment models. You can sign up and just pay for what you use or take a fixed subscription over a certain time period and for a set number of users. In any case that is negotiated and if necessary adjusted at each contract period. Most newspapers start out with a trial period and take it from there.
nt: How is the Factiva experience different for those used to Google-
S. Alterman: If you want to dig back in time, then standard search engines are not set up for that. Everything in Factiva is indexed with our taxonomy so finding details by company, place, people or topic are all well set up. Plus version 2.0 features good visualisation tools that can present the results in graphs or tables so the combination of tools and content makes the difference. We have a range of products called Factiva Insight which use a text mining facility to extract trends, apply analysis and create graphs, and a number of papers are using that output as regular features on websites. For example, if you take a look at the site of [French financial title] Les Echos at www.lesechos.fr they have a feature about which CEOs are mentioned in the news. They use Factiva to find that information and present it graphically.
nt: Is Factiva a republishing tool then?
S. Alterman: No, it is a reference tool, not a syndication service, so it isn’t a way of republishing material, however, the flip side is that freelancers and newspapers can use the service to see who is publishing their material and ensure that it is not being republished where it shouldn’t. That said, there is tracking and alert functionality to allow email updates or delivery over a corporate Internet and there are ‘Newspages’ where you can browse titles or create your own section-
nt: After the trial period, Factiva was rolled out across the FT with classroom sessions from New York to Mumbai. How complex is the training?
S. Alterman: There’s no training required for simple searching, including the graphs and visualisation. And even with the more advanced interface for complex searches you can get the basics on searching with Factiva in half an hour.
nt: What technical strengths does Factiva bring that a standard search engine doesn't?
S. Alterman: The likes of Google are not geared to helping information workers work more intelligently or make better decisions faster. Google set a new standard for searching but also led people to believe this was the best you could do. While there is a quick search facility where you can type in a couple of words with Factiva and get results back, we’ve focussed more on delivering better results complete with graphs and visualisation tools. There is also the option of a more advanced interface for complex searches including Boolean operators, selected sources, etc. Factiva also features a good API so it can be easily integrated into existing editorial systems.
The other area where we go beyond the search engine is our capability in taxonomy and indexing, including managing multilingual taxonomies. Plus, as publishers focus on online they need to be sure material is accompanied by good metadata for republishing. It’s the kind of thing nobody realises they need until the day they find it’s not there, but we also have a tool – Synaptica – which is a repository for managing metadata.
Interview conducted by Steve Shipside, Ifra correspondent
Page first published: 20.04.2006