Credit: Image by blue2likeyou on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Evening Edition is a simple concept: Five short stories at 5pm, allowing readers to catch up with the day's major news during their commute home from work.

The summary articles, most around 200 words in length, are posted on the mobile-friendly Evening Edition website and delivered to subscribers by email.

There are five editions aimed at people in five cities – London, Paris, New York, San Francisco and Cairo – and each edition is published at 5pm in the time zone local to that region.

1. The idea

The idea for Evening Edition was sparked by a brief Twitter exchange just over a year ago between Jim Ray, a web designer from outside of the news business, and a former New York Times designer who commented on a trend for iPad reading in the evening.

Ray and colleagues from Mule Design built the site in a couple of days. At launch he described the aims of the Evening Edition site.

"It’s a summary of the day’s news, written by an actual journalist, with links to the best reporting in the world, published once a day. It’s optimised for your phone or iPad so you can read it on the train home or on the couch.

"It can be the starting point for a deep-dive or just enough so you sound erudite at your next cocktail party. What it’s not, and what it will never be, is another chirp of noise constantly guilting you into checking it. It’s breaking news for the slow web."

A year ago, Evening Edition launched its email subscriber option, with an email of five story summaries arriving into inboxes at 5pm. There are now more than 30,000 subscribers and five editions: London, New York, San Francisco, Paris and Cairo, which launched last month.

Miranda Mulligan, who is also executive director of Northwestern’s Knight Lab, and who was digital design director at the Boston Globe until a year ago, was brought on board as editor-in-chief a couple of months ago.

2. Editorial concept

"The idea is five stories you would want to know at 5pm every day," Mulligan told Each edition has an editor who "looks for stories to recap as a summary".

The London, San Francisco, New York and Paris editions feature largely international or national-level news, rather than stories local to that region.

"Editors are asked to look for a mix of stories that would be interesting to people locally around them, with an international lean to them," Mulligan told us. "But if there is an interesting local story that can't really be ignored, a major public transportation story that happens in San Francisco, for example, the editor will probably include that as well as international and national stories."

The new Cairo edition is a slightly different concept than the other four, focusing on news from Egypt, with the editor able to provide summaries with a "slight local framing".

3. An email readership

The "bulk of the readership" comes from email subscriptions, Mulligan said, "primarily because that is our way of letting people know that there is a new edition available". People get the full summaries within the email and are not pushed towards clicking through to the the Evening Edition site.

There are now more than 30,000 email subscribers. "We definitely peaked just shy of a year ago and have been somewhat steady since that point," she said. "It's now about figuring out ways to grow."

The number of people opening the emails is impressive, at "well above 50 per cent across all editions", Mulligan said, a significant conversion rate for email communications.

San Francisco, which was the first edition to launch, is the most popular in terms of subscriber numbers, with New York second. Paris and London are "significantly smaller but have a very loyal readership", Mulligan said.

4. Experimenting and iterating

Evening Edition is experimenting, Mulligan told us. They had 500 respondents to a survey sent out in July, with feedback helping shape the site.

The Mule Design team is about to launch a redesign of the web and email editions "helping with the navigation between the different editions" and there is also an iPhone app in the pipeline, Mulligan said.

Back in March, Evening Edition launched a daily podcast, again published at 5pm. "You give us five minutes, we’ll give you a big-picture look at what’s going on in the world around you," Tom Carmony from Mule said at the time.

However, the podcast has been paused for the moment. The team is "re-imagining" the podcast edition and "re-thinking the format", Mulligan explained. "The group of people who were listening to it were very dedicated but we wanted to rethink the editorial approach, so that it makes sense in the broader portfolio of what comes from Evening Edition."

5. Making money

Evening Edition got off the ground with the help of a launch sponsor and operates on a "shoestring budget", Mulligan said.

"We've got some revenue coming in from sponsorships," she explained "but not a lot".

One of the reasons they are re-imagining the podcast is because they found offering bundled sponsorship packages for the podcast edition, email edition and web editions was more appealing to sponsors than selling the three separately.

Evening Edition is also open to crowdfunding, using Tugboat Yards, a Kickstarter for ongoing projects, as a "storefront".

Readers can give a one-off or monthly tip. A recurring donation of $5 a month signals "undying love", $10 gives a sticker pack, $2,500 sponsors the team for a week and $5,000 sponsors a city edition for six months.

Evening Edition has previously been featured on Nieman, ReadWriteWeb and GigaOM. You might also be interested in this feature on evening iPad editions.

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