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In the digital age newspapers have been left in limbo as they face the dilemma of what business model to pursue online.
As we reported last week, some favour monetising their free content with online ads while other have opted for subscription models or paywalls.
Publishers also have to decide how to offer their content on iPad.
Most, including the Guardian, Times and Telegraph, charge for their iPad app and this model is also advocated by Johnston Press CEO Ashley Highfield.
But getting the payment model and usability right is a difficult task.
The Telegraph first launched its iPad app in September 2010 and offered it free for the first six months.
It wanted to get in enough users to accurately inform important decisions around the type of content, the times of day when content is consumed, the depth of engagement and overall subscriber loyalty and retention.
The main business challenges identified included commercialising mobile publications through advertising and reaching younger users.
It found that agencies and advertisers were demanding a mobile audience, and readers had come to expect mobile news access.
Step one: trial
The Telegraph used software from Webtrends to analyse user data and revealed several key findings:
- Time-starved readers wanted curated news: just the important stories tailored to the iPad.
- 25% of iPad users said their usage was in addition to other media.
- The app drove loyalty and retention. The number of returning readers grew continuously after the app’s launch to more than 111,000 by January 11 2011.
- There were more Telegraph for iPad users over 55 than under 35. This finding let the Telegraph focus on smartphones and the web for campaigns or content aimed at younger readers, since iPad app users tended to be older.
Readers also responded directly to the publisher, telling it they liked the conspicuous editorship (the article curation) and clean design in the iPad app.
Those elements conveyed a sense of expertise used to save time and to present only the content readers valued most.
Examining the time of day when users accessed The Telegraph with their iPads revealed a second spike in the evening.
With that in mind, the publisher introduced a night-reading mode, turning the iPad into a lean-back device users read in bed.
Step two: engagement
The next step was to build the audience volume and develop greater reader engagement.
After analysing the findings from the first trial, the Telegraph launched a new version of the app in April 2011 on a subscription model.
Using webtrends the publisher measured several key metrics, including page views, number of visits, time of day of visits, day of week, app version, most-read stories and more.
The Telegraph also experimented with which types of content work best for the iPad.
Beyond curating specific stories, the publisher recognised that the iPad is better at in-depth coverage for some stories (with audio and video, for instance) compared with print.
Getting better stats about which adverts perform best on iPad was also a fundamental objective in 2011.
It needed to develop its offerings for advertisers, both for individual ad buys and as part of their overall media strategies.
At this stage the amount of targeting for both content and ads was still limited as the readership was not yet large enough to justify such segmentation.
The Telegraph’s iPad ads were all full-page interstitials so it examined different ad formats and ways of selling them, on the app downloads themselves or page impressions.
This could avoid the potential problem of 10 people downloading an app but only one using it.
The publisher also experimented with different CPM and sponsorship models.
Step three: advertising
During 2012 the Telegraph sees itself as moving from a mainly print business with a digital attachment to being mainly digital plus print.
To this end, it needs to use data about its Pad readership to create more effective ads to sell to marketers.
The Telegraph has uncovered several valuable findings:
- iPad readers interacted with ads six times longer compared with desktop viewers.
- Engagement and usage were high. Average time spent in the app was over 10 minutes.
- Half of users shared content with family members. The Telegraph says advertisers need to recognise this as increased circulation.
- Peak reading times were earlier and later in the day for iPad readers compared with desktop viewers, and higher on weekends. The Telegraph says this is especially important for some advertisers: coffee makers will want morning readers, while dessert makers will look for evening users.
The Telegraph insists that its data-driven approach was key to building engagement and developing its iPad ad platform.
UK Telegraph Media Group director of mobile and interactive Mark Challinor said that metrics will be increasingly important as it releases additional apps.
We have got some new news apps coming out and basic capture is going to be very important to what we do with them. It’s very important that we go to market with a clear and transparent analytic package to aid client decision-making.
The Telegraph has come up with five key lessons from its iPad development process:
- Measurement is critical to the success of any mobile strategy.
- Understanding mobile behaviour goes beyond simple clicks and app downloads. Business objectives should drive and be aligned with mobile measurement.
- Publishers shouldn’t try to do everything all at once. A crawl-walk-run approach lets them show results early, get critical exec buy-in and then progressively build on success in later phases.
- Educate advertisers on how customers are consuming content and why that is important to them.
- Leverage understanding of customers’ mobile behaviour to give them a more relevant experience that increases engagement and loyalty.