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Your new mobile news habit – building loyalty and revenue

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

Your new mobile news habit – building loyalty and revenue

The New York Times hit 50 percent mobile article views by April 2013 and in Aug 2014, the breaking news of Robin William’s death brought them to the tipping point: mobile visitors finally surpassed desktop.

The trend is no different at leading Swedish title Aftonbladet, with 1.8m mobile users versus 1.5m on desktop.

It’s clear that mobile is now. And while organisations like The New York Times are building for a “rich cross-platform future,” they see it as essential to launch strong mobile-first products like NYT Now, an app they want to become your “new mobile news habit”.

Alex Hardiman, Exec Director of Mobile, The New York Times, and Ted Kudinoff, Managing Editor, Aftonbladet Plus, Sweden, were both at the Tablet & App Summit in Amsterdam to talk about the practical steps they’ve made to deliver better on mobile.

“Mobile is no longer a specialty, it’s a requirement” – @alex_hardiman

For The New York Times, this mobile focus started with the most senior support from CEO Mark Thompson, and has been reinforced by having a mobile chief who reports directly to the new Executive Editor Dean Baquet.

Lessons from the mobile app NYT Now have spread to the newsroom. And mobile now features heavily at 10am and 4pm news meetings.

On the technical side, they have made major investments into mobile web performance, re-usable app frameworks, and A/B testing.

Their ability to dig into the behaviour of their users has also paid dividends, leading them, for example, to offer 'Most Popular' articles for one-time readers in breaking news sections versus 'More In [this section]' for sport.

But they recognise the gap between time spent and ad spend is actually widening. They had 50 percent usage but only 10 percent of new subscriptions come via mobile.

11 years head start, 3 years of crazy growth

By contrast, at Aftonbladet, 63 percent of new subscribers pay by SMS on their mobiles. With 11 years experience delivering freemium paid content they have recently managed to massively optimise both the sales funnel and user engagement on mobile.

In 2010, Aftonbladet Plus had 120,000 digital subscribers. By 2014, they have almost doubled this to 205,000, taking each user on a journey from free to registered, to paid and then further premium services.

Just as The New York Times found that users of both mobile web and apps were easier to retain, Aftonbladet has seen the most active subscribers being the most loyal.

To keep users active, they have mapped exactly what kind of topics to sell at different times through the day, a 24/7 chart of reader activity. Entertainment works great as a second screen experience, while crime and mystery is perfect for the weekend.

But in Kudinoff's summary of their three main lessons learned, the key points are more prosaic:

  1. Full commitment from all levels
  2. Consumer insights - e.g. deep interviews, surveys, analytics & CRM
  3. A/B testing culture

As Kudinoff says, “we have a mantra at Aftonbladet: any new idea we ask – how do we do it on mobile?” That’s truly mobile first, and in this attitude, The New York Times and Aftonbladet have much in common.


Nick Tjaardstra's picture

Nick Tjaardstra


2014-10-15 18:31

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