Reuters is taking a less-is-more approach to its new app. Users can now customize 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 so users can get the gist without having the read the whole post, and the app will adapt to users over time, sending push alerts at the time of the day they’ve show a willingness to reading them, for example.
The success of the app will now be measured on total time spent in the app per month rather than pageviews — which means that if people read fewer articles, it’ll be considered a success.
“If we’re doing our job well — which is to inform people to make better business decisions — then they don’t need to read five pieces of content to do that,” said Isaac Showman, managing director of Reuters Consumer. “This will impact our pageview numbers but ultimately it will drive better engagement.”
Reuters publishes on average over 5,500 pieces of news content each day, the app is designed to make it easier for people to access this wealth of content. During user testing, 73 percent of respondents said breaking news coverage was the most important feature, and 45 percent said scannable headlines were. According to Showman, it has already doubled user sessions and has grown weekly engagement to 18 minutes.
The new app was a big investment for the financial news and information publisher. About 60 people worked on the app over the last 12 months, including content strategists, product specialists, developers and sales teams. Reuters has six data scientists analyzing app-user profiles, supported by engineers who work on all Reuters Consumer products.
Customization can feel creepy, the app will carry contextual advertising, but as long as the editorial content is useful, users aren’t likely to notice, said Greg Harwood, director at strategy and marketing consultant Simon-Kucher & Partners. “They would probably walk away with an improved user experience.”
“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,” he said. “Historically, publishers flagged those most likely to convert as those spending the longest in app, but people will convert if you maximize the relevant engagement, not just engagement.”
The app also represents a deliberate shift from Reuters in focusing on business professionals rather than a general-news audience.
“Publishers have been concerned with maximizing the size of the audience because it’s tangentially linked to the value of selling advertising,” said Harwood. “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.”