Northern & Shell talks about its entry into mobile apps
One of the UK’s largest media companies recently developed a range of apps to provide a wider service to its audience as well as increase engagement. New Media Knowledge took a look at the background and challenges faced by publishers in an app-heavy world. By Chris Lee.
By Chris Lee
Media giant Northern & Shell owns four UK national newspapers and is a 50 per cent joint venture partner in two more in Ireland. In Channel 5 the company owns one of the UK’s leading national terrestrial television networks. It is also at the forefront of digital media as a key stakeholder in the internet television service YouView.
According to the Office and National Statistics almost half the UK’s Internet data connections occur from mobile devices, so while being a major player in the news and magazine market, Northern & Shell saw that there was a need to engage with its current and potential readers on mobile through the provision of apps. These included apps for well-known titles such as the Daily Express, Daily Star and OK! Magazine.
Nothing new here maybe, but getting the execution right was crucial, so the company turned to London-based mobile app developer Mippin to help out.
Conquering market fragmentation
According to Northern & Shell, the company saw the apparent cost and complexity of dealing with a number of fragmented platforms as a key challenge in its app development programme and needed a company which could simply and easily create apps for its different magazine and news titles. It also wanted to make these titles available across multiple platforms quickly and cost effectively, which is where Mippin came in.
Mipping uses a template model which it says enables it to deliver user-friendly apps on a global scale. It worked closely with Northern & Shell’s in-house team to agree the overall branding and approach and then quickly built applications for each of its publications – initially on mobile web, then natively on iPhone.
Mippin told NMK it was able to replicate this design across multiple platforms – including iPad, Android, BlackBerry (including PlayBook) and Windows Phone – keeping a consistent look and feel, but implementing the unique features of each platform as well. The applications then sat in the app stores of BlackBerry, Android, Windows Mobile and Apple to foster downloads.
Apps with the results
In total, more than 1.5 million people have downloaded the applications since their launch in the late summer 2011. Across the board, the apps are receiving over 14 million page views per month with users spending an average of ten minutes per session with the apps, Northern & Shell said.
BlackBerry was the leading platform for apps, accounting for 65 per cent of the total downloads in the last six months.
According to Gregor Park, senior planning and marketing manager UK – applications, for BlackBerry’s maker RIM said: “Northern & Shell’s apps, particularly OK! Magazine, have proved hugely popular on BlackBerry App World. Mippin developed strong, content rich apps that have been very appealing to female BlackBerry users. From August 2011 – February 2012, over 450,000 Northern & Shell apps were downloaded by our customers.”