Simple flying is a wonderful success story of entrepreneurial publishing. The world's biggest aviation news site was founded by British Entrepreneur and aviation enthusiast Arran Rice in 2018 with the vision of a one-stop destination commercial aviation content. Simple flying has a team of journalists that produce up to 200 stories a week. The primary focus is on news from Europe and the US, but lately they've been heavily expanding their coverage into Asia, Latin America and Africa. The audience is diverse, but united by a common interest in all things aviation!
“It’s a real mix. Firstly we have people who work in the industry – executives and airline employees. We also have a lot of frequent flyers and aviation enthusiasts. If you look at our email list we have such a mixture of people from different businesses and aviation geeks.”
Along with the main site simpleflying.com, they also run a YouTube channel with over 50,000 subscribers, podcasts, and of course news apps for iOS & Android. Simple Flying created their apps through MobiLoud - our News platform is entirely focused on building native apps for WordPress-based digital publishers.
Why Build Apps?
Arran saw that 70%+ of traffic was coming through on mobile, so giving the best possible mobile UX was crucial. In 2020, that means native apps.
"It's a brand extension. There's going to be a percentage of your audience that wants an app. I really saw the apps as a way to get an audience on mobile who would come back daily – it’s an extension of the site to get people into the brand”
The apps were a natural part of Simple Flying's overall growth trajectory.
"I think really it felt like a natural progression to build the app. You know, we got a base audience of a couple of million users per month. Then with that audience to support, there’s obviously going to be demand for an app. So it was really a natural progression and to provide choice"
A couple of million users per month is really impressive. Such a huge audience isn't necessary for building apps though, whether your content is supported by advertising or subscriptions. They can help you grow regardless. Arran also wanted a way to deepen loyalty. He realized that apps self-select for the most engaged and loyal readers, and bring them all together in one place.
"At the time as well, I had a different website for Google AMP, different websites for mobile. So I really wanted just a place that kind of felt premium to bring the most loyal users together"
This fitted into Arran's overall strategy of giving Simple Flying as much visibility as possible.
"The more avenues you can attract an audience through - whether that's social media, podcasts, a YouTube channel, and of course an app - you really want to be hitting every single thing and you need to be doing it well. You should make it perfect"
Why Simple Flying Chose MobiLoud
Arran had worked with us on different projects in the past and realized we were the best fit.
"I wanted an easy option. I wanted an option to literally convert my WordPress website into an app. Obviously MobiLoud was the one that works best from my previous experience. If you already have a really good mobile site, I don't really see the benefit of rebuilding an app to go with it from scratch when you can convert your site"
This is a great point. MobiLoud lets you convert your site to apps, so you get the ideal news apps for 10% of the cost compared to native development, and they're ready to go live in days/weeks rather than months. They mirror your existing site and update automatically, so there's nothing to rebuild or to add to your workflow.
"MobiLoud had very good communication, were quick to resolve any issues and got the initial build out fast. It didn't take long at all. You're converting a WordPress site into an app, so the process is simple and the mechanism is already there in the (MobiLoud) platform. With a monthly fee paying just a few hundred up-front is a lot nicer paying 20 grand. So yeah, it worked really well"
A Hyper-Engaged App Audience
The Simple Flying Apps have been downloaded over 17,000 times. Arran has noticed that app users are vastly more engaged and loyal than those who come through the website.
"We've only got around 17,000 users, but those users read on average 94 articles per month. So the app is doing about 1.6 million screen views for them from 17,000 people. Compared to the website, where the average number of articles read per month is around two, the app users are hyper engaged"
App users also spend a lot more time engaging with content on a per-article basis.
"I think on average, people spend like four minutes per article versus the main website, probably like one or two minutes. So it’s at least double. Huge"
This is an amazingly stark difference. We see similar stories often though, apps provide a home for the most engaged readers - then deepen that engagement and loyalty to new levels. Arran thinks that the reason for this is partly the more "premium" feel of native apps, and the fact that the presence of your app icon on users' home screens is a constant reminder of the brand. A mobile site alone, no matter how well bookmarked, can't achieve this level of intimacy, which Arran sees as playing into his wider goals.
"With an app, you can achieve a much more kind of premium feel, and I think the readers will feel closer to the brand. With an app, you know that every time they pick up their phone, they'll see the icon of your brand on their home screen which is powerful. It drills down into the audience's head that Simple Flying is a thing. That really helps to achieve our aim in becoming the go-to aviation news site. People on the app are really in touch with the brand - on the mobile site, not so much”
Another great advantage of apps is the ability to reach your audience directly through push notifications. Arran and the Simple Flying team can send out push notifications automatically whenever a new article is published, or manually at any time they choose.
“I’ve seen return visit rates go up since launching the apps – people will get notifications on their phone and end up going on the site or vice versa. The daily active users are growing nicely and the uninstall rates are really low. Once I’ve got someone on the app they’ll stay on the app and keep consuming our content – which is what we want”
Monetizing Through Apps & Reaching a New Audience Through The App Stores
MobiLoud apps are build with the exact needs of digital publishers in mind, which is why we have a flexible range of advertising integrations that let you run whatever ads you want in-app. This was important to Arran as Simple Flying is largely supported by ad revenue.
"94 articles per month for an average app user. And obviously there's ad revenue attached to that as well with over 1.6 million screen views I'm getting with the apps"
As the apps are 100% synced with the Simple Flying main site and update automatically with anything new the Simple Flying team publishes, this new revenue stream is nice and low-maintenance.
"It's a nice, almost passive income for the business as a whole"
On top of this passive income, the apps also passively pick up new readers that discover the Simple Flying brand through searching on the App Stores rather than Google!
"I haven't even promoted the app that much. I'm actually getting a lot of signups and downloads through the app store from people's searching, like aviation and aviation news. So actually it has also been a great way for me to get a bigger audience"
How Arran is Using the Apps to Test Subscription Revenue Models
As apps gather the most loyal and engaged readers all in one place, they are a great channel to test new ideas through. Simple Flying recently decided to test out a subscription model for the first time by creating an ad-free version of the app that readers pay to access.
"About two months ago, we did a big reader survey and we had a lot of people say they know ads are a thing and they know we need ads to support the business - but they said if we would provide an option to go ad-free, they would pay. So really that confirmed what we wanted to do. It's a test"
We worked with Arran and the team to make it happen, and the results have been encouraging.
"We've gone live and built an ad-free subscription for the app. Users can pay monthly or yearly. Interestingly, most users paid yearly. Which is great. It means that they’re confident in the content. From this, now we need to decide whether we want to go on to the website as well and do an ad free version there. Um. So we'll see. I'm not too sure just yet"
If this is something you're interested in replicating for your business - we can make it happen for you too!
The Future of Simple Flying
Arran has a lot of plans to grow the brand even further in the future. A key part of that is expanding into new markets by launching Simple Flying in multiple languages. The apps are going to be a key part of that, as Arran explained:
"The most loyal readers come through the apps. I think we'll do some pushing when we launch the international sites, and we’ll have international versions of the app. We'll have a Spanish app, German app, French app, and Portuguese app. Really more of the same cause they're doing really well"
It's amazing what Arran and Simple Flying have achieved in just a couple of years. We're proud to help them build a winning App Store presence and give their readers the best possible mobile UX.
With MobiLoud, you too can build winning native news apps that can expand your audience, please your readers, generate revenue and take your brand to the next level. The apps will be just as good as those from a major publisher like The New York Times or BuzzFeed - but you'll get them in under a month for a fraction of the usual price tag. In fact, with our publisher program - you don't need to pay anything up front at all and we take care of 100% of the development and customization for you, building apps to your exact specification just like we did for Arran and Simple Flying. In return, you share some of the ad revenue the app generates.
Everything will be managed from your existing WordPress backend, and the apps sync and update automatically with your site. You'll also get peace of mind, as our team handles all the technical aspects like submission to the App Stores, updates, and ongoing maintenance.
Start taking your publishing to the next level, and book a consultation with one of our team of app experts today!