We've all heard — more than enough — that newspapers sealed their fate when they began giving their content away for free online in the ’90s. Our industry has also endured endless “barn door/horse” analogies about efforts to rein that content back in by instituting paywalls.
Now we’re well into 2015, and with our Internet atrocities in the rearview, the mobile era has fully taken root. There’s no question mobile represents a “do-over” for newspapers, and publishers are admittedly using the platform to right the wrongs they committed on the Web.
With mobile devices outnumbering the world’s population (there are some 7.2 billion smartphones and tablets in use currently) the platform certainly can’t be ignored. And while newspapers’ first priority seemed like a repeat of Internet mania as they clamored to filter print content to mobile and tablet apps with the launch of the iPhone and iPad, the majority have now adopted more strategic approaches.
The publishers that are successfully growing mobile engagement with readers are doing so because they’ve offered them something very different from their print and online products. They’ve capitalized on smartphones and tablet features that accentuate their best assets to foster reader engagement and grow ad revenue.
Our page-5 story details the Toronto Star’s efforts to maximize and monetize the platform.
Torstar nixed its online paywall in March, after some short-term success. Now, taking a cue from La Presse+, it is set to launch Star Touch in September. The iPad app will be completely distinct from the print and online versions of the Star, in hopes of growing its audience and advertising. In the case of La Presse+, the tablet news app currently accounts for 60 percent of that paper’s total ad revenues and claims a 45 percent increase in readership since it launched two years ago. We’d call that success. And we have a hunch Torstar will see similar results. That’s because, according to Torstar’s Joe Genautis, staff has focused solely on content that will lend well to an engaging interactive experience for readers. The publisher will leverage audio, video and all of the bells and whistles that keep readers in front of their iPads at night. Furthermore, Torstar has created a team that will work with advertisers to develop campaigns that get the most out of the platform. The publisher will also provide feedback on how ads are performing. That’s inventive and it’s the kind of approach that will yield revenue streams that run long and deep into the future.
On other pages of this issue you’ll also learn what publishers, including the Erie (Pa.) Times-News, GateHouse Media, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times are doing to grow revenues.