Let’s say you’re a media publication that publishes one story a day to your paid subscribers. You ship an e mail to your subscribers each morning with a hyperlink to the story in your web site. To learn it, the subscriber clicks on the hyperlink, is taken to the web site and may learn the story after logging into their account. 

What if I informed you that this publication that publishes one story a day, which takes a subscriber a mean of 10 minutes to learn, determined to construct a cellular app simply six months after launch? 

If you’re an early subscriber of The Ken, you in all probability bear in mind why. 

In the event you aren’t, we


The Ken
The Ken’s Android and iOS apps are right here
Learn extra

 about it and the way we designed it. Broadly, our considering was the next: 

1. The cellular app was a manner for us to duplicate the studying expertise of a subscriber from the online to an app. Like we wrote,

However as soon as they have been on board, Beard Design switched mode quickly and tried to determine why a subscriber would set up and use our apps.

“The problem actually was to make the app helpful – earlier than making it a delight to make use of. The content material was already straightforward to entry with the day by day e mail and the studying expertise was already nice on the internet”, remembers Abhisek

So, we agreed that the core studying expertise, whether or not on our web site or on our apps, would basically be the identical.

2. We additionally added some peripheral experiences like highlights, a feed on the homepage and many others.

As a result of we thought that subscribers would use them. 

However three years later, in March 2020, we took an uncommon name. We determined to dump our app and rebuild one from scratch. 

Why did we try this? As a result of two issues turned actually clear to us. 

  1. For a subscription publication to succeed, an app isn’t simply fascinating. It’s essential
  2. All our earlier assumptions for why we would have liked to have an app have been fallacious

Why ought to a information publication have an app?

All information web sites have apps. Hell, even information channels do.

Most information publications have apps on the Apple retailer and the Play Retailer

So why do information web sites have apps? 

The straightforward reply is that apps are extra partaking. You’ll be able to floor “content material” real-time, create a feed and present an infinite feed of content material. 

Why is that this necessary?

Seems, most frequently, it’s advertisements.

Banner advertisements, native advertisements, in-content advertisements. As folks begin to determine ad-blockers and privateness on net browsers, information web sites began in search of on-line advert area that’s owned and operated by them. With the period of time folks spend on their telephones, cellular apps are a major ad-monetisation platform for information web sites.

There are different causes which go one thing like this

  1. For conventional information publications, the app drives person acquisition. That’s why they give attention to app rankings, evaluations and rankings. 
  2. For conventional information publications, the app is an engagement channel, to ship push notifications and to make customers spend extra time on it. 
  3. Lastly, for conventional information publications, the app is a monetisation channel to point out advertisements. 

For a subscription-based publication, the explanations are considerably totally different. 

In reality, subscription-based publications want an app as a result of it solves issues that solely subscription-based publications face. 

The paywall kills the expertise. The app saves it.

A paywall solely works if there’s no straightforward approach to bypass it. That’s why subscription publications have to fret about piracy and abuse of content material.

A pure consequence of subscription companies attempting to manage piracy and abuse is the establishment of simultaneous session limits. You will have come throughout this someplace

Netflix’s error display screen when too many customers are watching concurrently

We now have simultaneous session limits, too. However this creates a singular drawback.

What tech journalist Walt Mossberg is speaking about here’s a drawback that almost all frequent subscription publications around the globe wrestle with.

Most apps the place subscribers uncover content material—Twitter, Fb, Gmail, WhatsApp, and others—have their very own
in-app browsers

in-app browsers

In-app Browser
Net browsers packaged as a part of one other app, triggered by the app to open net pages exterior to it

with their very own particular person session shops. Subscription publications restrict the variety of simultaneous classes. Naturally, subscribers find yourself getting logged out, prompting them to log again in ceaselessly.

Publications go to nice lengths to unravel this drawback. We’ve our personal method, too.

Discover what occurs if you faucet on the story hyperlink in any of our abstract emails.

Seamless, isn’t it? And right here’s what occurs if you faucet on a hyperlink from social media.

Buying merchandise, not customers

Readers don’t learn simply on web sites anymore. Many of the consumption is break up throughout new codecs of storytelling—podcasts, audio narrations, newsletters and extra. And with that, there’s additionally been an increase in platforms the place every of those new codecs are hosted. 

For articles and newsletters, the dominant gamers are Substack or Medium. For podcasts, there are not less than 5 platforms folks go to ceaselessly. For audio narrations, there’s Audm.

They usually’re all nice. While you take a look at every one in isolation.

What’s lacking, although, is an area the place all of it comes collectively for subscribers to seek out, devour, and join the dots.

At The Ken, longform articles—tales—are our core product. Since final 12 months, after we launched The Nutgraf, we now have three subscriber newsletters which have rapidly develop into subscriber favourites. And we’re launching a podcast quickly. 

However for subscribers of The Ken, the app is the place all of it comes collectively. Subscribers discover the day’s longform story and the day’s newsletters proper on the prime, seamlessly weaved into the house display screen. No cause to undergo numerous apps and web sites.

The app’s house display screen shuffles by way of newsletters and tales to present subscribers precisely what they’re in search of. Once they’re in search of it

The app is probably the most frictionless medium for subscribers to learn our journalism, bypassing what’s in any other case a sequence of damaged experiences. In reality, if a subscriber has the app, they learn 57% extra tales in comparison with these with out.

The seamlessness is why subscribers come to the app, although. Nonetheless, as we learnt, they keep for various causes.

Come for the content material. Keep for the expertise

As I stated, after we launched our first app, it was an experiment. It aimed to do two issues: 1. It let subscribers bypass all of the friction of subscription journalism, and a pair of. It ensured they’ve a minimal, clear studying expertise.

The house display screen was a stack of tales ordered newest first. Subscribers might filter tales by the sector they have been serious about studying about. Functionally, subscribers might learn, remark, and save tales.

When it comes to personalisations, the app remembered the tales that subscribers learn, permitting them to select up the place they left off, and to filter out tales that they’ve already learn. However that’s about it.

And that’s the place we have been fallacious.

As a result of if somebody has paid in your subscription, in contrast to within the case of ad-funded media, the app is now not for the enterprise; it’s for subscribers. For subscribers of journalism, and by extension for any subscription-content product, the app turns into a deeply private function of their subscription.

Subscribers who’ve the app are 1.6X extra prone to proceed their subscription past their first 12 months.

This was evident to us as we have been constructing our new app.

In reality, the brand new app is what it’s partially due to our subscribers. Seeing early subscriber curiosity in shaping the brand new app, we’re working an unique closed beta program for Android and iOS the place a restricted variety of subscribers get entry to early variations of the app.

As a result of we’re constructing an app that’s finally for them, subscribers love sharing their suggestions with us.

Subscribers who turned a part of the beta program shared detailed suggestions primarily based on how they use the app

And due to this subscriber-focus, The Ken’s new app comes with a lot of personalisation choices

And the house display screen is stuffed with curated suggestions for every subscriber

It did take us fairly a while to get right here. However, in consequence, we’re extra versatile and agile for the longer term.

The ultimate cause

There’s one massive distinction between an app for a subscription journalism product and say, for meals supply or experience sharing. And that’s the indisputable fact that subscribers need to entry their app anyplace and in all places. Cell. Pill. Web site. Kindle.

It was this cause that largely led us to throw issues out and begin over.

For subscription publications, apps have largely been second-class residents. Most new merchandise are launched on the web site first and are available to the app later, in a couple of weeks. We had the identical drawback at The Ken up to now.

One key cause why this occurs is as a result of the apps are platform-dependent and builders want to write down an app for every platform—Android, iOS, Mac, WearOS, CarPlay and many others. Companies typically select to bypass this effort by ignoring platforms which have a low share of customers. Generally, mass market apps have an Android:iOS break up that appears like this:

For mass market apps, OS share is closely tilted in the direction of Android, making the iOS app a pleasant to have

That is true for many e-commerce firms in India. Curiously, that’s not the case at The Ken.

At The Ken, we’ve a big and dependable share of iOS customers

So, to maintain our apps in sync with all our merchandise, and to maintain subscribers glad, we have to launch to each Android and iOS concurrently.

For a subscriber who reads us on a browser, and an Android telephone and an iPad, the expertise goes to be an identical.

That’s why the most recent model of The Ken now runs solely on the
React Native

React Native

React Native Framework
Open-source programming framework created by Fb permitting builders to construct apps for a number of system platforms from a single codebase


This can enable us to roll out options sooner and concurrently on a number of platforms. All with a lean crew of simply three engineers.


So, in abstract:

For conventional information publications, the app drives person acquisition. That’s why they give attention to app rankings, evaluations and rankings.

For subscription information publications, the app drives system acquisition. That’s why we give attention to the expertise throughout the online, the pill and the app, throughout working methods.

For conventional information publications, the app is an engagement channel, to ship push notifications and to make customers spend extra time on it.

For subscription information publications, the app is an expertise channel, to create a single hub for displaying all of the merchandise that the subscriber pays for, of their pocket.

Lastly, for conventional information publications, the app is a monetisation channel to point out advertisements.

For subscription information publications, the app is a retention channel. All as a result of it makes it straightforward for customers to learn tales, set their very own private preferences, and pull them up at will.

Above all, we handle to do that with our crew of builders, all working remotely.

The Ken’s engineering crew

In the event you’re a subscriber, there’s much more coming. And it’s all coming first in your app. In the event you’re not subscribed but, the app is just one of many many causes to take the leap. Examine our plans and subscribe.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here