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Growth Stories - Apple News

Project Summary:

The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard were launch partners when Apple News went live in September 2015 with the release of iOS 9.1. The channels started in the basic RSS format, but were soon transitioned to Apple’s standardized Apple News Format via Markdown in October 2015.

I was given product ownership of the Apple News platform in late February 2016. Up until that point, our articles were plagued with bugs, our POCs at Apple were not happy with our development velocity, we were seeing little to no user growth MoM, and we couldn’t even support video assets. Clearly, we had our work cut out for us.

The Numbers:

Unique user growth per month over 14 month period:

  • March 2016:
    • THR: 225K unique users /mo
    • BB: 295K unique users /mo
    • Total: 520K unique users /mo
  • May 2017:
    • THR: 6MM unique users /mo (+2500%) 
    • BB: 1.86MM unique users /mo (+520%)
    • Total: 7.86MM unique users /mo (+1400%)

Comscore:
Apple News now accounts for roughly 25% of the total Hollywood Reporter audience and 15% of the total Billboard audience as measured by comscore.

Push notification audience growth: 
Apple invited us to join an exclusive group of publishers who were given access to the push notification feature that rolled out with iOS 10. 

  • September 2016: cold start.
  • May 2017
    • THR: 1.3MM users recieving notifications
    • BB: 700K users recieving notifications
    • Total: 2MM users recieving notifications

The Secret to Success

  • Steady stream of strategically planned product rollouts.
    • PGM doesn’t have the development resources of some of our larger publishing rivals, and as such we have to be very selective as to where we invest our resources. 
      1. We started by delivering a single, simple article template. 
      2. We transitioned our video production process to an HTML5 delivery mechanism to enable video support.
      3. We optimized article ingestion by moving our Apple News Format JSON from Markdown to HTML format.
      4. Once our ingestion was clean, we were cleared to join the pilot push notifications program. 
      5. After that we moved into enhancements for our template with delightful animations, support for ‘Cover Images’, and in feed video playback to name a few. 
      6. Finally, we used lessons we learned from the single article template to inform builds of lists, video and gallery templates.
  • Relationship building.
    • We worked hard to build a blossoming relationship with Apple's editorial and development POCs. We did this by honoring our word, by listening to their wants and needs, by updating our product and strategy accordingly, and by simply following many of their recommended best practices.