5 key drivers of successful finite formats

Finite formats are becoming ever more popular products in the news publishing market. Last year The Economist relaunched their Espresso app whilst the FT last week announced the US expansion of FT Edit. With a clear start and end, they share many features with the traditional newspaper. With our wealth of experience in helping publishers launch and upgrade their finite products, we look at 5 key drivers of successful finite products.

1. Curation is central to the finite experience

Finite format products are all about curation. They feature a limited number of stories carefully chosen for the user. These stories are chosen to reflect the day’s news and provide readers with the information they need. This curation is central to building a trusting relationship between the newsroom and readers.

Different successful products have different models of curation, with 2 standing out. The FT Edit features 8 stories a day. The 8 stories are chosen by an Editor, with stories designed to expose readers to the breadth of the FT‘s content, as well as encourage deep dives into topics seen in the daily news. The product is a source of experimentation for the FT, and recent trials have included guest Editors. British Entrepreneur Steven Bartlett took over the FT Edit for a day to provide readers with stories he considered to be the most important on the day. It also featured an extra bonus article from Bartlett himself to give a personal touch to readers.

Economist Espresso follows a similar curation format with just 5 stories chosen for each edition. These stories are specifically chosen to represent the 5 most important stories of the day, with each having to fit on 1 page of mobile so that readers can get their need to know facts as a quick hit, like an Espresso.

Automation and personalisation have begun to play a role in curation for some publishers. Outlets such as Børsen and NRC have leveraged JAMES personalisation and automation in their curated newsletters for subscribers. These personalised curated recommendations are based on reading behaviour and provide readers with a mix of trending and personalised news so that they can get news from all areas.

2. Building all important usage habits

Building habits is an important way for publishers to keep readers coming back to their product frequently. This comes through exposing readers to a series of points on the habit formation loop which you can find more information about here.

Triggers are central to building habits. A trigger encourages users to engage with a product and they come in many forms like push notifications. With their digital edition being an evening product, Ouest France send push notifications to their users to let them know when the latest version of l’Edition du soir is available. This then takes readers directly to the latest edition.

Inside Edition du soir, Ouest France also use puzzles and games to build habits. In the latest versions of their apps, FT Edit and Economist Espresso have also added quizzes as habit forming trigger. These appeal to the competitive edge of readers wanting to test their knowledge and not lose streaks.

Research shows that it takes 66 days to build a habit, so publisher’s teams need to be patient. But with 50% of actions being undertaken because of habit they are well worth the effort.

3. Becoming a partner in life by fostering “finishability”

One of the key drivers for choosing a finite product is its finishability. Have a clear start and end as well as estimated read time helps fit news consumption into daily routines. At the top of each of their newsletters, Axios add an estimated reading time and word count so subscribers can choose when it best fits their day to consume the content. Le Monde’s La Matinale has built on this by displaying both an expected read and listen time on each of their article cards.

FT Edit however is best in class in terms of finishability. On the home page with the day’s articles, each article card gives an estimated read time. As readers progress through the story, there is a progress bar which can be seen on the home page and in the article. Once an article is finished, it is clearly marked with a completed label so that readers can move on to the next story. The Atlantic’s today section also presents a strong example of finishability.  Once a reader has reached the end of the day’s 6 stories, they reach a peace of mind message to know that they have completed their news consumption for the day.

Making the news “finishable” is a major step forward for publishers in era of rolling bulletins and live blogs. Making sure the news can be consumed for a specific period on a daily basis is a step in the right direction to making readers less overwhelmed by the news.

4. Engaging readers beyond words

Finding ways to engage readers beyond the news has become a driver for success with finite format products. Tamedia 12 and Le Monde’s La Matinale have leveraged swiping to encourage readers to actively sort the news. This adds an element of gamification to news consumption and has been utilised as a way to make news more appealing to younger audiences, with experiences becoming “Tinder-like”. Swiping also reiterates the finite nature of the news product, with subscribers eventually reaching the end of a content bundle. Swiping has proved an easy yet powerful way to boost engagement.

Audio is a medium growing in importance for news publishers and it has already been utilised by finite format products to boost engagement. In November 2022, La Matinale introduced audio articles. When swiping through the day’s news, an audio article playlist of the chosen articles is also made and can be played in the background. This means that in increasingly busy lives, subscribers can still enjoy the day’s news whilst multitasking, encouraging engagement with more than one of a subscriber’s senses. Economist Espresso features a daily audio briefing at the top of each edition so subscribers can listen to the headlines of the day, as well as a recommended podcast of the day so subscribers can continue their daily consumption journey.

5. A content driven user experience

Finite format products find success in their aesthetic appeal. Many of these tend to focus on simplicity and clean design. This encourages a greater focus on content, which is at the heart of the role of finite formats. L’Edition du soir bases its content on a variety of mobile designed templates to ensure than their content is displayed to users in the best possible way. Mobile optimised templates mean that users can also engage with other content like video, audio and pictures. These templates are made to be clean so that attention is not diverted away from what readers need to know.

Elswhere, TaMedia 12 provides an animated slide show of the 12 stories selected for the day when entering the app. This provides readers with a teaser of the stories in the day’s curation of articles and gives an aesthetically pleasing onboarding. Economist Espresso features an interactive chart of the day and animated fact of the day to provide users with content in an interactive format. Finding ways to make content appear effortless and classic is a great way to ensure greater interaction with content and less distraction from interruptive ads.

Keen to experiment with finite formats yourself? Get in touch with our team.

This article marks my last piece of content for Twipe before I continue my journey into the world of news publishing! Over the last 2 years, I’ve had the opportunity to develop my knowledge of the world of news publishing and share insights with a growing global community. I’d like to thank you for your support and interest in our content. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to keep in touch here and here!


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