Are publisher aggregation apps the new top of funnel or a long-term product?

By Jodie Hopperton


Los Angeles, California, United States


A range of new apps are coming out. There is a great summary of Roularta’s effort in this area from our recent Media Innovation Week in Antwerp recently here. What are these? In short, one media organisation with multiple brands bundles those brands together in a mega subscription. 

There are similar efforts elsewhere in Belgium, Sweden, and Norway. And these are just the ones I have come across in the last few weeks. My colleague Greg Piechota, who runs INMA’s Readers First Initiative, writes a lot about bundling and unbundling and their effects on subscriptions (you can find his work here). 

I want to look at this from a product perspective. 

Are these new bundles solving a user problem or a publisher problem? 

For publishers, it seems to offer a good revenue stream. It may work as top-of-funnel into individual brands or it may be a relatively low-cost, high-value subscription revenue (depending on cannibalisation of individual subscriptions).

For users, this may be good value and/or giving them the ability to find a lot of content in one place. This works particularly well for national and local coverage. But which users are publishers focusing on? Is it truly expanding the pool of potential readers, or is it a good proposition for core news subscribers? If the latter, we may be moving people between products rather than acquiring new.   

Here are a few thoughts/considerations:

  1. Much of the apps/sites functionality has already been built through existing products, so this makes it a relatively low-cost set up. Products can likely benefit from upgrades, too, so the ongoing maintenance and support is also relatively low. Going back to my point last week about investing in core vs innovation, I see this as an expansion of core.  

  1. While the core functionality is the same, what other possibilities are there to be creative? Roularta offers the ability to have multiple people on one subscription, reminding me of some of the early success of Netflix.  

  1. Branding is an interesting debate. Do you create a new brand? Or do you want to use this as top-of-funnel to showcase your many other brands, in which case the name may want to reflect the parent company. Too many brands can be confusing for a reader. In the case of a single title branching out, is there a way to bring in the main brand (e.g., The New York Times with NYT Cooking, NYT Games, etc.).

  1. Is more really more? While we are offering more content, how do we make sure the reader is getting what they need, when they need (and in the format they need) rather than making it more difficult to sift through even more content? If you don’t already have personalisation functionality, now is the time to start getting serious. 

From the conversations I am having, the general thinking is that these publisher aggregator apps will provide a short-term bump and then flatten out. The bigger question is around what we can learn from these apps and sites.

Perhaps there is more opportunity to bundle around a specific interest (e.g., sports) or platform (e.g., audio). As of yet, there is no consensus, but the experimentation into new products should provide insights into what consumers really want and will use and, importantly for many, what they will actually pay for.

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About Jodie Hopperton

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