ABC News applies two years of use to new iPad strategy

The distinctive three-dimensional globe is giving way to a new three-edition iPad(s aapl) app strategy for ABC News(s dis). The new version, going live as this is published, relies not on ideas about what iPad users might want — as was the case when it first launched in July 2010 — but on nearly two years of usage.
“The globe served a wonderful purpose for us for a long time but because we were so early in we have a lot of knowledge,” Joe Ruffolo, SVP, ABC News Digital, told me as they were preparing to launch.
Ruffolo says the app has been downloaded “millions” of times. (No specifics but my understanding is the iOS apps have been downloaded several million times.) It turned out iPad usage was closer to the broadcast model than online patterns:

  • Usage peaks between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.
  • Users watching 1.5 times more/longer video and reading 20 percent more stories in the evening than in any other daypart.
  • More than 50 percent of all news stories on the app were read in the morning and the evening.

At night, said Ruffolo, who joined ABC News last year from AOL:

The iPad is almost a second TV.

With that in mind, instead of the continuous news flow that showed up on the globe (or in list form depending on user preference), the 2012 version is split into dayparts: morning, afternoon and evening. It’s still a 24/7 app and will be updated constantly, but the different editions are designed to reflect the way people use the iPad. For instance, the morning edition has a lot of quick hit news; the evening edition features a large video carousel.
At night, the videos featured are more long form (in broadcast news terms), 2 minutes-plus. From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern, ABC News Digital also is producing an hourly 1 minute video spot called Hourly News Pop; the version I saw didn’t have it yet but Katie Couric will “open” each segment.
If you have local settings enabled, the app even launches with images from your vicinity at different times of day with local weather. ABC’s eight owned-and-operated local stations are getting a complete refresh of their apps, also nearly two years old. They’re built on the same platform for ease of sharing content but customized for the need of a local market: more robust weather than the national app plus traffic and local video and text. LA’s KABC-TV launched at the same time as the national app..
Others are due in the next few weeks from WABC-TV, New York; WLS-TV, chicago; WPVI-TV, Philadelphia; KGO-TV, San Francisco; KTRK-TV, Houston; WTVD-TV, Raleigh-Durham and KFSN-TV, Fresno
Still ad-supported
Ruffolo said ABC News Digital is sticking with the ad-supported model. The latest version included GE and Lincoln; USAA is the the launch sponsor for the new app with banners and video pre-roll. “Through the sponsorship model we can reach mass audiences,” Ruffolo said, adding that it makes sense from an advertising perspective and a business perspective when you’re trying to reach across many platforms at many different times of day.
What about Android?
ABC News has an app for Android phones but not for tablets. Doug Vance, VP of product strategy, told me they’ll continue update across Android and they’re looking at a Windows version. As for Android tablets, Vance said, “It’s something we’re definitely looking at so stay tuned.” They’re also looking at a Windows version.
I’ll update after I spend some more time with the app.