Hearst’s App Strategy: Adding More Needles To A Growing Haystack

Hearst has about 70 apps under its LMK banner in the iTunes App Store right now and it just plans to keep adding more and more. Most of the LMK apps sell for about $1.99, while a handful cost $0.99 per download. The LMK initials stand for “Let Me Know” and are devoted to news and photos about a single Hollywood stars and sports teams and figures, as well as hobbies and general topics like cupcakes and Barbie dolls. The apps run the gamut from Lady Gaga to Metallica to Tiger Woods to the NY Yankees and feature photos and news updates.
Back in the fall, Hearst Entertainment EVP George Kliavkoff and LMK head Michael Gutkowski unveiled their plans for the LMK.com aggregation site, which were predicated upon the idea that SEO tactics will get searchers to visit the special topic sites, while the constant flow of updates would drive return visits. As it expands the LMK strategy to mobile, Kliavkoff tells the WSJ that he believes users obsessed with their favorite stars or teams will be willing to pay to get these automated updates on their phones.
In immediately charging for the apps, Hearst also believes it can avoid what major online publishers now perceive as an early mistake; that is, relying primarily on ad-support instead of transferring the newsstand price structure to the internet. “Unlike the web, we’ve always trained people that everything on the mobile device costs money,” Kliavkoff says. While the iTunes Store has sold more than $2.7 billion of apps, the WSJ says, citing stats from mobile measurement firm Flurry, it’s unclear how much the sales of the apps will mean to Hearst’s business. All the the downloads provide a one-time charge that Hearst can benefit from, the company will slowly begin adding advertising once it feels the individual apps have reached enough mass.
In terms of creating so many apps for a single topic, Hearst believes that with a haystack as large and growing as the App Store, you’re going to need a lot of needles if you want consumers to find your product. Plus, it allows for greater ad targeting later.
The focus on the apps also shows Hearst’s increasing emphasis on mobile. It followed Conde Nast’s paid app representation of GQ magazine by putting an app version of Esquire for sale on for $1.99 per issue in the App Store as well.
Also, at the start of the year, Hearst promoted Sophia Stuart from her role as head of Hearst