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.  

Polish news brand Gazeta Wyborcza wants to deliver content to readers wherever they are, with apps being one option alongside print and the media company’s mobile-friendly Web site.

With an average daily circulation of more than 250,000 as of April 2015, print remains an important channel. But many of those same readers are now also accessing their news online. 

Surveys show Gazeta Wyborcza’s print, desktop, and mobile readers are not necessarily different audiences and may not have a preference for one channel over another — it’s just a matter of convenience.

App users, so far, constitute a small part of the total audience, but they are highly engaged and loyal readers, says Katarzyna Jaklewicz, digital development director for Gazeta Wyborcza. 

“They really spend a lot of time actually reading the content within the app,” she says. “It’s not browsing; it is not checking up on what is going on. It’s actually concentrating on the reading experience, and the time spent within the app is much higher than what we were used to on our Web site.”

The company gathers highly detailed information about user preferences and habits through data collection within the app and through focus groups where users describe how they use the app and what elements are important to them.

That feedback is taken very seriously, Jaklewicz says, and is incorporated into updates. This data collection is vital because consumer behaviour can be so difficult to predict. 

“When a new device is introduced, you never know how people are going to use it,” she says. “It’s like with Apple Watch right now. Everybody is guessing how people will use it, but we don’t really know yet.” 

The company initially outsourced elements of its apps, but updates and further developments are now done internally, Jaklewicz says: “We have a dedicated team of developers who work constantly on new versions. We issue updates for each platform every few weeks.” 

Gazeta Wyborcza introduced its first app for iOS in July 2012 and replaced it with the current version of its main app in December 2013, making it available for iOS, Android, Windows 8.1 (tablets and laptops), and Windows Phone. The app is updated daily and offers two portals. 

One is essentially a replica of the print edition, with the same articles presented in the same sections, including the newspaper’s more than 20 local supplements, though some content is updated past the print deadline. The second part of the app is a curated selection of the most current content and breaking news online. Users can choose whether they prefer that or the print replica as their opening screen.

Gazeta Wyborcza also offers three niche apps that reproduce magazine supplements from its print edition: one on history, another on women’s issues, and a third featuring long-form content. 

Users of the main app can access five articles per day for free and are then asked to become monthly, quarterly, or yearly subscribers, with their subscriptions granting them full access to all the newspaper’s apps and its Web content. For the niche apps, there is no free content; users must either subscribe or pay for content by buying an entire issue. 

Because readers are paying for access to the content, ads are kept to a minimum, and there are no intrusive pop-ups, nor are there unnecessary graphic or multi-media elements that might interfere with the reading experience.

The company learned through experience — after launching an earlier app for another of its print products that included elaborate visual and sound effects and won prizes for its creativity — that readers mostly just want to be able to read the written content.

“There is nothing that obscures the article,” Jaklewicz says. “We are trying to make the experience really comfortable and pleasant for them, making sure that there is no unnecessary element that can disturb the experience, that there are no unnecessary multi-media [elements] that are not really relevant for the content they are reading.” 

Gazeta Wyborcza measures success for its apps based on counts of active weekly and monthly users, which are both increasing, as well as by revenue generated through subscriptions or one-time sales through its niche apps. The company is “satisfied with the results so far,” Jaklewicz says.