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 Irish Examiner offers its audiences an array of apps, including RSS-based apps for its main news brands and page-turning apps for print titles. Eventually, the company plans to merge the apps, says Ruairi Roddy, digital project manager for the Examiner.
“We’re attempting a super-premium ‘connected’ experience for loyal readers — get readers ‘into the brand club’ and keep them there,” Roddy says.
The Irish Examiner tends to require readers to register to access content and runs in-app advertisements while also offering its members opportunities to make purchases inside the apps.
“The apps are relatively conservative and largely offer what is available through the Web offering,” Roddy says. “Apps considerably reflect an ‘us too’ attitude vs. competitors, though the quality and the content is good. They’re not targeting different users to the Web site(s), just more loyal users.”
The company uses alerts to help keep readers coming back to the apps and to nurture relationships with its brands. Those app users constitute a different cohort than readers who connect with the Examiner and other Landmark Media Investments properties through Facebook or Twitter.
Their value to the company is “significantly more important than, for example, efforts on alternative social platforms like Reddit,” Roddy says: “They’re important for us to be able to move loosely connected mobile users into ‘logged-in’ app users who we can message at will and move up a purchase funnel.”
The Examiner’s app users are “extremely voracious in consuming material; highly engaged,” Roddy says. “They need to have fresher content available to them than we sometimes can produce. And the quality of app advertising is particularly poor. We’d like to see advertisers produce better creatives and approaches to help us with our yield.”
While the company’s content feeds are developed internally, the native components of its apps are developed externally, with a long-term trend of outsourcing an increasing amount of the work.
Apps have made a significant contribution to the company’s market share numbers and its brand perception, Roddy says. When its apps were first introduced, they were immediately seen as superior to others in their approach and in their design, described as “a good experience relative to others,” he says.
Apps have unlocked significant sums in mobile ad spending, which wasn’t happening previously on its mobile sites, and have allowed the Examiner to increase profits by targeting ads from a single advertiser to more than one of its sites.
“Since there is little incremental cost in the apps to operate from our existing CMS, it’s safe to say that they’re a positive contribution to revenues and have well broken even,” he says. “Further investment in them is under way.”
The app market still needs a couple more years to mature, Roddy says. Apple’s Newsstand app is “a disaster,” he says, and Landmark still has concerns about Apple’s revenue share, while Android users are “a tough sell.”
Over time, the company hopes to see more of its highly engaged site visitors become app users, so that it can learn more about them, Roddy says. He sees opportunities to use the app more as a tool for creating high-quality user profiles rather than a high quantity of them: “Our apps will have tens of thousands of daily users, not millions.”