The Telegraph has scrapped the paywall for its app and rolled out a revamped free news version, recognising its subscription policy was serving the needs of only a narrow corner of the mobile population when users are increasingly demanding everything faster and for free.
What was a clunky, poorly organised app that gave users no choice as to what content they received, is now a personalised, vertically-organised and speedy experience that loads articles in under one second, the publisher claims.
The latest overhaul marks the first time the news app has seen significant change since it launched in 2009. The original version was free at launch, later rolled into a subscription product, where users had 14 days of free access after which a £2.29 fee was charged per month.
The hope is that the free app will help the Telegraph unlock a wider user base. It has recognised, arguably quite late in the game, that it had a huge but underserved audience on the mobile web, with 55m unique browsers visiting the site via mobile each month. Digging deeper, that audience was found to be in the 25 to 44-year-old age demographic, a growth area for a publisher which has an over 50-year-old audience for its print product and edition apps.
“The new app enables us to create a product that fits this younger 25-44 demo and drive greater engagement from people that are showing propensity to engage with our content on the mobile web. If you do drive greater engagement within the app you have greater opportunity for monetisation,” said Robert Bridge, chief customer officer at Telegraph Media Group.
Within its portfolio of products, which includes; the newspaper and its high affluent, older audience; the edition app which replicates the newspaper product; the website which offers a much larger reach, Bridge sees the news app as “the fourth pillar”.
“We changed our newsroom a few years ago to be digital first,” Bridge said, “Now we are in the evolution of becoming mobile first. The app is a good example of how we are curating content for this.”
The app has been built from scratch, instead of attempting to refresh a legacy app, with a dedicated creative team for the first time. The modern design has taken cues from other apps, Bridge admitted, using block colours and punchy graphics that appeal to a younger consumer.
The only form of advertising appearing in the new app is branded content from the Telegraph’s Spark team, delivered into the news feed. Bridge said it was “the first step” of its wider monetisation ambitions for the app, explaining how “we wanted to start with an advertising solution that was most native to the environment”.
Programmatic, display, and native video advertising are all being considered for the app’s future iterations, together with the capability to deliver more targeted advertising.
Many publishers push spend into their owned properties to futureproof against an over-reliance on third party distribution. Bridge sees the Telegraph’s presence of third party platforms as an opportunity to drive from the top of the funnel into the app, via marketing within its owned inventory on those platforms. Within Instant Articles for example, publishers have the option of pushing readers to access more content from an app.
There is also opportunity to use the data from those environments to inform the publisher’s marketing campaigns, which it can use to retarget people and promote the app to them, as well as push out content that ties to their interests. To this end, Bridge sees the platforms as “very important”, and “not competitive” to his ambitions for the app.