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Die Welt continues tweaking news app based on reader comments

KOMPAKT is a news app launched May 2014 — 10 years after “WELT kompakt” started the daily, tabloid formatted, compact variant of Die Welt.

In 2013, our mobile offerings were merely variations of the desktop content: Technically altered, with elements subtracted — a different layout for the very same stuff. 

Our thesis was and still is that mobile is different. We must make it shorter, easier to digest, suitable for casual usage by getting rid of the clutter, but not of substance.

We borrowed principles from Bauhaus: Form follows function. OK, but we’d also like content to follow the respective usage situation. Our take on this concept was that form (content and design) follows users. 

We started rough concepts and first design sprints in the second half of 2013. We wanted KOMPAKT to be card-based, modular, with rather large images/graphics/maps/videos/social media items and short texts. No scrolling, just swiping. 

In eight weeks, we developed the KOMPAKT iOS app. It hit the App Store on May 6 and that was the start of our learning curve. 

We had not bothered to develop and test prototypes in advance, which made things speedy but was a risk we did not estimate properly. Luckily, KOMPAKT quickly developed a strong following, especially with younger iOS users. One reason for that seems to be the fact that apart from form and function, the editorial team also fostered a specific tone in writing news, making it personal, direct, un-newsy, fresh, witty, and funny. 

These efforts also were boosted when Apple promoted KOMPAKT in the App Store.

Our users gave us feedback, both directly via e-mail (each and every e-mail went by the editors) and indirectly in form of user data. We learned a lot from both. KOMPAKT users are most active after 10 p.m. and tend to use mobile devices at home. They don’t like it when we mess with KOMPAKT’s video player’s controls, and they do like commenting. 

Four weeks into the launch, we added a commenting system that lets users express their opinions with up to 14 characters. The commenting cards can be shared to a Web site for the app, because if that comment looks cool, other users might want to go where that came from. Initially, we could only direct users to the app store, but we changed that.

Today, we have a fully developed Web site,the I OS-App works on the iPad and on the Apple Watch, and we have added an Android App. The app has more than 150,000 downloads and about 3,000 reviews.  

KOMPAKT’s editors work in WELTN24’s newsroom alongside print and online editors. This creates certain synergies: KOMPAKT’s editors specialise in making news more concise and sharable and help WELTN24’s content appeal to a younger demographic. This works even with book reviews. There are more areas for synergy, and we are working on them. 

KOMPAKT is still trying to figure out the advertising aspect. Tests with native advertising — for clients such as eBay and Audi — are promising. User engagement is significantly higher with those advertising stories. But these are not mainstream products, and it seems that some advertising agencies are having a hard time getting away from the predictable, everyday medium rectangle. 

We are pretty sure they’ll come around, thought, because form follows users.

About Dirk Nolde

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