News Corp’s mX extends print brand through smartphone app, social focus

As an established brand, mX has successfully targeted evening commuters on their way home from work since 2001. It is the only commuter daily newspaper in Australia and has been in existence for 13 years in Melbourne, nine years in Sydney and six years in Brisbane.

Over this time, mX has established a loyal following. Although it is a very successful publication, newspapers in general have experienced circulation and revenue declines in the face of competition from online and social media.

As a result, we needed to look for greater and more innovative ways to connect with our audiences, both consumers and advertisers alike.

Well before the launch of the mX smartphone app, we had identified a problem with our core target audience. Aged 18-39 years and continually on the move, they were wedded to our brand, however there was no digital extension providing 24/7 access to mX.

For advertisers also, the print edition of mX remained a very creative medium and at the forefront of innovative ideas, yet we had no digital equivalent. Just like the print product, we had to create an engaging, funny, witty, informative, and entertaining product.

This was to be achieved via a smartphone app, accessible to a wider readership base and designed to enhance (not replace) the printed edition and brand experience for an audience continuously on the move.

With the benefit of research, we knew that more than 80% of our readers wanted an app as well as the printed edition. This insight was of particular importance as the launch of the app could not come at the expense of the still relevant and successful printed edition.

Moreover, it identified that we had to provide our audience with a reason to use both products. A socially savvy audience, our solution was to build upon our strong and loyal reader community by offering them a socially enabled mobile product that enhanced the print product and brand experience.

Since the launch of the newspaper, the mX audience has always connected with mX via the hugely popular mX Talk Section, a section dominated with reader-generated content. We knew we needed to amplify the behaviour exhibited in mX Talk.

We looked at how we could link seamlessly with readers’ social networks while providing them with the ability to share, like, comment, and vote on all topics, galleries, and videos as well as submit their own content.

Our customer value proposition was all about creating a fun, engaging, interactive, and social representation of our existing brand.

To launch the app, we faced and overcame many challenges. We had to differentiate the app in a crowded marketplace full of local and international news apps. In a marketplace where we were competing with other social media, we had to build a socially enabled app that enhanced the printed product and brand experience.

Additionally, we had to find a way to tap into the existing consumer culture in which people love sharing cool things they discover, and we had to provide more value for advertisers in terms of creativity, reach, integration, and native campaigns.

We had a very small marketing budget to launch the app, so we focused on a better way to spend the budget through PR that would attract owned and earned media and also create a new content piece for the app.

The idea started with finding the craziest, coolest act resonating on YouTube. We found Andrew Cassidy, a 50-something, unemployed former fisherman from Wales known as the “Welsh Maradona.”

He has a crazy cool skill that made him an internet sensation with more than two million views on YouTube. In a coup, we brought Andrew Cassidy (and his keepie-uppie skills) to Australia to launch our app.

Relying heavily on social media and PR to spread the word about the product, we took an existing Twitter hashtag “#crazycool,” made it our own, and created our own content portal. It became the theme to our marketing plan.

“Crazycool” was a great choice of words representing mX and the great positive vibe mX has with consumers and advertisers. 

Using Andrew as our poster boy, people were asked to tweet cool things they found on the internet to @mX using #CrazyCool. This created a mechanism that encouraged content sharing, increasing interaction, and reach, spreading the news beyond existing readers.

Shared content was earned media that drove traffic to a mobile landing page promoting app downloads and the best content was published in mX print, becoming a new column and a daily reminder to download the app.

The launch campaign, which could not have happened without great collaborative assistance across the News Corp Australia business, demonstrated what readers could expect from the app — an engaging, funny, witty, informative, and entertaining product.

The integrated campaign featured mobile engagement, social engagement, house press, and PR to raise awareness. We also seeded the mobile behaviour with our mX Twitter and Facebook followers. Using this range of media we were able to spread the news of the mX app further than existing mX print readers.

#CrazyCool generated AUS$1.2M in PR and provided a marketing platform for more than three months — well past the limited timeframe that would have been achieved with paid media.

We received positive coverage nationally in trade and consumer publications across broadcast, radio, print and online, and Andrew’s “keepie-uppie” road show and presentation to agencies/clients — coupled with a trade campaign across screens in media agencies nationally informing potential clients of the app’s impressive progress — was met with great enthusiasm and excitement.

After 12 successful months, we have achieved well over 110,000 downloads and been the No. 1 news app on iTunes and Google Play. Our users are highly engaged, spending three minutes and viewing 10 screens on average per session. We have seen thousands of social interactions (sharing, commenting, liking) and have an average rating of 4 on the app stores.

From advertisers, we have seen integrated and cross platform campaigns that is not cannibalising funds from traditional print revenue. Though our audience has always been vocal, we gave them more of a voice with commenting and social interaction allowed through the app.

In addition to this, we communicate with them regularly via Twitter and Facebook, driving a continuous loop of interaction between social media, print, and app.

About Maurice Smarrelli

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