the-times

How The Times drives habitual digital use with an editions-based approach

It’s just over a year since British newspaper The Times abandoned the online breaking news cycle and reverted to three digital deadline-driven editions a day. At the time, industry insiders frowned on the move but now the Murdoch-owned paper is claiming wholesale success. We ask why the ‘editions approach’ to digital publishing seems to be working for The Times and how this could apply to others?

Since setting down three daily deadlines for its online editions in March last year, The Times of London are claiming some interesting gains in the past year:

  • Pageviews on their mobile app are up 300 per cent;
  • Subscribers to the mobile app and website are up 20 per cent;
  • Users of the app grew by 30 per cent;
  • Articles read per website visit are up 110 per cent; and
  • Even the paper’s print edition circulation is up 9.5 per cent.

Digiday quotes The Times’ head of digital Alan Hunter as saying that when they first introduced the move to digital editions “people thought we were crazy… but it’s working”. Aside from some design changes to increase simplicity, Hunter credits the new publishing schedule for the increase in the engagement on mobile apps as well as the website. “We have a big jump on the evening papers going to press at midday. We go at 4.59pm.”

Even after last month’s Westminster terrorist attack, The Times resisted the temptation to revert back to rolling news or liveblogging. NiemanLab.org, the website for the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University notes that although The Times posted a breaking news “best knowledge” story within 15 minutes of the attack, the site reverted back to its 5pm (4.59pm) deadline edition two-and-a-half hours later.

Both The Times and Sunday Times have structured their app and website editions to be published on peak traffic times, which are set at 9am, noon and 5pm. The two newspapers’ chief marketing officer, Catherine Newman says this change has been “revolutionary” because both the editorial team and the marketing team now have “appointments with subscribers and registered users that we didn’t have previously”.

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