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May 30, 2022updated 30 Sep 2022 11:22am

Why The Independent combined two apps into one in quest for 4m registered users

By Andrew Kersley

The Independent’s new app aims to use its combined subscription and ad revenue model to help the newspaper hit four million registered users by the end of 2022.

The Independent used to have two separate apps – Independent Daily Edition (a digital newspaper) and Independent Premium, both offering paywalled content to paid subscribers – but on 12 May went live with a new combined version.

The new app is also open to non-subscribers, of which The Independent claims to reach around 100 million worldwide each month.

Non-paying readers will see adverts and will have to register with their email address in order to access the app as part of The Independent’s Anonymous to Known first-party data strategy.

Jo Holdaway, chief data and marketing officer at The Independent, told Press Gazette: “We need to make sure that we’ve shored up the ad generation aspect of our business but also diversified commercially to lessen the risk to the business.

“Of course, we want to collect first-party data so we can then monetise it post 2023.”

She added: “What we’ve managed to do is bring in two million new registered users in 12 months. And by the end of the calendar year, we will be at four million.”

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First-party data collection, the voluntary submission of personal details like email addresses often for access to newsletters or paywalled and semi-paywalled content, is becoming increasingly popular for ad revenue-heavy publishers as Google prepares to phase out third-party cookies by the end of next year.

Holdaway said: “I believe very firmly that you can have an advertising revenue strategy alongside a subscription strategy. The type of content you produce for driving traffic and audience for ad revenues can be very different to that for driving engagement… It’s only a small amount of our content that goes behind the paywall.

“But then we also thought we’ll put in a registration wall on installation with the app. So we’ll start collecting data from app users.

“And we think that value exchange is worth it because the app’s two audiences are very different. They’re both getting a real bespoke, curated experience.”

To cater to the mixture of paid subscribers and registered users the app comes with an array of new features including audio narration of articles, live news feeds, curated “top five” article lists and access to the brand’s video arm Independent TV.

Holdaway added that if the audio feature proves popular The Independent plans to invest more time and money into audio, including by having journalists narrate their best articles.

In the first week after the app’s launch, Holdaway said it had seen a 450% increase in weekly installations compared with its predecessors and a 440% increase in users opening the app for the first time.

The app is also set to feature sponsors in future for both paying and non-paying audiences, though Holdaway stressed that it would be a “respectful advertising environment” so as not to undermine the app’s “premium experience”.

“The good thing about this model is it’s not all or nothing,” she said, adding that the team retains the ability to increase or decrease the amount of paywalled content “to attract more subscribers”.

The Independent more than doubled its operating profit in 2021, posting a record £5.5m for the financial year ending 3 October 2021, up 103% in a year and 139% over two years.

The Telegraph made a similar change to its app strategy in April 2021, launching a new one that combined its previous Live and Edition offerings. A year on, the company said 240,000 subscribers use the app each day.

Picture: The Independent

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