Smartphone strategy moves Göteborgs-Posten from early adopter to early moneymaker

By Earl J. Wikinson

Long before there was an iPhone, an “underground movement” at Sweden’s Göteborgs-Posten (GP) took the 227,000-circulation regional newspaper into the experimental world of mobile:

  • A sports app in 2006 updated scores and allowed you to follow your favourite team. The key eight years ago was convincing people to use their phone to surf the Web.

  • An instant messaging system created with an Indian partner was the next experiment — not a great idea, but a learning experience for GP.

By 2008, executives at Stampen Group-owned Göteborgs-Posten were convinced the emerging “smartphone” market required a unique focus, so they hired an editor for the mobile channel. They aimed for shorter text, special photo editing for the smaller space, and other unique editorial flairs for the mobile device.

From 2010 to 2012, Göteborgs-Posten launched native apps for the iPhone, Android, and Windows mobile devices. As with most mobile pioneers, Göteborgs-Posten found the operation of a mobile Web site and three native apps complicated, costly, and time-consuming.

The company learned lessons at every turn. For example, the average GP mobile Web user looked at eight pages per week, compared with native app users who looked at 30 pages per week.

While most digital consumption of GP content remains on the desktop Web, there is a clear shift happening toward mobile consumption. Bosse Dahl, the company’s mobile development manager, reports that as of mid-2013, reach for GP digital platforms was:

  • Smartphones: 53%.

  • PCs: 41%. 

  • Tablets: 6%.

The Web audience is higher in numbers, but app users visit more frequently and read more pages. Audiences of the Web site and mobile site have quite similar behaviour.

Göteborgs-Posten’s mobile strategy today involves:

  • Building audience.

  • Creating reach.

  • Monetising. 

The key learning that leads to Göteborgs-Posten’s 2013-2014 mobile strategy is that consumers move in and out of the brand’s print newspaper, computer-optimised Web site, mobile-optimised Web site, smartphone apps, and tablet app. “Information is information,” regardless of platform, trumps optimised user experiences in different platforms.

For this reason, Göteborgs-Posten is focused on: 

  • Seamlessness.

  • Revenue streams.

“I would like to see a seamlessness for our user experience,” Dahl says. “Like Apple, I would like a seamless experience with readers.”

So, the Göteborgs-Posten mobile Web site has been re-launched using HTML5 and with an eye toward an app-like experience. While GP would like one mobile solution for content and advertising, people have become accustomed to the app experience.

“In the best world, we won’t do native apps in the future,” said Dahl, quickly pointing out that is not an option today.

The many complications involved in getting apps approved by Apple further pushed GP to optimise a mobile Web site. 

Consider this pageview data to illustrate the challenge of migrating to a robust mobile Web experience:

  • iPhone app: 2.5 million pageviews.

  • Android app: 500,000 pageviews.

  • Mobile Web: 400,000 pageviews (of which half come from apps). 

Dahl’s best guess is that people with new smartphones use apps far more than people who have owned their phones longer and tend to use the mobile Web site.

The risk in putting all energies into a mobile Web product — no matter how good the experience — is that GP will lose the numerically superior app audience.

Göteborgs-Posten has been building toward an optimised mobile Web site since launching GP Bild in 2011. This was the company’s formative experiment in building an HTML5 solution with the look and feel of an app. This led to 2013’s re-launch of GP’s main mobile Web site.

When Göteborgs-Posten does re-launch its apps, Dahl sees opportunities for personalisation. Registering and logging in are crucial to this personalisation — so crucial, for example, that a loyalty card for print Göteborgs-Posten subscribers is now given to people who register on its Web site.

“In our business, we sell big ads for anonymous audiences in-paper, or we know something about [those audiences], but not a lot,” Dahl says. “With smartphones, the advertiser is still paying for CPM. But in the future, I think we have to prove our value and charge for effect — and not only with the smartphone.”

From an advertiser perspective, the game for Göteborgs-Posten is display advertising on the smartphone. Yet, increasingly, monetisation means coupons and building advertiser sites, usually simple landing pages.

“The next step is to get the right advertiser with the right message to the right channel and the right audience. By increasing the relevance, you can charge more. But it’s a lot of work to get there,” Dahl says. 

Göteborgs-Posten’s three strategic pillars are:

  1. Make sure the company can take all advertising formats and distribute easily into the brand’s smartphone channels.

  2. Upsell landing pages, coupons, catalogues, and more. 

  3. Monetise audiences through more relevant means.

Looking ahead, Dahl sees emerging trends of high relevance to GP:

  • GP is good at news. In determining future ventures, Dahl aims to pivot from what GP’s core news users are interested in.

  • GP’s aim is learn more about its audiences, knowing it can’t compete with niche sites on content. Visitors go to GP for news, which it is committed to giving them. GP must learn more about its audience so it can find target groups relevant to its different advertisers. 

  • Search is growing, and relevance is rising for advertisers.

Scale is a constant concern in the complicated world of mobile: “We’re all too small to do this ourselves,” Dahl says. “Once we get the audience, we have to get with others to get critical mass to sell to target groups.” 

This is one of 17 case studies featured in the recent INMA strategic report “The Smartphone Choices for Media Companies.” For more information on this report, free to INMA members, click here

About Earl J. Wikinson