Print newspapers are failing, but Freedom Communications developed a plan to breathe new life into its 27 daily newspapers and eight television stations. The strategy starts with an iPad app and support for interactive content and advertising through the browser technology known as HTML5.
Beginning with its largest metro paper, the OC Register, which supports Orange County, Calif., the iPad platform will highlight news, entertainment and sports, as well as ad units that allow readers to touch and swipe the screen to move content and create a complete interactive experience. The app will also have a search feature.
Freedom Interactive President Doug Bennett says the newspaper will not port any ads made for television, newspapers or online over to the iPad or tablet application because the experience differs greatly.
For instance, a Macy's ad will enable readers not only to click on the jewelry ad, but to rotate the pair of diamond earrings to get a 360-degree view. Another feature might enable readers to dress a model with clothing to get a view on how shirts, dresses or shoes fit.
"We're also keeping in mind the offline interactive experience, when readers are not connected to Wi-Fi access," Bennett says. "We don't want readers to have a bad experience with the advertisement."
That type of thinking could change the revenue model from a cost per click (CPC) to something more like a cost per view (CPV), but it's too early to tell whether a CPV model would override a pay per impression or click-through.
"We've also been talking about how to measure offline use for advertisers," Bennett says. "We built in dynamics that keep track of views. When readers go online we'll grab the information. This will tell us the length of time they use the platform."
Freedom relies on Omniture for backend analytics, along with more traditional means such as focus groups to determine the readership's needs.
The tablet application will support one feature story and six sections with 10 articles each ranging from News for OC, Sports, Business, Trending, Things to do, and Photo/video. It also will support a weather widget, live traffic feed, and breaking news. Content will publish around 5 p.m. each night rather than in the morning, when most people pick up their tablet to read content.
If Freedom's strategy focused on transition -- which means getting people who read its newspapers or watch television news converted to the iPad -- the company would probably make the iPad app look like a newspaper, because people are comfortable with that. "Our strategy is about changing the dynamics of what's becoming a smaller segment," Bennett says. "Our focus is getting back in the business of growing an audience, which newspapers and broadcast networks have not done in a long time."
The strategy supports aggregating content based on specific audiences such as ages 35 to 45. Today the newsroom is the newspaper's primary source of information, but the business model moving on to tablets will change that this year.
The first day the iPad app launches, Bennett expects 85% of the content will come from the OC Register's newsroom, but a year from now he estimates it will decline to 60%. The remainder will come from syndicate news agencies such as Associated Press, user-generated content and video.
While it's too early to tell whether the strategy will work, Bennett says all efforts will begin with the Orange County market, followed by Colorado Springs later this year.