News Break by Winnipeg Free Press
2018 Finalist

News Break by Winnipeg Free Press

Winnipeg Free Press

Winnipeg, Canada

Category Best Use of Mobile

Media associated with this campaign

Overview of this campaign

Before 2017, the Winnipeg Free Press had never meaningfully stepped onto the app playing field. We were in the difficult position of having a desperate need to replace our tired, buggy app that had dwindling users – but few resources to do it. So we started from scratch and got creative, with our decision to create a new app, NewsBreak, which would be moved behind our paywall. This was going to be a marquee product for us, but in a world inundated by free apps, it had to be worth paying for. We decided to differentiate ourselves by appealing to new audiences looking for ‘positive’ news. This idea was inspired by an old (and mostly true) stereotype about Winnipeggers: they love to hate their city. We were also in the midst of a very turbulent time in the news, and felt a ‘good news’ element to the app would be of interest to users. So our new mobile app gave readers the opportunity to select both ‘good’ news, and breaking news (which would feature all the essential, negative news one would need). To do this while minimizing the impact on our editorial tem, we employed semantic analysis of the all the content on our website and used a proprietary algorithm to determine ‘good’ news from ‘bad’. This allowed for the launch of a brand new product without any associated increase in staffing cost.

Results for this campaign

Since we launched NewsBreak in March 2017, more than 250 people have signed up for a Free Press subscription via the app. This is extremely significant to us – our monthly subscription cost is $16.99/month, which is very expensive territory for an app. We learned a lot from our success in attracting users to a very novel product: We started with a funnel system to allow users to try it, starting with 30 days of free access with no sign-up required. After 30 days, users were forced to sign up for digital access to our content, which led to more than 200 signups from the app at the outset. In 2017 overall, we saw subscription growth of nearly 1,500 paid digital-only subscribers, reflecting a 26% growth. We are a midsize newsroom with limited staff, so it would have been extremely difficult to provide the support that the app needed without some real ingenuity. By developing a brand new ‘good news’ algorithm, we were able to create more content to contribute to NewsBreak because it came at no cost to newsroom resources. We now have 5,000 regular monthly users on the app and its growth has continued by about 5-10% per month since launch. Those users are responsible for 61,000 sessions, demonstrating to us that they are using the app daily or every other day. NewsBreak was also featured in Apple’s App Store Top Picks for the first few weeks after launch, providing a significant boost. We can now confidently and proudly say we are serving our subscribers on all platforms with a strong mobile presence.


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