5 lessons from the launch of The Telegraph’s new digital edition app

2 September 2020
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This week we welcomed nearly 200 publishers from 27 different countries for the latest webinar in our Future of News series. Mathias Douchet, Director of Product at The Telegraph, was the special guest speaker. He shared the three key pillars of their strategy:

  • Journalism: the key thing The Telegraph has been doing for over 160 years
  • Distribution: what makes journalism available to everyone
  • Habit formation: as many readers have developed habits in the print world, publishers today need to translate those into digital experiences

That’s why the digital edition is a crucial format as it taps into the same engaging elements of the print newspaper, while providing a digital experience.

If you look at the audience of our edition app, they are the most engaged users. I don’t think there is any other product that has an average of 60 page views per user.

Mathias Douchet, Director of Product at The Telegraph

To better serve these loyal readers, The Telegraph recently launched a new edition app in collaboration with the Twipe team. The decision to launch an updated edition app was not one taken lightly. After all, these are the most engaged readers, so the team knew they could not mess around or make any mistakes. For publishers who might be in the same boat, Mathias Docuhet shared five pieces of advice.

#1 Start with your users

Mathias Douchet advises publishers to start this journey with the users in mind. This means understanding their news preferences, whether they are looking for the service of curation that editions provide or something else. Earlier in the webinar, we heard that across news consumers there’s a pretty even split between edition preference and newsflow website preference. The first step is to understand which segment of your audience this product will address and then dig into what they’re looking for in the product.

From The Telegraph’s research, they found that the full content experience of the print newspaper was important to translate into the digital edition. So this meant including things such as TV listings, puzzles, and obituaries. This didn’t mean however that there needed to be a one to one similar product experience to print, such as a replica ePaper would offer. The team consciously wanted to offer a more digital look and feel, which Twipe’s NextGen platform provided.

#2 Choose the right partner

Having the right partner in this journey is a key factor for success. This means more than just a partner that can technically implement what is asked; you need someone you can truly collaborate with during this process.

When The Telegraph was choosing Twipe, they first spoke to other publishers on the Twipe Edition Platform to see what the collaboration is like. References like this can help provide a fuller picture of what to expect. The team also looked at the size of the company, wanting a partner that wasn’t too big so their project would still be a priority but also not too small, so that the team would be able to still meet the requirements. Finally, it was key to have a good ‘feeling’ with the tech partner. This is harder to quantify, but it’s about having trust with each other. Think about who you want to have on your side when something goes wrong.

#3 Set up processes for collaboration

Once the right partner has been chosen, the next step is setting up the right project team. Internally this means aligning your resources to where your priority is. As the digital edition is a core pillar of The Telegraph’s digital strategy, all the relevant resources were freed up to join the project team.

You then need to set up the right processes for team communication. For The Telegraph this included daily standups with the Twipe team, plus demos, brainstorming sessions and collaborative discussions on the future product roadmap. This is why choosing the right partner is key; the teams from Twipe and The Telegraph worked cohesively as one, with no difference between an internal colleague and a project colleague.

We managed to build a very strong relationship with Twipe and to me it’s very important that you and your partner work as a team. That was absolutely key to the success of the project.

Mathias Douchet, Director of Product at The Telegraph

#4 Test, test, test

Along the development cycle, make sure to test your assumptions and validate the product. Just as you must start the process by focusing on your readers, make sure to get feedback on the new app as well.

People are inherently resistant to change so any change in the product experience can be worrisome. That’s why The Telegraph surveyed their readers to see if they would be able to get used to the changes, not just if they accepted the changes straight away.

Before releasing the new edition app, the team also crowd tested it with a panel of about 200 readers who had been using the previous edition product. This test was to assess the performance of the new app in terms of downloading, speed, and overall reliability. No matter how much internal testing is done, you will never get the exact same conditions as all use cases. Luckily the readers were very eager to do this testing, as it made them feel involved in the development and it also meant they were the first to use the new app.

#5 Strive for continuous improvement

Once you launch, the journey is really just beginning. Mathias advises publishers to launch when the product is ready and not to wait for all the possible features to be ready. Instead, this can serve as the drive to continuously improve the product, whether that is about app performance, user features, or publishing workflow.

Since The Telegraph’s new digital edition was launched, we have worked together to launch new features including text to speech and automatic downloads. We have even developed a Kindle version of the digital edition app.

Even with a continuous improvement cycle, it is important to celebrate your success as it happens. With the new digital edition app, 3 out of 4 users are coming back daily — this is even higher among core subscribers at 95%. Other feedback from users has been positive as well, with the easier navigation, faster speed, and improved look and feel standing out.

If you missed this webinar, make sure to sign up to be notified of the next one.

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