Getting apps right - lessons from the Guardian and Glastonbury

Mobile access is no longer niche - it is mainstream. Two speakers at Online Information shared lessons in how to develop successful mobile apps.

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The Guardian - news on the move

Facebook has 250 million mobile users. There are more than 420,000 smartphone apps available delivering rich, immersive and useful experiences for users. Mobile internet access is no longer niche, but mainstream. 

In this distributed world, readers of the Guardian expect to be able to access the newspaper's content wherever they are - on Facebook or Google Plus for example.  They expect a great mobile experience and are not afraid to criticise or give sophisticated feedback and advice. 

Speaking at Online Information 2011, Steve Wing (Head of Digital Marketing, Consumer) spoke about the work the newspaper is doing to create a world class mobile service, while acknowledging that they are still at the beginning of the journey.  

Usage trends

There are several measures you can use to monitor the success of your mobile apps.  For the Guardian this might include number of downloads, numbers of daily active users, number and percentage of return users.   The current measures show that more than 65% of iPhone app users return daily (the figure for Android app users is 56%).  The average iPad app user views 40 pages per visit.  Analysis shows that people access the newspaper via the desktop during the working week but that mobile engagement with the content takes over at the weekend.  The app is also helping to grow non-UK audiences for the newspaper.

Pricing models etc

The Guardian's pricing model is mixed, spread across three revenue lines: paid for subscriptions; advertising revenue and e-commerce products.  The newspaper is working towards making mobile sustainable first and then money-making.  Their current strategy is to maintain a free to access website, rather than installing a Times-style paywall.


The speed of change is daunting.  Audiences have lots of choice and the channels are fragmented.  Organisations need to prioritise efforts and find the right balance between internet, apps and all the other ‘stuff' that audiences increasingly expect.  But the rewards of mobile are enormous.  If you get your apps right, by focusing on your audiences, they can really drive loyalty and engagement. 

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