The Chronicle Herald has been delivering news to Nova Scotians since 1824. Still independently owned and operated today, it has become a leader in delivering local, national and international news, business, and sports to its readers through multiple digital platforms.

Most recently, that expanded to include a newly redesigned app for iOS 7.

The design and development of the application was a team effort between The Chronicle Herald and MindSea Development, experts in mobile design and app solutions and based locally in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Chronicle Herald, like many regional newspapers, struggles with how to compete for mobile readers, particularly with so many well-recognised international competitors sitting side by side in the App Store.

Through a joint design workshop, MindSea Developments and The Chronicle Herald realised local publishers can engage with more mobile readers by focusing on their strength: delivering strong local content while providing a great user experience.

The Chronicle Herald’s iOS 7 App launched in December 2013 with the following new features, all aimed at increasing reader engagement, ad revenue, and market share:

  • Content-focused design, emphasising readability and bold visuals.

  • Ability to swipe between sections and stories.

  • Videos and photo galleries within articles to tell more of the story.

  • Integrated Apple Newsstand capabilities including subscription purchases through iTunes.

  • “Herald Extra!” functionality to view Augmented Reality content in the print edition.

  • Breaking news alerts through push notifications.

  • An integrated e-paper reader to view the full version of the print edition, including an archive of the past month worth of newspapers.

  • Streamlined content publishing with support for reader news tips.

  • Supported by revenue from new mobile ad units and paid subscriptions.

New ad units were built into the app to better serve the needs of the business community, including in-line ads on section pages and interstitial ads that appear after five swipes between sections or stories. This allows the message to blend with news content instead of competing with it. 

A mix of print, digital, radio, social media, and in-app advertising was used to promote the app to the public. An e-mail newsletter also was sent to existing subscribers, highlighting the new functionality and encouraging downloads amongst loyal readers.

The app quickly gained the attention of Apple, which promoted it as a “Featured App” in the App Store and on Newsstand as “Best New App” throughout the holiday season. It ranked alongside major international publishers like The New York Times, Rolling Stone magazine, and Vanity Fair when it was selected by Apple for its annual “Best Of” list (2013).

This gave The Chronicle Herald excellent international exposure during a very busy season where many new device owners were looking to stock their Christmas gadgets with all the latest apps.

The placement in the Featured App bar and being selected for Apple’s Best of Newsstand 2013 contributed to 10,289 new unique downloads in the first month alone plus more than 11,000 existing app users updating to the new iOS 7 version (source: Appfigures iTunes Newsstand).  

Since launch, The Chronicle Herald has seen 1,000 digital subscriptions purchased through iTunes, more than 26,000 unique new app downloads and more than 87,000 updates of their existing app (source: Appfigures iTunes Newsstand).

This has opened a new revenue stream and engaged users who likely wouldn’t otherwise read the print edition.

In May 2014 alone, the app saw 20,000 users with a daily average of 9,000 active users totalling close to 400,000 sessions. This number continues to grow (source: Flurry Analytics).

In-app advertising is also seeing success. iPad full screen interstitials are set at US$60 CPM, and despite the aggressive rate, advertisers are seeing great value in the ad unit and user performances have been high, often seeing a CTR at 4% or 5% for these units. A similar case can be seen on the iPhone/iPod Touch interstitial, which is set at US$30 CPM.

The success of The Chronicle Herald app stemmed from continuous consideration of the user experience both from a reader and advertiser perspective. This highly collaborative and user-driven approach between the publisher and developer resulted in the app being featured in the App Store and receiving the honour of being included on their Best of 2013 list.

Innovation like this, along with The Chronicle Herald’s reputation for delivering quality journalism including strong local content now accessible across multiple channels, provides the foundation for the company future growth strategy.