Why top publishers are returning to paid apps

Over the last month or two we’ve seen a number of high profile publishers launching paid apps.

The Guardian released an ad-free app in mid October that allowed subscribers (only) to scroll horizontally through paper sections.

Premium tech news site The Information is also launching a $29 per year app called “Tech Top 10”. They hope that the app will introduce their content to a wider audience.

Their full offering costs $399 per year, but the app will have a broader appeal and a more consumer-friendly price tag, albeit with thinner content and a more limited scope.

Other notable app launches came from inews, giving you three free articles a day that ‘cut through the noise’ before hitting a £5.99 p/m paywall. The Atlantic also launched a new app for subscribers only.

What do all these apps have in common? They all, to some degree, require readers to pay for access.

News apps are making a comeback as part of the broader industry pivot to reader revenue. Reader revenue turns on audience loyalty, and although the apps will likely not achieve the same scale as websites – they help to identify the most loyal and valuable audience members.

Matt Skibinski, reader revenue advisor for Lenfest made the point that:
“An app like this might help with conversion, but it’s really a retention play”

The habit forming qualities of apps are a key opportunity to develop the all-important engagement that can make a meaningful difference to the success of reader revenue plays.

Have publishers finally caught up to digital? They seem to be figuring out how to use apps in a more strategic way, rather than just as a way to convert print content to mobile.

Audiences often feel overwhelmed by a deluge of news that they can’t always trust completely – news apps might be the key to giving them a real home with a brand they trust and enjoy.

Read more insights about engagement and retention on What’s New In Publishing.