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.
The Globe and Mail sees its smartphone and tablet apps as “a key touchpoint for our most dedicated readers” and a “pillar of our overall audience strategy,” says Matt Frehner, senior editor of mobile and interactive news.
The Globe and Mail’s distinctive editorial content is its app’s top selling point, Frehner says, citing its leading coverage of Canadian business and politics, as well as its robust foreign and national bureaus.
“This means delivering great long-form and investigative journalism, and also paying a lot of attention to the design of our products, and experimenting with data and interactive journalism,” he says.
The company designs content to work across all platforms, with the goal of making its journalism available to readers however they consume news — whether by mobile, desktop, or print. But it also considers audience behaviour, Frehner says, “so we are heavily focused on mobile storytelling in the morning and tablet storytelling in the evening, for example.
“Whereas desktop and mobile Web are platforms for acquiring new readers and driving revenue through traditional online advertising, we see our app as a key product for delivering both subscription and high-value advertising revenue.”
The Globe and Mail has experimented with several niche apps, but ultimately kept its strategic focus on one flagship app, with a second app to serve investors with market news and the ability to track personal portfolio performance.
The Globe Investor App is iOS-only, but the Globe News app is available on iOS, Android, and Blackberry (as The Globe and Mail maintains a comparatively large Blackberry readership).
Digital subscriptions to The Globe and Mail, including the apps, cost C$23.99 per month, or come free with a print subscription. Non-subscribers can read a limited number of articles for free each month.
The apps also include advertisements, but their success is measured less by revenue generated than by the number of return visits and the overall reader engagement, including time spent and the number of pageviews per visit, Frehner says.
The Globe and Mail apps are powered by an application programme interface that was developed in-house, and the company owns the code for all its products, maintaining tight control over app design and content delivery.
But the company does work with external developers on some issues. The challenge has been that app development is “time-consuming and expensive to do well,” Frehner says, the upside being The Globe and Mail team has learned valuable lessons about readership.
“Over the past few years, we’ve learned a lot about how app readership differs from mobile Web — far more engaged, far more likely to return, far more likely to subscribe,” Frehner says. “This has informed the investments we’ve been making over the past few months.”
Looking ahead, the company expects continued growth in its iPhone app and iPad app readership, especially as it releases a major update with significant new features, allowing greater personalisation and content curation that are intended to drive engagement.