Unlike that of say indie start-ups, the app strategy of print publishers is a unique one. Tethered to the complexities of a multi-channel content strategy or replacing a paid-for subscription model, the purist delights of pure-play apps can easily remain an unknown pleasure as publishers find themselves flip-flopping around the App Store in search of a business model. No wonder we all loved Newsstand (RIP).
Now imagine you’re the NME. Never out of the trades when the ABC print figures are announced and with a 63-year-old editorial strategy built on chasing the new, an NME app is virtually guaranteed to see more change than, well, an NME cover meeting.
So to NME Daily. Released five years ago, the launch app came from a magazine then trying to chase down a dwindling 2010 audience with Jimi Hendrix retrospective covers and poster supplements about The Clash. Fast forward five years and, given Time Inc’s recent decision to drop the print title’s £2.50 cover price and ‘go free’ with a 300k circulation, it’s unsurprising to see that while the name remains the same, the song has been completely rewritten - the 2015 NME Daily has been completely reinvented.
But how do you break away from the aforementioned constraints plus any ensuing legacy systems? Two steps:
1. Commit to exclusive content
2. Work with an up-and-coming band - in this case, Kickstarted app start-up Tapjet (previously known as Glide), responsible for award-winning apps Wonders of Life and The Loop Magazine.
The inevitable fag packet description is ‘Economist Espresso with guitars’. Every day sees a selection of eight self-explanatory articles pushed into the ‘Recommended’ feed – ‘Band of the Day’, ‘On This Day’, ‘Album of the Day’, ‘Video of the Day’, ‘Staying In’, ‘Going Out’, ‘Opinion’ and ‘Track of the Day’ - with the odd bonus interview. You need to be online to read ‘Recommended’ articles but these can be saved for offline reading. Subject matter can also be added and followed in a ‘My NME’ section. You’ll need an NME account to be able to use ‘My NME’ - refreshingly, registration is quick with the Facebook sign-up being pleasingly lite.
Article design is elegant whilst on-page functionality is as you would expect with Soundcloud and YouTube embeds working well (it can be easy to just expect third-party embeds ‘to work’). A push to ‘Listen On Apple Music’ will soon discover whether there’s more money in promoting Apple’s subscription system over an affiliate cut of a 79p MP3.
UX is well considered, with an infinite stream of previous days’ recommendations. Smartest of all is their use of the contemporary ‘Read More’ expandable post. Beloved of Huffington Post and Quartz, it enables users to quickly scroll past truncated articles they’re not interested in and just as quickly open up pre-loaded articles that they are. Small but perfectly formed.
As well as your ‘Saved’ area, other sections include the aforementioned ‘My NME’ and ‘Purchased’. ‘My NME’ includes exclusive articles and offers only for account holders - the only niggle here being the lack of an option to delete articles that have been pushed to this section. If it’s ‘My’ NME, the user should be in control.
As for ‘Purchased’… let’s see what happens as there’s currently nothing for sale. The holding copy says that ‘all purchased articles will appear here’ which suggests a desire to charge for archive content as per vintage music journalism service Rock’s Backpages and indeed the NME’s own recent The Best Of NME commemorative bookazine. However, a quick change of wording and functionality could lead to in-app purchases or a simple paywalled section - and given that NME-copyrighted propensity for change, you’d almost expect it.
So is it Espresso with guitars or just a slice of NME.com with ‘of the Day’ tags and a desire to charge new digital audiences for an old print archive? Most definitely the former (although the latter is an understandably close cousin). That ‘Staying In’ slot aside (think TV reviews and games), NME Daily is definitely and defiantly a music app for music fans.
A quick comparison of today’s exclusive stories versus the content found on NME.com showed NME Daily’s articles being 100% music-focused whilst the parent website featured articles on everything from Blackadder rumours to Justin Bieber lookalikes in that inevitable Google quest to reach a wider global audience. Here then is a content strategy for now (if not forever) and one that feels aligned with the 2015 reinvention.
NME editor Mike Williams says NME is “on a journey to a digital future”, with Time Inc chief exec Marcus Rich hoping this will bring the brand “to an even bigger community for (its) commercial partners”. NME Daily may be a small part of said journey but with proposed future functionality including an Apple Watch extension, Apple Pay compatibility (hello gig ticket sales?) and iBeacon location-based support, the new NME Daily is definitely a welcome case of knock it down and build it up.
NME Daily can be downloaded from the App Store.