Matt Jones, Vice President of Mobile Strategy and Operations for USA Today/Gannett Digital, updates with fresh data and perspectives the discussion he had with us a year ago about USA Today's strategy for publishing on mobile platforms.
Will the Apple iPad create a need for a redesign
of your app or will you wait and see for a while?
Matt Jones: We are taking a very close look at iPad and determining the best approach for our brand. More to come on that front, perhaps by the time I present in Amsterdam in May (NDLR: Matt Jones will speak at the 8th Mobile Media Day)
How are your mobile services developing a little more than a year after their launch?
Matt Jones: USA TODAY’s various mobile sites and applications are performing very well and we are encouraged by the adoption growth and perhaps more importantly, the retention metrics. Our iPhone app (launched in December 2008) has been downloaded nearly 3millions times and counts over 1million unique active monthly users. Our six-month retention rate for users is 54%, far surpassing typical app metrics of roughly 3-5% (source Flurry).
How many paid-for application have you launched and would you say that paid-for apps are well accepted by your users?
Matt Jones: We have released one premium application, USA TODAY Crosswords (Editor’s note: in the App Store, priced US$ 4.99 to download), which has performed very well in a crowded market. Pricing is fairly fluid for news apps in the US. iPad is going to be new ground for all publishers and media companies to consider.
You had plans to use other mobile platform, have you started to do so this year? More generally, which technologies might impact your strategy in the mid-term?
Matt Jones: As happy as we are with our iPhone product, our Android product is also performing well. It is currently growing at a user rate exceeding the iPhone app. This is perhaps due to commercial success/adoption of more Android devices and a less cluttered app storefront. It is generally a top 30 app across all 20 000+ Android Market apps and we’re number 2 in the Weather and News category since early in 2009.
You have mostly opted for an ad-funded model with your applications. Are you satisfied by the generated income? Also, with your experience what is the format, the ad proposal, that is most understood and accepted by the advertisers and what are the metrics you use for your advertisers to evaluate the results of their campaign?
Matt Jones: I would label our advertising results as ‘encouraging.’ We frequently present our iPhone application display advertising units as part of a cross-platform media sale (including print, online and other mobile assets). Most understood by advertisers is flat sponsorship model or a CPM buy across a date range. The Metrics to evaluate campaigns are standard impressions/clicks and brand studies.
You have privileged free app that can be monetised with advertising. Do you believe that it is possible because of your prestigious brand or would you say that it makes sense for smaller brands (e.g in your regional papers)?
Matt Jones: Across Gannett (80+ newspaper titles, 23 television stations) we are testing a variety of models. Local is a more difficult proposition with regard to generating critical mass, but some of our tests are showing very encouraging results. Local advertisers are also starting to come on board.
Have you incorporated changes, updates, linked to the user reaction?
Matt Jones: Based on our success with iPhone, we launched USA TODAY AutoPilot in the fall of 2009. It is a flight tracking/trip tracking app (www.usatoday.com/iphone/autopilot/). User feedback is something we watch very closely and it factors into our product plans.