De Telegraaf, one of the Netherlands' leading newspapers, is aggressively moving ahead with its multi-platform publication strategy with the launch of a new Java application on 15 December and a new real-time stock quote service.
Lara Ankersmitt, Telegraaf.nl's Publisher, contacted the Editors Weblog to talk about De Telegraaf's new offering, charging for content, and attracting female users in The Netherlands.
Java application - building on growth
De Telegraaf has seen approximately 40% growth in the number of users accessing its mobile content over the past year since it redesigned its mobile site. Ankersmitt firmly believes that improving the user experience on the mobile platform is crucial to its success: "At the beginning of this year we redesigned the whole mobile site to get a better user experience and that has really worked. After the redesign we saw a growth in users and the time they spent on the site. People were reading more and more." To maintain this momentum, De Telegraaf is launching a new Java application - after several months of testing - to improve the user experience on mobile and expand on the content provided.
What is also assisting this rapid growth in mobile take-up is mobile operators' introduction of a flat-fee subscription for the Internet on mobiles, costing approximately €10 a month. This reduction in cost has democratised the consumption of mobile content, moving it away from being a tool for just business people. "A few years ago most of the mobile traffic accessed financial news and came from Blackberries and that kind of device. However, since the mobile flat fee was introduced we have seen more normal phone traffic - such as Samsung and Nokia - and more traffic to our entertainment and news sections. The user group is expanding... Finance is still the most important user group, but this is changing."
The Java application will undoubtedly improve the user experience as it will make reading De Telegraaf content on a mobile similar to the user experience on the Internet. With this new application, people will be able to surf and navigate rather than simply scroll. It will contain all the same content as the Internet and digital version of the daily newspaper itself without cost (barring internet and an initial one-off cost).
However, there are legitimate concerns about how consumers will react to this new application. Users will have to request an SMS from De Telegraaf in order to download Java before they can access the new Java platform, furthermore they will have to a pay for the SMS on top of the usual cost of Internet access. These may seem like small issues, but they could prove to be significant. The Internet platform has been popular because it makes getting your daily news fix very easy. Consumers may find downloading Java too fiddly or time consuming for something that they can already get on their laptop or PC. Ankersmitt is aware of this, and it is part of the reason that after the initial one-off cost, the service will be free.
Gaining the technological knowledge
De Telegraaf works with an outside mobile consultancy company - Service2Media - and Ankersmitt believes that this is vital. Service2Media built the site, hosts it, and gives the newspaper knowledge on mobile. She reports, "We of course know everything about bringing people the news and we know what our readers like and dislike, and (Surface2Media) brings the technical expertise and shows us what is ahead for mobile. They help us with the strategy: when we should launch and when a technology will move into the mainstream" This relationship helps De Telegraaf plan strategically for the future and plan what its next move for its mobile platform will be. "Working with them helped us see the possibilities of mobile."
How do users consume mobile news?
De Telegraaf has been analysing user activity of its mobile platform, and has noticed significant differences between its mobile and website. The mobile platform usage peaks during the evening and is relatively flat and consistent during the day. On the website usage peaks during the day and declines during the evening. This study into user activity resulted in De Telegraaf keeping its website not only continually updated during the day, but also well into the evening.
Attracting female readers in a difficult market
Newspapers in The Netherlands do not traditionally tailor content for female readers, but De Telegraaf last year launched a magazine called "Woman" and following this launched a section on its Website dedicated to female readers. Other news providers who have launched this Java application are attracting approximately a 5% female readership, but De Telegraaf is already attracting up to 30%. This data reflects that De Telegraaf is rapidly moving towards attracting the same demographic split on its Mobile site as on its Website and print edition (approximately 54% male readership and 46% female readership). This female content will also be made available this week on the mobile platform.
Real-time news service
Alongside the introduction of the Java application, De Telegraaf is launching a real-time financial news service, whereby bond and share prices and graphics will be updated in real-time from all bourses. This information will be available on the mobile site in the first quarter of next year, but it was launched last week on the website. Reuters is providing this information to De Financial Telegraaf (DFT).
The future - can news providers charge for content?
The big question facing all news organisations is how to monetise these new platforms. At this stage it does not look like advertising revenue will generate enough income to support the operation of running a newsroom: so what can newspapers do? De Telegraaf is considering testing the charging-for-content waters early next year. "We are thinking of launching some iPhone applications and maybe we will charge for these if we see success on the Java application. The user experience at the moment is OK. It's not brilliant because mobile is so small and there is a lot of scrolling for the user. There are two things: we want to get as many people as possible to download the Java application and we want to see if, and how, people are using it so w can learn from this. We will then use this knowledge to introduce something further down the line for the iPhone." Ankersmitt reports. Ankersmitt feels that there is scope for charging on the mobile platform if the user experience is good enough, but De Telegraaf has no plans for charging for its website content. Ankersmitt says on the issue, "I don't think it is realistic to charge people for the Website news because news they can get everywhere for free. So it is no use to us to charge people for reading our news. We have to make money from advertising."
De Telegraaf moved into the mobile arena back in 2001, the whole process has been a steep learning curve for the broadsheet but it has so far navigated these uncharted waters successfully. To other newspapers considering entering the mobile arena, Ankersmitt says, "Think of how you can extend your brand with this new platform and find a good partner who can serve you for all the technical needs. It is vital to have a good and knowledgeable technical partner, we have one person focusing on the mobile platform, but our partner had 40 people focusing on it. They are always ahead of us technically speaking. Really think what you want to bring to this platform and what kind of news you want to present."