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Tristan Leaver on Dow Jones' Financial News iPad app

Financial News appDow Jones has just released an iPad app for Financial News - a leading publication for the Investment Banking, Securities and Fund Management industries. We spoke to Tristan Leaver, General Manager EMEA for the The Wall Street Journal Digital Network about  the business model, development and testing that went into the app.: What’s the business model for the app, and how does this work alongside the website? The app is free to download from the App Store and has a selection of free content available in the “iPad Highlights” section. The rest of the content is only available to those who are existing subscribers to Financial News. The app is part of the overall value proposition for license holders, but is also supported by advertising revenue.
Can you outline any user research/testing that went into developing the app and how that affected its final look? Dow Jones launched The Wall Street Journal’s iPad app two years ago, on the same day that the first generation iPad was released, and we started to think about a Financial News iPad app at around the same time. We began planning in earnest when we visited our corporate clients and saw that iPads were already prevalent in their offices, especially among the senior management at investment banks. We carried out market research into how our subscribers accessed mobile news, which confirmed that many already had iPads – and that 88% of those who were considering a tablet purchase intended to buy an iPad. Forrester research showed that a significant proportion of enterprises had already started issuing iPads for business use and that more intended to do so soon. The research also demonstrated that the highest penetration was among businessmen who worked in the financial services sector. Throughout the process, we reviewed wireframes and designs with customers, and also with our advertisers and their agencies. This was vital in shaping the product: users can now cache for offline usage while travelling; customise the homepage; update for breaking news throughout the day; and save content for offline reading. Also, the ad formats that we have offered are simple – to minimise creative charges – yet have a strong impact. Can you talk about the length of time involved in development/what if any external partners were involved in this launch? The app took seven months to design and build from start to finish. We partnered with Demo Media to design the app because it was important to have designers working closely with our team in London. But we wanted to work with our New York-based tech teams to build the app because of their wealth of experience – they’ve built 12 apps in the past year alone, including the respected Wall Street Journal app. We chose to do the designs in London because that process is so iterative and detailed, while the tech build could be done at a distance by a trusted team. We were happy to work with external parties where relevant, but took great care to choose a ‘best of breed’ provider. I believe tech builds are best done in-house, because then we have complete control over the code base so that future development is simpler, and we can integrate easily with Dow Jones’s back-end systems like analytics and ad-serving. Financial News app screenshot What are the main learnings from this launch, and managing the ongoing product development process around it? We’ve learnt several things:
  • The iPad is different. The team spent a lot of time debating what features were essential for the device: we didn’t try and replicate either print or web experiences, nor did we try to include all the features of the website. We tailored the app to the nature of the device and its most essential uses.
  • Proximity matters. We wanted the team to be physically close, so we flew our lead developer over from the US and worked with Demo Media in our building in an intensive and inspired discovery session that lasted a week.
  • What you leave out is as important as what you put in. Constantly reviewing features to stay within launch budget created a rigour that was valuable and helped us keep the product lean while offering the best possible user experience.

Dow Jones is an AOP Affiliate Member. For more iPad case studies - see our iPad Forum held earlier this year.

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