Editor’s note: This is one of 19 case studies featured in INMA’s strategic report “Smartphone App Lessons for Media Companies,” released in July.  

Indonesia’s Kompas has a highly unusual mobile strategy based around a single smartphone app: a crossword puzzle game called Kompas TTS.

The game is designed to gather “as much audience as we can get,” says Eko Prabowo, who heads Kompas’ mobile development team.

Kompas previously introduced another app, offering an e-paper version of Kompas available behind a paywall. Designed for use by the newspaper’s print subscribers, it is marketed far less widely than the crossword app. 

The Kompas TTS app was developed externally, by Radya Labs Teknologi of Bandung, Indonesia, and is available for Windows Phone, Android, and iOS. The app is free to download and to play, and it offers small gifts to users to encourage engagement. It will remain free for the foreseeable future, as Kompas’ market research shows competing Indonesian mobile crossword games are also free. 

Its revenue, like that of its competitors, comes from in-app advertising. The ads in Kompas TTS include banners, logos inside the crossword puzzles, and sponsored crosswords with tailored themes.

Because Kompas is widely known in Indonesia for its crossword puzzles, the app pretty much sells itself: “We only have to make sure that there is a new crossword every day for users,” Prabowo says. 

The goal is to gather a high volume of users, and currently Kompas TTS has about 2,000 unique daily users as its core audience, a number that is “quite pleasing for us,” Prabowo says. The volume increases by 150% to 200% each time Kompas launches a new marketing push through print ads in its own pages or through Facebook ads.

The company’s target is 10,000 unique daily users, a goal that Prabowo believes it cannot reach through its current marketing efforts. For continued growth in the long term, Kompas will need to build a community of crossword enthusiasts and to reach an audience beyond just the newspaper’s readership.

“This is very important because, based on our marketing experience, all mobile game products need endorsers/evangelists,” Prabowo says. “Advertising in old ways just won’t cut it.” 

The app exists to stake a claim in the mobile world for Kompas, with little expectation of profit in the near term. “The money is not there yet,” Prabowo says. The company’s core business remains in its print product, he says, through advertising and subscriptions.