Reuters' less is more app approach can prove successful, says consultant

11 September 2018 Authored by Consultancy.uk

According to an expert at strategy and marketing consultancy Simon-Kucher & Partners, the new targeted approach of a news app by Reuters could prove fruitful, provided the organisation maintains the quality of its output. The app will carry tailored advertising for users, but Greg Harwood believes that the editorial content and user experience should be enough to keep people engaged.

Reuters is an international news agency headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is a division of Thomson Reuters, and the Reuters News Agency employs some 2,500 journalists and 600 photojournalists in about 200 locations worldwide. Reuters publishes on average over 5,500 pieces of news content each day.

While the famous news outlet has long been a beneficiary of disruptive technology, famously seeing a large share price rise during the dot.com bubble, it has struggled to adapt to new techniques in the field. Chiefly, this is the case when it comes to its app offering, but the firm has signaled a key shift in its tactics with regards to a new, more streamlined approach to the medium. This sluggish adaptation may be related to a lack of understanding of how a new platform presents different opportunities for engagement – but Reuters is looking to change that now.

Reuters has reportedly taken a less-is-more approach to its new app, offering users the chance to customise their feed by up to 5,000 different topics, including countries, markets and people. Each article is displayed in a card-based feed with short written summaries, offering a concise overview should the user not need to know more, and the app will adapt to users over time, sending push alerts at the time of the day they usually show a willingness to read them, among other features.

Reuters' less is more app approach can prove successful

How the app’s success is measured shows where the real change to the organisation’s priorities comes, however. It will now be judged on the total time spent by users in the app per month, as opposed to page views. This means that even if people read fewer articles, it will be considered a success, as it still presents a boost to exposure of users to advertisers, as well as boosting engagement by making it easier for people to access the huge wealth of content produced on Reuters daily. During user testing, 73% of respondents said breaking news coverage was the most important feature in the app, with a further 45% earmarking the improved summarisation of stories for praise.

According to Greg Harwood, a Director at strategy and marketing consultancy Simon-Kucher & Partners, the platform represents a smart step in the right direction. However, he also warned that Reuters has a fine balancing act to master to sustain the app, stating, “Customisation can feel creepy, the app will carry contextual advertising, but as long as the editorial content is useful, users aren’t likely to notice. They would probably walk away with an improved user experience.”

Strategy

Since joining Simon-Kucher & Partners in early 2012, Harwood has worked for the firms London and Boston offices, and has conducted more than 30 projects across the UK, Europe, The Middle East and the USA. As a senior member of the Global Software, Internet and Media Practice, his consulting activities primarily focus on pricing and sales optimisation, customer segmentation, promotional effectiveness, revenue model re-design, portfolio optimisation and the development of actionable and implementable strategic solutions for market leading organisations.

Reuters’ app has already doubled user session length, and has grown weekly engagement to 18 minutes, however Reuters will be keen to see an even greater return on investment, considering the resources allocated to its development. About 60 people worked on the new app over the last 12 months, with content strategists, product specialists, developers and sales teams among them. Reuters also hosts six data scientists in order to analyse app-user profiles, supported by engineers who work on all Reuters Consumer products.

Harwood added that strategising what the firm does next to maximise the new resource is vital. He elaborated, “It all comes down creating habit and getting the right content in front of you, encouraging people to visit a second and third time rather than spending 20 minutes in the app playing a game. Historically, publishers flagged those most likely to convert as those spending the longest in app, but people will convert if you maximise the relevant engagement, not just engagement.”

As advertising yields for the traditional and digital press continue to fall, however, the app also represents an important and deliberate shift to adapt to that environment, by changing its core target demographic. This means Reuters will chiefly focus on business professionals – an audience with a higher potential to engage with advertisers – rather than a general-news audience.

Harwood concluded, “Publishers have been concerned with maximising the size of the audience because it’s tangentially linked to the value of selling advertising. In a world where ad yield is going down, there’s been a change of focus on quality audience, and advertisers are going to market with this.”

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