How Sky News took viewers inside the headlines with the App of the Year

Sky News won the App of the Year category at The Drum’s Online Media Awards 2020. Here, the team behind the entry reveal the strategies used to deliver this successful project.

The challenge

The Sky News app has a very simple aim - to inform, enlighten and engage, while bringing clarity to our increasingly uncertain world. In even the simplest news article we aim to include at least one video and a podcast to add context, depth and texture to the story.

The strategy

Our award-winning journalism is what primarily draws users to our App, but presentation and ease of use is of paramount importance.

Larger tiles allow us the flexibility to bring particular stories to prominence, while the video carousel means we have a fixed and highly visible home for one of Sky News’ greatest assets. Scroll across the top of the homepage and users can delve into topic areas they care about most from entertainment to business. There is a home for opinion, podcasts and a live stream of the TV channel. When a big story breaks, we see views to that stream soar.

Getting people into the App is aided by swift push notifications. We pride ourselves in being the industry leader for breaking news and have honed our production processes to ensure our users first hear about something when it appears on their phone, another reason why we believe we are the best App for news.

We used other tools in our App to great effect in 2019. When Notre Dame in Paris was devastated by fire, we were able to quickly pull together a piece in which people could compare views of the cathedral taken from the same angles before and after the fire using a slider tool. It proved the best way to fully appreciate the destruction wrought by the flames and the majesty of the building as it was.

Accessing and presenting data quickly allowed us to provide searchable stories on how MPs voted in key Brexit ballots, how people voted in local elections over a 40 year period, and how the battle against knife crime was being won or lost by particular police forces.

Interactive elements like sliding between pictures or charts that contain searchable information are now part of the make-up of many articles, but when the occasion arises, we also build pieces where interactivity comes first.

The Sky News App also builds on our TV heritage, putting a premium on video content. We have someone cutting significant moments 24 hours a day, meaning we can aim to have footage in every piece we put up. Our most viewed video of the year was the moment the public pinned down the London Bridge attacker. We cut and recut it as more and more user generated content came in and our honed editorial judgement came to the fore as we worked out what could and couldn’t be shown.

We know how our App users prefer to watch video, so any significant news conference or statement is brought in, cut, and then rapidly subtitled so the words can be read and heard. It’s exactly what we did with our most viewed optimised video last year - the resignation of Theresa May.

Similarly we make video explainers using our senior correspondents, graphics and extensive archive to break down the most pressing questions of the day. While in Tehran our diplomatic editor answered the question ‘How dangerous is Iran’ to take the audience through its militant history, capabilities and relations with the West.

The stories

None of what we do would be possible without the faith that our journalism is accurate and unbiased. We’ve signed up the Trust Project, a scheme designed to give people confidence in their online news. Throughout 2019 we added many of the trust indicators including clearly labelling pieces as opinion, analysis or explainer; and being open about who wrote an article and how to easily get in touch.

We put the onus on our team of specialist correspondents and reporters to break stories than drive the news agenda. But being first on Emiliano Sala, the Sri Lanka attacks, Brexit and the election, the death of Harry Dunn and the London Bridge attack, is nothing without the right platform – and the Sky News App is such a platform.

The results

Sky News audiences grew again last year as our strongest journalism found broad audiences.

This project was a winner at The Drum Online Media Awards 2020. To find out more about The Drum Awards, including those currently open for entries, click here.

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