After months of closed testing, beta releases and bug fixing, we are excited to announce and talk about our app.
Digital native media outlets have mostly been sceptical of deploying resources for an app. And rightly so. Why invest in an app when a majority of your traffic comes from internet search, YouTube or other social platforms? Even when they do, it’s mostly a basic app that renders the mobile version of the website, without any custom features.
But not us.
The diversity in our content formats (podcasts, comics) as well as a focus on building deep engagement with our community of readers meant we didn’t look at our app as a placeholder. Instead, we wanted to use it as an opportunity to offer a product that makes listening to paywall podcasts, following writers, subscribing and reading stories as frictionless as possible.
So what did we do when we thought of building an app? We went to our subscribers to find out if they really needed one, and if they would fund our app development. And they did. We raised Rs 15 lakh from 500 plus subscribers in less than two months.
It took us more than a year to build the app, and months to fine-tune, debug, test and reiterate. Along the way, our subscribers didn’t just fund the app development, but they also tested features and helped us improve the user experience. While apps are common, what’s unique is how a community of news consumers funded and helped build an app. And we couldn’t be prouder of our subscribers.
Our app packs a bunch of features that you will rarely spot in Indian news apps: a range of in-app payment options, custom notifications, podcast player and add-ons such as bookmarks and the dark mode.
Our app podcast player gives you a full suit of functions: speed control, sleep timer, forwarded-rewind, show notes, queue management, and offline streaming.
Working on tech-products in independent newsrooms of our size has its own set of challenges. With limited resources and manpower, shipping features and products rely more on the bandwidth of the team. Between keeping the systems running and front-end changes, and designing new products from scratch.
It doesn’t help that attracting and retaining tech talent in newsrooms is extremely hard.
Newsrooms will never be the preferred industry for engineers. But we do what we do, because there are always people who want to contribute to building an independent media. So I want to use this opportunity to thank everyone who has built and contributed to making the Newslaundry product: Yatharth Khatri, Rishabh Dixit, Venkateshwaran Selvaraj, Nishan Bende, Nirjhar Debnath, Abhimanyu Aggarwal, and many more. Not to forget, Anish Daolagupu who has illustrated all the Birubal-Birubala (our mascots) artworks in the app.
Our app puts user choice at the centre. From letting you delete your profile and cancel your subscription to deciding what you want to be notified about. (Who doesn’t hate endless news notifications that you never signed up for?)
This of course, doesn’t mean the app is free of all bugs and close to where we want it to be as a product. As you read this, we are constantly working on bugs and a bunch of new features. Like our journalism, we are able to design products despite all the odds because of our subscribers, and we hope they continue to support us.