Tablets. The fabled digital evolution of newspaper and magazine. The Wall Street Journal Digital Network seems to think so.
The News Corp property had apps ready for launch on the iPad and the first Android tablet, the Samsung Galaxy. It has plans to roll out apps designed for the larger Android tablets when they’re introduced.
“It’s a platform we obviously need to be on,” said Mark Fishkin, vp of digital sales and marketing at the Wall Street Journal.
WSJ’s iPad app is slick. It has constant updates and takes full advantage of the device, down to in-app subscription models and rich media advertising. The WSJ has updated it regularly, currently on Version 3.5, which has gotten 4.5 stars from over 1,300 user reviews. The WSJ won’t disclose user numbers, but its app ranks No. 6 in the news category of the App Store. MarketWatch also has an iPad app, rolled out this month.
Like many publishers, the WSJ sees its app as a subscription play. Unlike say The New York Times, it has long charged for its digital products. If there’s a regular complaint about the WSJ for iPad it’s the confusing nature of the subscription packages. Apple has yet to enforce its subscription guidelines, which go into effect June 30, leaving WSJ to offer $3.99 a week ($207 a year, compared to $155 for just WSJ.com) subscriptions through its main website to enable full access to the app.
The WSJ isn’t putting all its eggs in the iPad basket. It built an Android tablet app before a smart phone version. Curiously — and perhaps tellingly — The Journal is sitting out one tablet platform: BlackBerry Playbook. Fishkin was non-committal on whether WSJ would develop on the platform, which has been beset by problems since its release this month.
Taking development in house and being on leading platforms at launch definitely allows the Journal to stand out from the crowd, the configuration of WSJ’s ad sales team supports the focus as well.
“[Mobile is] completely integrated with our print sales team,” said Fishkin. “Advertisers appreciate having one team to go to for all of their [Wall Street] Journal needs. Every print sales person is linked with a digital counterpart.”
WSJ has what it calls a product champion, its mobile sales director, Tim Ware, whose job is specifically to educate the internal sales team as to what its offering in mobile and tablet can be. What’s impressive is that with tablet being so new, WSJ has still executed close to twenty four rich media campaigns on the iPad.
“I think the iPad really is limitless with the opportunity it provides for advertisers,” said Fishkin. “We have to remember, this product is still just barely a year old. We need to push the boundaries of what’s possible here before we start settling on ad standards.”
While they declined to provide further information regarding the specific campaign’s run and success, that’s a sizable number for a solution that Fishkin said could take six to eight weeks to build the creative.
“The challenge that we all see moving forward in this space is the continued diffusion of devices,” said Fishkin. “For the Wall Street Journal, the challenge will be to create compelling solutions. Our audience has followed us onto these devices. We’ll want to be anywhere where there’s a mass following. We’ll continue to innovate no matter what content device they’re looking at us through.”