Aftenposten+ app that aims for paid subscriptions.
Aftenposten+ app that aims for paid subscriptions.

Aftenposten+ is a premium news app for iOS and Android, developed and published by the leading Norwegian national newspaper Aftenposten. It is used by almost three times as many readers, daily and weekly, as our previous native iPad app.

Aftenposten+ is aimed at paying subscribers. It can be downloaded and browsed for free, but readers need a paid subscription to read its content. The application was developed in the context of Aftenposten transforming its digital business model from free to paid subscriptions. The challenge in that respect was twofold:

  1. To transform existing print subscribers to digital.

  2. To recruit new subscribers.

The aim was to offer Aftenposten subscribers an all-inclusive, premium, digital app. The app was to digitize the essence of the Aftenposten brand experience — presenting thoroughly edited lean-back editions with in-depth articles and analysis.

In addition, the app needed to target serious news enthusiasts who appreciate classic, detail-oriented, and in-depth coverage as part of a truly digital presentation. To make the app even more appealing, we published the next day’s newspaper edition at 10 p.m. in the app, while our print readers get the newspaper delivered the next morning.

When users open the app to the home screen, they see three main choices:

  • Dagens avis (the daily print edition) consists of all articles from our printed newspaper, designed and laid out by hand, and published for digital platforms in a layout tool, Layout Preview, made especially for this purpose. 
  •  Nyhetsbildet nå (The news right now) is an auto-magic feed from our Web edition that goes through our above mentioned desking tool and out to the app. In this part of the app, all content on our Web front page right now — between 90 and 110 articles — can be swiped through and read as an edition, from the first to the last article. Or, the reader can jump in and out of the front page if preferred.

    Also, users can access 12 different content subsections such as news, sports, and opinion as stand-alone editions that offer 25 of the latest articles per section. 
  • Anbefalt (recommended articles) is a visual and tactile, swipeable carousel on top of the home screen, displaying the cover pages of 10 selected current articles.

The daily edition articles are all manually laid out in our custom layout tool with the goal of delivering a diverse and exciting visual experience throughout each edition. The articles from our online edition are automatically published, and mostly automatically laid out through the same system.

The goals of this development project were the following:

  • To make an app to help convert our paying subscribers from print to digital, while also attracting new subscribers.

  • To give the subscribers access to all of the content from the Aftenposten universe, in an app for tablet and mobile, with a unique visual design and a premium user experience.

From the outset, we knew we had to scrap our existing app and make something better.

We started with general workshops about how to develop the app; what it should be; and what content and functionality it should have. Numerous stakeholders were involved from editorial, circulation, advertising, and sales. We also used feedback from the readers of our previous iPad app, insights from user groups, user surveys, and traffic data.

Next, we held a series of concept workshops in which developers and designers from our tech partners, Schibsted Norge Tech (SNT) and Schibsted Tech Polska (STP), were involved in outlining and detailing the app’s capabilities and look.

As the project grew, we determined that internal development of the app was probably not the fastest path to our goal, so we started looking at external companies that could help us. We talked to Agens and Aptoma, both central in developing the VG+ app, and found that these companies could help address our requirements. We then set up agreements, created a project and a steering group, and moved forward full speed ahead.

Major changes to the internal publishing and production systems helped us get the product we wanted without too much manpower for production. We are using exactly the same production system and articles for Aftenposten+ as we do for our online and mobile editions and a custom-made layout tool from Aptoma. We do some manual editing between our CMS and the app to make the articles shine and perform well. But we can also let the whole process be automatic, even for our daily editions.

When the product was ready, we gave it a soft launch to get user feedback and identify bugs. We have added new features and released new versions of the app several times since launch, but we still have a backlog of desired features. A system called User Voice gathers feedback from readers. We use this feedback and our internal plans and opinions when prioritising items for the next version.

It feels good when we can provide a reader with what she is requesting in an upcoming version. As a result, we have been very cautious not to make this a “launch-and-leave” product, but something we will continuously develop.

In the transition to paid digital access, it has been imperative to prove that it is worth subscribing to Aftenposten digitally. By offering an all-in-one, premium app, it is easier to convince new and current subscribers that Aftenposten is well worth the fee.