LONDON: The Times has maintained a hard paywall since 2010, yet the British national newspaper has seen a surge in usage of its paid-for mobile app since an extensive redesign last year coupled with a focus on an editions-based schedule.
According to the publisher, there has been a 30% jump in the numbers accessing its mobile app since its move in March 2016 to end instant breaking news and instead concentrate on three updates a day – at 9am, 12pm and 5pm.
In addition, the average number of page views on its mobile app is up 300% since last March, yet tablet traffic hasn’t been cannibalised in the process.
"At the time, some people thought we were crazy. But it's working," said Alan Hunter, Head of Digital at The Times, in an interview with Digiday UK.
"Our guiding principles when we started were to be reader-first and mobile-first. I had those things written on a massive whiteboard in the boardroom. We wanted to do what was good for them, not what media commentators thought we should. And it's working."
Hunter explained that the new publishing schedule has helped to increase engagement on The Times mobile app as well as its main website, which has also seen a 20% rise in its audience over the last year.
"We have a big jump on the evening papers, who go to press at midday. We go at 4.59pm. And it is the following day after news has broken, when the real peak happens, because people come back to us for our authority," he said.
For example, The Times saw record smartphone traffic, as well as strong numbers on tablet, on the day of the terrorist attack in Westminster last month – and Hunter believes that was because the newspaper resisted pushing out immediate breaking news updates in favour of deeper analysis.
"It's often the day after [major breaking news] that sets new records for us. It was the same for Brexit and Trump. It's the comment and analysts that gets the traffic," he said.
The Times also attributes the rapid growth it is seeing in its mobile audience to good design and simplicity. As Hunter explained, everything was designed to look good on mobile and give a simplified user experience.
Data sourced from Digiday UK; additional content by WARC staff