The rise of mobile news is not through free aggregator apps

About a month ago, I was reading an article about the rise of news aggregation mobile apps and their value to magazine and newspaper publishers whose digital edition apps only make up 3.8 per cent of their paid circulation.

Why so little? The author suggests that news apps, unlike the open web, do not allow for “frictionless discovery” of content. That assertion definitely has merit – content discovery has changed significantly in the past decade; but I also believe changing reading behaviours are a major factor.

Today’s news consumers are more promiscuous, more social and more topic-focused than their predecessors. They also demand a more fluid, seamless reading experience – one without roadblocks – an experience most newspaper and magazine apps do not offer. Instead traditional publishers continue to embrace the branded replica format – a layout that may still appeal to their older readers, but not the growing population of digital natives. 

Elle Canada tablet edition PressReader story ()

To facilitate both “frictionless discovery” and serve a new generation of readers, publishers need to offer high-quality content, adopt the latest technologies and offer multiple presentation formats to ensure their content is borderless, searchable, shareable and profitable. 

Let’s take a look at magazines, for example. Unlike newspapers, magazines often contain evergreen content of significant value to readers long after their issue date – if readers could ever find it. But most mobile magazine apps aren’t searchable even within the publication, let alone across issues, due to limits of their image-based digital publishing technology.

Devaluing their content by offering it through free news aggregators may be the easy route for publishers to reach some of these readers, but it’s not going to grow revenues in any significant way. 

The only way that publishers can monetise their content and give readers what they want is to ‘think outside the app’, offer premium content and look to adopt HTML5 for their digital properties. 

HTML5 has matured to the point that it successfully powers the largest aggregated newspaper and magazine platform ( with a reach of more than 250 million people. With its 100 per cent cross-platform engine, PressReader offers multiple content presentation formats and adapts the layout of quality content on-the-fly as readers interact with it. It also supports social logins, cross-title search, sharing, translation, commenting and personalisation. 

And the best news for publishers is that they get paid a fixed royalty every time their content is read. 

Free news aggregator apps may be useful to a certain extent for creating brand awareness with new audiences, but revenue growth and profits come from:

  • Offering content worthy of payment
  • Responsive design with full cross-platform support
  • Multiple content presentation models that appeal to both traditional readers and digital natives
  • Advanced digital features designed to engage readers longer, encourage discussions around content with other users and raise the discoverability of high-value content
  • Vertical channel integration that opens doors to a massive global audience that publishers have trouble reaching on their own

Free news aggregation native mobile apps may have been on the rise in 2014, but I maintain that HTML5 is poised to slow down their momentum as publishers start to see how publishing solutions built on the new standard can grow their audience and bottom lines without cannibalising their existing revenue streams.

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