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News UK Creating modern media platforms through large-scale design

Digital transformation poses huge challenges for media companies.

First is the need to generate revenue from digital content, then comes the difficult task of making it available on the platforms consumers want.

From Facebook to Twitter and Android to iOS, development can quickly get fragmented as publishers try to embrace all possibilities. The Martini model of publishing (“anytime, any place, anywhere”) seemed ground breaking in the late 90s but, as the opportunities to enjoy content have grown, it's become more and more challenging to make the Martini model work.

Consolidate to accumulate

After 15 years of online publishing, News UK was being pulled in too many directions at once. “They had a very large internal team, including a lot of contractors, building new products and maintaining existing ones,” says Dan Morris, one of our managing partners. “They weren't necessarily achieving what they wanted to.”

The company re-focused its efforts and established a roster of five agencies to support its in-house UX and development push. This decision came at an interesting time. In March 2010, News Corporation announced it would charge The Times and The Sunday Times readers to access online content.

Having already successfully delivered numerous News UK projects including The Sun's online community platform, it was only natural we joined the roster.

Our acquisition store design boosted subscriptions by 50%. We've been incrementally improving it ever since.”

Dan Morris, Managing Partner

Commercialising content

“The overall challenge,” says Dan, “was to figure out what the digital offering across the Sun and the The Times needs to be. They have a wealth of historic content, whether it's news stories or holidays or food. The question becomes: how do you monetise all of those offerings?”

With the arrival of paywalls, the Times and Sunday Times effectively became e-commerce sites. We were tasked with revamping the customer acquisition pages for both and set about streamlining the user data collection, accounts setup and payment processes.

However, paywalls added other subtle complications. As part of the old free-to-air site, the Sunday Times' travel content generated serious traffic and advertising revenues. But behind a paywall, its audience dwindled. To tackle this, we worked on plans for a free-to-air Sunday Times travel site to attract a young and affluent audience interested in more than just cruises and cottages.

Critical development that blends into the background

Since 2010, we've managed a team of developers working onsite at News UK's HQ. “The engagement is broader than just tech, but we do a lot of tech,” says Dan. “It's classic agile development, something News UK do well. The business decides what it needs, we do a two-week chunk of work. Then they re-prioritise the jobs the business has asked for, and we work for another two weeks. The technical team we have there are very much treated as if they are staff. You wouldn't be able to pick them out from the News UK people.”

Our approach is always tech-agnostic. “It's all about whatever works,” says Dan. “We started off building sites on a PHP stack. Then we were very successful in the .Net space. That was followed by apps for Windows 8. The Times/Nexus project was a very nice smooth Javascript experience. Now we're doing a lot of work with Grails.”

Our team undertakes a wide range of work, including product development, technical development and maintenance. Product development successes include a Windows 8 app for the The Times launched in July 2012. We've also worked on technical aspects for numerous marketing projects. These include the The Times/The Sunday Times' Nexus 7 subscription bundle and Forever Unquiet, a microsite that contains 10 short films chronicling the “cultural impact” of the The Times and The Sunday Times “on Britain and the world”.

“News UK have a huge internal capability,” says Dan Morris, managing partner. “We run in rhythm with their internal technical teams. We understand their brand and their tech stack: we work in harmony with it and leverage it. We're an extension of what they do. That's really the thing that defines the relationship.”

Contact us For more information

Dan Morris

Dan Morris

Managing Partner


0207 395 4800

Edward Hasting-Evans

Edward Hasting-Evans

Head of UI Development


0207 395 4800

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