In launching the new Newsflash app, The Australian is reaching a different type of consumer. Until now, its mobile app experience has been about replicating the newspaper experience in a way that made sense for an app. Newsflash is built to deliver content produced by The Australian in a way that feels more native to the mobile experience.
Each day at 7am, 11:30am, and 4:30pm users of the Newsflash app receive a notification advising them that the latest edition is available. Each edition delivers five curated stories intended to provide a broad view of the news of the moment.
“Newsflash is designed to tap into the behaviour we exhibit with our smartphones, which is to dip in and out for short periods, but frequent, times each day,” explained Stuart Fagg, the head of digital for The Australian.
Fagg continued: “We tend to have frequent usage of our mobile phone, but for very short periods. Traditional news delivery in that format doesn’t work in that regards. You’re asking your customer to spend some time trawling through stuff to find what you want. The idea of Newsflash is to deliver that short-form update that really suits that browsing behaviour and fits with the way that people interact with their phones, particularly when they’re commuting or having their lunch.”
“Gone are the days where you can throw a 2,000-word analysis article into an app and hope you’re going to get the same customer benefit as you are if you create something bespoke, specifically for that platform.”
Wearables are supported with the launch of Newsflash, with an Apple Watch app available. When an edition of Newsflash is published, as well as an on-screen notification on the phone, the Apple Watch will vibrate. A short teaser of the story can also be read on the watch screen.
The team at The Australian was eager to be on the Apple Watch, which is now the second most-popular wearable device, behind the Fitbit. Fagg reported, “We felt it was very important to The Australian in terms of the digital ambitions that we have to be on that platform early. There’s not really that many Australian news products on Apple Watch. We feel like we’ve got a bit of a differentiation there.”
While Newsflash isn’t designed exclusively for breaking news, the architecture of the app does allow for it, with the editorial team ready to notify users when major news is breaking. The team is very selective in the news that is reported as a breaking story.
“A good example of when we would break into the regular cycle of the editions with an alert was last Friday with the removal of Stuart Roberts and his ministry. For our cohorts and our audience, that’s big news. So, we shot out a breaking news alert at that point. We had feedback from a couple of customers that it was an extremely handy way to get that news. It’s about that kind of editorial gut feel about what the right thing to do is,” Fagg said.
The content on Newsflash is curated by The Australian’s apps and emerging platforms editor Rodney Dalton who is a former national chief of staff, New York correspondent, and online news editor at The Australian. The stories chosen are broader than just the big five news stories of any given moment. Instead the app delivers a broad mix of content that may also include lifestyle writing or reportage on areas as far-reaching as arts, sports, or fashion.
With Newsflash, The Australian is making an effort to deliver news in a way that it hasn’t previously, reaching new audiences with content built explicitly for the devices they are being consumed on. While this first iteration of Newsflash is built for the iPhone and the Apple Watch, Fagg believes that the approach can be taken with other platforms: “As we develop our offerings around things like podcasts and audio content, then we’ll be including that in Newsflash as well. If you think about the customer value proposition around convenience and utility and you apply that to other things, text-based news like stock prices, weather, petrol prices, and things like that, there are a lot of applications that you can go down in terms of the content offering with a product like Newsflash. They also lend themselves to a platform like CarPlay.”
The ability for Newsflash to present special curated editions around large-scale events is also built into its proposition. Fagg explained: “On election day, we will do an election special edition where everything will be about the election. All the alerts will be about the election. All of the notifications will be about updating on how the count is going through the night.
“When we have a big set piece like an election or a Federal Budget and potentially the Olympics, we will definitely look at Newsflash for those special events.”