VOL.AT creates TikTok-inspired app

By Georg Burtscher

Russmedia Digital GmbH

Schwarzach, Vorarlberg, Austria


The next generation of users and subscribers have completely different usage and consumption patterns with their preferred media brands and devices. In 2020, 500 million people used Instagram Stories daily. On TikTok, users spend an average of 52 minutes per day. This generation taps or swipes through stories with their thumbs, finding new media brands that leverage their habit to engage.

Most of our industry still uses text and small images (and too many ad banners) — all of which were well-established in another century.

The VOL.AT app before the makeover.
The VOL.AT app before the makeover.

Russmedia-owned VOL.AT began wondering how to use the look and feel of the core elements from mobile social media apps and apply them to journalistic apps. Instagram’s Stories or Reels captivate with the ability to tell stories in the form of short videos or photos accompanied by music. So we asked ourselves the question: How do we combine this entertaining and emotional form of presentation with our existing workflows and editorial content? 

Trial and error 

At the start of this project, we built several prototypes to see what works and what could sustain with our small teams. Unfortunately, we did not succeed in creating the perfect product that automatically produces stories from our articles and then publishes them on social networks — despite many serious attempts.

In the end, we stumbled over the FOMO effect again and again — the fear of missing out. Because of the way the apps are displayed and the endless scrolling, it is easy to get stuck in the app and no longer have a sense of exactly where you are on the page. Is there more to come? Do I know this already?

So we set the goal of giving our users a new way to use our homepage, giving it the feel and look of the platforms relevant to the target group — primarily TikTok and Instagram. Users can now switch to story mode and only see one story on the screen at a time, which means they have their full attention on one story, one topic. By clicking, a user gets to the article and can read the product as usual.

Because of the endless feed and the large, focused display, the user lingers more on the home page and reads more articles.


The story mode display provides a youthful design that younger users are familiar with.
The story mode display provides a youthful design that younger users are familiar with.

After rolling out the new app, the results were compelling: Dwell time, pageviews, and revisit rates all increased with the new mode. People lose themselves on the home page and come into contact with more content than in the classic mode.

The next step will include new opportunities for advertisers, and we will continue to work on adapting the look and feel even more to the learned Stories and Reels. We are convinced that this will be a new way of using our apps for our users, especially in the younger target group.

About Georg Burtscher

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