Financial Times Taps Former BBC Tech Heavyweight

Multichannel expert John O'Donovan joins The Financial Times as new CTO, will help develop mobile strategy among other challenges.
Leading British business daily The Financial Times has tapped British IT leader John O'Donovan as its new chief technology officer. Reporting to CIO Christina Scott, O'Donovan will help further develop the paper's technology strategy.

O'Donovan has extensive experience with multi-channel delivery, having spearheaded development of the BBC's P2P-based VOD (video on demand) and iPlayer content library while serving as chief architect and head of interactive technology at the broadcaster's News, Sport and Weather division from 1999 to 2011. He also contributed to the BBC's successful coverage of the London 2012 Olympics, helping lead the development of a set of widely used APIs for the Olympics data feed. O'Donovan has also held roles at BBC rival BSkyB.

In his new role, O'Donovan will lead The Financial Times's technology strategy across development and operations teams. Scott noted, "[O'Donovan] will play an important role in developing the FT's technology strategy, including how we improve our use of data and continue to enhance our content management solutions," adding that O'Donovan has a strong track record of successfully delivering high-profile products and services for various media organizations.

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O'Donovan comes from international press service the Press Association, where he currently serves as director of architecture and development. (Interestingly, the FT's previous CTO, Michael Fleshman, took the reverse path, joining the BBC Worldwide arm as senior VP for Consumer Digital Technology.)

In a statement reporting his appointment, global publishing and content group Pearson, which owns the Financial Times, credited O'Donovan with "delivering influential technical strategies that have become widely adopted, and using semantic technologies and architectural patterns for dealing with complex integration in modern technical environments."

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O'Donovan can expect to roll his sleeves up very quickly as the "pink paper" ramps up its multimedia activities. Plans likely include developing its mobile strategy; the FT is one of the small but closely watched band of media titles that insist on a paywall (in its case, $1.50 a day). In April, the FT launched a refreshed Web version focused heavily on the Apple iPad, with an Android version promised in the coming months.

The paper has attracted attention for refusing to develop a native iOS app, arguing that the format would not merit enough value. It cites Apple's 30% cut of revenues for in-app purchases and its view that Apple doesn't share enough data with customers.

In its 2012 results, Pearson revealed that as of last July, The Financial Times has more digital subscribers than print.

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