London Evening Standard has gone a long way to overhaul its digital presence this year ahead of the London 2012 Olympics, after unveiling its new website in March and launching its first print replica iPad app yesterday.
Digital MD Zach Leonard talked to new media age about the strategy behind the move, and defended the publisher’s decision to charge for content on iPad, despite the print edition being distributed for free.
How does the launch of the iPad app fit into the Evening Standard’s overall digital strategy?
As the leading title in London we have to make it available in every format that is relevant to our target audience. We know we have a very high ABC1 audience profile so it’s likely there will be a high concentration of iPad users within that.
It is different from our smartphone strategy which is to keep people portably informed throughout the day. The way that operates is much more like a web experience – it’s constantly pushing out fresh content, but you don’t get the overall reading and design experience that we take the time to do on the newspaper.
The added benefit will be if we can reach new markets beyond the UK too.
How do you think Londoners will react to the launch?
I think we’ll increasingly find that people will prefer to read the iPad version - even if they’re in London. And they will always be able to find a copy, which isn’t necessarily the case [in print].
Plus, there are a lot of former Standard readers who have been unable to get hold of a copy since we changed the footprint of the distribution. Over the past three years we have focused on central London commuting points, which means that people in Chiswick, Richmond, Hampstead and other areas are no longer able to get an Evening Standard where they used to be able to.
There is definitely demand as you move out of London and we do sell the paper out of some newsagents in selected communities, so there is a precedent for paying for the Evening Standard.
Do you think people in central London will be happy to pay for the iPad version if they can still get hold of the print edition for free?
At a strategic level I think they will because of the convenience of the device. If you’re loyal to the brand and interested for all the right reasons we think there will be reasonable pick up.
The £4.99 price works out at around 20p a day, depending on how many days there are in the month, which is the same price as [sister title] i but the obvious distinction is that Evening Standard is handed out for free whereas we already charge for i.
There is a real demand from people outside of London who can’t get hold of a copy though, so at a national level that becomes very interesting. Internationally it was really key for us to get the app up and out before the Olympics.
There will be lots of people coming into the city who are really interested in what’s happening in London and we believe we are covering the Olympics in a way that only we can as London’s biggest newspaper.
How does the advertising proposition work?
We are already commercialising the home page where you download the app and over time, once we have built up a sufficient audience, we will be able to consider how we sell to the existing print clients. At the moment ads from the print edition are being carried over at no extra charge. We will also look at adding additional pages such as cover wraps, which we have done for i and ES Magazine in the past.
What targets do you have in term of downloads and audience reach?
We haven’t quantified it yet because it is literally just launching now and we still have to promote it. We will initially be targeting as many people as we can in the broader Metropolitan London area, and then we’ll be looking to attract the international audience, people from New York, for example, who might be flying into London, we’ll be marketing a message directly to them.
What kind of split do you expect to achieve between UK and international readers?
It will probably be similar to the website which is 60-65% UK based.