Credit: Image by Sean MacEntee on Flickr. Some rights reserved

In February Mail Plus was launched for Android, Apple and Amazon devices, as a "re-imagined" version of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday.

A team of 18 people, including journalists, technologists and developers, create an 180-page interactive edition on a daily basis, which readers can subscribe to for £9.99 a month.

Last Thursday, to take one day as an example, a 185-page tablet edition was created by eight designers, 12 editors, one video editor, one picture editor and one production editor in a 12-hour window. The team starts creating an edition around 3pm, finishing around 3am.


Paul Field, editor of Mail Plus, talked through the app's creation at the Tablet and App Summit taking place in Berlin. He explained how 18 months ago he was given the challenge to "re-imagine the Mail on the tablet".

The publisher has distinct products in print and online. In print, for example, there is the Daily Mail, which has a print circulation of 1.8 million on a weekday, and shifts 2.8 million copies on a Saturday, as well as the Mail on Sunday, while on the internet it is the Mail Online, which had more than 137 million unique browsers in August, according to the latest audited figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation. "Mail Online is the biggest newspaper website in the world and has overtaken BBC and CNN", Field told the conference.

He said that 10.6 million people in the UK came to Mail Online the day Prince George was born, and 4.6 million from America. Mobile and tablets account for 43 per cent of traffic.

The Mail Online and the Daily Mail have two different demographics. The average age of a Mail Online browser is 32, while the average age of a reader of the print edition is 58, he said.

The task

With the Mail Online offering 700 articles a day free of charge, parent company DMGT asked itself why it would launch a paid-for digital brand, Field said, explaining that the business was aware that the average 58-year-old print reader was embracing tablets.

Print readers "love the printed paper but, particularly in the last 12 months, they have started to love technology", Field said.

The business saw huge potential in tablet users, many of whom do not use desktops. And research found that one in five people who read the print edition of the Mail has access to a tablet.

'App adventurers' and 'tentative tappers'

The research also found that tablet users fell into two categories. The first they named "app adventures", who are people that like to discover new apps. The second category of people are dubbed "tentative tappers", and are those who tend to browse the web but are "more nervous about using apps", Field explained.

"We knew we had to target both of those categories," he told the conference.

Competing with free

The biggest problem was the Mail Online, Field said. How would we get those readers to come to Mail Plus?

The answer was to focus on puzzles and TV listings, neither a priority of Mail Online.

Mail Plus offers 30 interactive puzzles a day, with readers competing against the app's community to win prizes.

The print magazines have been "re-interpreted" for tablets, adding a "cinematic quality" to "differentiate what we do on tablet and print", he said.

The app is built using Adobe Digital Publishing Suite (DPS), with the filmic element added by the team using Adobe After Effects.

But despite the new offerings, the app is still designed to be familiar to the print readers, with similar fonts as used in the newspaper.

Advertising goes interactive

The app includes interactive ads and ecommerce, Field explained.

Shoppers are "kept within the app", as it allows a reader to click and buy a product from John Lewis, for example, without leaving.

Analytics are also "baked into the app", so the team knows how people are interacting, he added.

The results

So, seven months on from launch, what are the results? Asked for sales statistics and when they expect to break even, Field did not share figures.

"We are getting advertising revenue that is disproportionate to number of subscribers," he said, explaining that advertisers have been willing to pay more to reach the app's customers.

Field did reveal engagement figures, explaining that the average time spent on the app is 46 minutes from Monday to Friday, 52 minutes on a Saturday and 56 minutes on a Sunday.

The aim is to increase this further with a new "breaking news feature", which will provide a live news feed updated throughout the day and trending video content.

Correction: This article originally said the Mail Online publishes 700 articles a month. It publishes 700 a day.

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