We were approached by Dennis Media Factory to help them define the strategy and create a vision for the next iteration of the magazine’s native app(s). The existing app was well-regarded and had a loyal fan base, but its traditional, page-turn format wasn’t delivering growth. Our brief was to create a product that still delivered a rich editorial experience, but would widen the audience and prolong reader engagement. The app would be built on a new platform which would enable us to reach users not served by the existing iPad-only app. Once agreed, the final app was to be delivered by the internal team at Dennis.
We began by conducting interviews with existing subscribers and stakeholders. We workshopped business objectives and creative concepts with a wide group of Dennis employees. We spent time deconstructing and understanding the magazine and the content EVO produced across their various channels.
Interesting opportunities quickly started to appear. There seemed to be no single place where you could consume the best of EVO’s content. They had a large audience on YouTube (~230k users), who weren’t necessarily engaging with the magazine or app, and Android users weren’t currently being served. Finally, there seemed to be an appetite from both the editorial team and users to publish more frequently.
After testing a number of initial concepts, we settled on an approach that delivered content more frequently via a feed-like interface, but also includes the ability to consume articles in a linear magazine-like fashion. We outlined a new content-strategy that blended the traditional long-form, along with shorter bite-size content from their other channels aimed to address the needs of both existing fans and new users. It was designed in HTML to work across the full range of devices that a responsive design supports, making the most of the power of the great photography and editorial design that makes EVO such a compelling magazine.
The new concept tested well with new users, but it had to also work for the business. The existing app’s subscription model —while lucrative— proved to be a barrier for new users wanting to try out the app, so a freemium approach seemed a better option. We created a number of options (free content types, free time to view, functionality, etc.) we could test to find a balance that worked for both the business and the users.
Losing the container
Something we wrestled with was the notion of an issue. Users are familiar with a finite set of content, delivered at the same time each month and displayed in roughly the same order. How would they react to an unstructured feed? Does it diminish the editorial process, Does it feel too much like a website? How does it feel to not be able to finish an issue? The existing app also resided within Newstand which is also geared to deliver content in this pre-packaged format.
To try and address these concerns we designed a number of devices to allow users to scope content; by time (e.g. this month’s issue), brand (Audi, BMW) or content type (reviews, news). We also tried to ensure users knew what they’d consumed, how far they’d got and what was new.
The new app launched to mixed reactions: new users (like those on the Android devices) rated the app highly while Apple named it the best Newstand App of 2013. However, existing subscribers were understandably vocal about losing the old, beloved format. Internally the app has been well recieved; it has streamlined the team’s workflow, meaning the digital edition is easier and quicker to create, leaving more time for bespoke content creation. The app has increased Dennis Publishing’s customer base, their potential to build the brand, and also helped them to envision a new category of publication in future by thinking beyond monthly or weekly timescales for magazines.
- Apple's “Best Newsstand App of 2013”
- 97,000 new downloads in 4 months since launch
- 120% increase in engagement each month