FT launches breaking news tool — “when 140 characters doesn’t cut it”

The Financial Times is getting into the bite-sized news business with a new product called fastFT.  The tool, announced on Wednesday, appears to be a sort of hybrid between Twitter and a wire service, and is intended to keep readers near at a time when news is becoming faster, shorter and more mobile.

According to the company, fastFT will provide “context and opinion… when 140 characters doesn’t cut it” for breaking news stories, and will include a dash of FT-style personality. The dispatches, which are between 100 and 250 words, will appear on the right side of the FT homepage and on a separate fastFT website. On the iPad, it looks like this:fastFT-ipad-mini

The outfit will be staffed by eight journalists, who are based in New York, London and Hong Kong and tasked with cranking out up to three items per hour. I spoke with chief correspondent, Megan Murphy, who said fastFT is meant to create more portals and routes for readers to consume the publication’s content.

“Nothing drives me more crazy than when I hear FT readers have gone elsewhere for breaking financial news,” she said, explaining that the dispatches will go up more quickly than a typical news story but provide more context than Twitter. She added that fastFT is aimed not at traders, but as a companion mobile news source for financial professionals.

The launch comes at a time when the market for business news, which is the FT’s bread and butter, is becoming evermore crowded. In addition to long-time rival, the Wall Street Journal, the site must also compete with host of newcomers like the Atlantic’s Quartz and even BuzzFeed. Meanwhile, start-ups like Circa and Summly (recently bought by Yahoo) are tinkering with ways to deliver short summaries of news stories to mobile devices.

As with other FT fare, the bite-sized stories are included for subscribers; for visitors, opening the fastFT page will count against the monthly article cap though opening individual stories will not.