Unlike news media organisations that serve well-defined geographies, Stars and Stripes serves as the editorially independent news media for a far-flung U.S. military community that moves from one base to another every two to three years, traversing countries and even continents in the process.
At the height of recent conflicts, Stars and Stripes distributed some 90,000 newspapers daily. The majority went to service members in war zones — not a very lucrative business model but undoubtedly the best product for regions with little Internet, let alone mobile, connectivity.
As the war winds down and the forces return home, the mission to serve America’s military community becomes more challenging and the solution more digital.
Traffic to the primary Web site is robust at about a million unique visitors and 3.3 million page views monthly; smaller Web properties work in tandem with printed weeklies to support military communities in Guam, Japan, Korea, and UK.
Stars and Stripes entered the mobile market with an iPhone app in March 2012, priced at US$.99. One year and 25,000 downloads later, the app often ranks in the top-10 paid news apps on Apple’s App Store, has a 4.5 star rating, serving about 3,400 sessions per day. Although designed specifically for the iPhone, the app also works well on the iPad.
Today, 25% of the visits to stripes.com come from mobile devices, compared to 16% a year ago, when the first mobile app debuted. Apple devices dominate, with 70% of all mobile visits coming either from the iPhone or the iPad; since the iPhone app launched, visits from iOS devices have more than doubled.
The Android market is a bit harder to assess, given the sheer number of devices using that platform. Visits from Android devices to stripes.com nearly doubled over the last year, but still represent only 26% of all mobile visits.
But Google’s mobile operating system continues to gain market share and some of the new phones are very popular with the demographics Stars and Stripes serves, so we also developed an Android app. The Stars and Stripes news app for Android released at the end of February and is sold on the Google Play store.
Hot on the heels of the Android app is a tablet app, developed for the Apple iPad (iOS 6 and above). Stars and Stripes’ first mobile product with a subscription-based model, the Tablet Edition, is currently awaiting Apple’s approval to go live on the App Store.
Some 40+ million members of the community Stars and Stripes is charged with serving (active-duty, guard and reserve, veterans, Department of Defense civilians, plus family and friends) are scattered across the United States.
A print product would be neither economical nor timely. But the Tablet Edition offers unique reports from U.S. bases around the world, videos and dynamic photo galleries, and provides the interactive user experience iPad users have come to love.
Stars and Stripes is committed to developing and deploying content to the digital platforms its specific audience prefers and to using the best-suited technology to fulfill its mission to deliver timely, useful information to the global military community.