Q&A: Stacy-Marie Ishmael on Her Mission to Build, Expand Financial Times Communities

Tim Sohn interviews Stacy-Marie Ishmael, the new -- and first -- vice president of communities for the Financial Times.

Financial Times
An image from the Financial Times’ Innovative Lawyers event in 2012. Photo courtesy of FT.
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Stacy-Marie Ishmael, vice president of communities at the Financial TimesStacy-Marie Ishmael was recently named the first vice president of communities for Financial Times. I recently caught up with her to discuss this new position, what types of communities she will be building and expanding for the FT, return on investment, social media advertising, and much more.

Here are excerpts:

Question: Congratulations on your appointment as vice president of communities at the Financial Times. What were you doing previously, and what led you to this position?

Answer: Immediately before this, I worked as a product manager at a technology company based in New York called Percolate. Percolate builds software for Fortune 500 companies, and I had a really, really good time there understanding the product process around how software is built and working with clients like American Express and Mastercard. There was definitely a lot to do. And before that, I was actually at the Financial Times. I spent five years at the FT as a reporter and editor, so now I’m back.

Q: Were there any skills that you used at Percolate that you bring to the Financial Times that you find especially useful?

A: One of the things a product manager must be good at is communication, and I feel like, I spent, as I said, five years as a reporter and an editor and really getting an understanding of how to communicate across different platforms. So, I worked on the newspaper side, and I worked on the digital and Web, and I felt that this really helped me in that product management position. It also helped with our clients. We had editorial clients, and I had a fairly sophisticated understanding of what publishers are thinking in social and digital because I’ve been on the other side.

Q: You launched some blogs previously at the Financial Times. Can you talk about that?

A: When I joined the FT, one of the first things that I did was work with the FT Alphaville team, which is currently celebrating its seven-year anniversary. Alphaville at the time was the very first financial blog from a major news organization. So, it was absolutely an experiment. It was at a time when blogging was still very, very new. We talk about extremely sophisticated topics in a way that is accessible, interesting, funny, opinionated, all the things that make blogs great that hadn’t really previously been applied to financial reporting context.

Q: What was the reaction from your readers?

A: At the very, very beginning, people were skeptical that news organizations should even be going into blogging. The readers loved it. They felt that we were speaking their language, we were reporting on things they found interesting, they appreciated the sophistication with which we tackled complex topics. The fact that it’s survived seven years so far and continues to thrive is a great testimony to that editorial strategy.

Q: What does your new position entail? Do you oversee any people? What’s the typical day like for you?

A: My new position is brand new – it’s new for me, and it’s new for the FT. Really the goal is to understand and execute on one core thing – and that is delighting and engaging FT audiences around the world. There are lots of ways that we can do that. In terms of people reporting to me, I will. I am currently hiring.

Q: In terms of communities, are you dealing with both online and offline communities?

A: It’s absolutely both. We are taking quite an expansive view of community, and our view is that wherever the readers are, whether they’re online on social platforms, whether they’re offline at events, it’s our responsibility to make sure we are where they are, and we are providing excellent editorial and content experiences for them.