20 Minuten – the Success Story of the First Swiss News App
ratings in the App Store
More than 1 million
minutes spent per visit
2008: Flying Start for the 20 Minuten App
When it was launched, the iOS app was based on an existing web CMS with very limited RSS feed functionality. By building custom-made software, iAgentur (today part of Unic) enhanced these functions and enriched the content with multimedia features such as video, live streaming, radio or weather forecasts. Over time, many new features for smartphones were added to the app, tablets became supported, and a version for the French-speaking part of Switzerland as well as Android apps were launched. A deep integration of advertising features provided a welcome source of income at a time when large numbers of users made the move from print to online. After just a few years, the usage numbers of the apps exceeded those of the desktop version.
2015: Relaunch and Rebranding
Social media features, entertainment, gamification and personalisation are at the heart of the new app. The management of the app technology and its periphery is taken over by iAgentur – which has been part of Unic since 2022. When you swipe, the app shows different faces of a cube. This creates four distinct sections for classic news, a social view, game view and personal view. The latter view quickly becomes a favourite for many users.
2020: Relaunch as a Completely New Development
The existing CMS was less and less suited to keeping up with the rapid developments in the smartphone universe. A new headless CMS, an in-house development by TX Group, was to replace it. The iAgentur team (now Unic) worked on developing the app for the relaunch and kept up with the development of critical features on the legacy platform, which had to stay operational until the launch of the new app.
While behind the scenes, developers were working on the support for the ‘old’ app version and the concept for the go-live of the new one in parallel, users did not have the slightest inkling of just how fabulous the ‘new’ 20 Minuten app was going to be: improved handling, a fresh look, a new comments system and attractive features for reader reporters. Of course, it was compatible with iOS and Android smartphones or tablets and with older operating systems.
Where Are We Now?
Replacing the editorial CMS made room for completely new mobile applications and digital interactions. We were able to test and implement different options to address specific user groups and to identify and implement improvements through A/B testing.
How Did We Master the Challenges for 20 Minuten?
Let us take a closer look at some of the aspects that were and are essential to the success of the ‘20 Minuten’ app.
Short Response Times
News needs to be made available and delivered to users in real time, which is why it was crucial for the app to react quickly to new content. We have implemented mechanisms for quick refreshing and push notifications to ensure that users are always up to date, even when the connection is bad or they are offline for a short time.
Quality and Performance
Fast is not enough. As one of the largest media outlets in the country, 20 Minuten has high expectations of mobile apps. They need to be stable and reliable, high performing and ensure a seamless user experience. Frequent new features are a must to be able to defend or improve the position in the market.
A tried and tested combination of state-of-the-art software development methods, quality assurance and deeply integrated CI/CD enables us to meet these expectations in short release cycles, and sometimes even exceed them.
Seamless Integration of Advertising Content
Users are easily annoyed if their app experience is diminished by advertising content that is slow to load or badly placed. Our expert integration of advertising software by various providers ensures that ads are displayed seamlessly and efficiently. The copious experience of our experts in mobile advertising makes them masters of everyday tasks in implementation, data management, CMP, TCT, dependency management, prototyping, demos and support. We use or have used Google Mobile Ads SDK for Google Ad Manager, Xandr, Teads and Bluebillywig, among others.
State-of-the-art Video Backend
All videos on the 20 Minuten platforms are distributed by our specialised video streaming system. From the outset, the goal was for 20 Minuten to have a white-label backend solution for moving image content that is tailored to their individual workflows. It is a full-service solution: Streaming, encoding, delivery, hosting, CMS, API, maintenance and support.
This offers a number of advantages for the editorial and video teams:
The custom solution is integrated into the workflow of the editorial team, allowing for individual adaptations. This results in an advantage in terms of speed.
Live recordings can be made available during the live event. During long press conferences, the editorial team can continuously generate, cut and publish moving image content.
Social streaming allows for the placement of streams on relevant social media platforms and, in addition, there are customised interfaces for content providers and their individual interface needs.
To keep up with the increasing traffic demands, a scalable video infrastructure was indispensable. We created a dedicated hybrid solution that is sustainable and cost-effective: cost-efficient traffic handling through in-house systems during normal operation, scaling and high availability during peak times by integrating a CDN provider.
For users, this results in video content without any hiccups, even when they are on the move, the connection is bad or when they are offline.
Specific Information in Real Time – Thanks to AI
Since July 2023, ChatGPT users have been able to install plugins. These add-ons enrich the chat conversation with specific real-time data. 20 Minuten seized the opportunity to make their latest news available to ChatGPT users within seconds.
At Unic, we designed the plugin and helped 20 Minuten become the first publisher in Switzerland with a plugin in the ChatGPT store. This makes the company stand out as a pioneer in the rapidly developing field of artificial intelligence. And we will keep at it!
What Does That Mean for 20 Minuten and the TX Group?
Being present on people’s mobile devices was an obvious choice for the commuters’ news outlet 20 Minuten, and they made the move to mobile fairly early. They have continued to increase their reach: The app has been the number 1 in the brand view, brand view daily and networking view rankings since 2001. (Source: Mediapulse.)
Users are very happy with the usability – many of them open the mobile app several times per day to stay up to date.
Personalised content and notifications tailored to the interests and preferences of users increase the relevance of the news provided and foster loyalty. And there is more: Push notifications on their mobile devices inform users about relevant news and events in real time.
Multimedia content such as videos, images and interactive graphics is integrated seamlessly, which makes the news more attractive – and keeps the duration of visits delightfully high despite increasing competition. As of September 2023, it is at 4.1 minutes per visit.
All this has a positive effect on monetarisation: The mobile app opens up new sources of income, helps expand them and optimises them for mobile applications, for instance, through specific advertising formats. At the same time, the app enhances brand presence and helps build trust with users. Last but not least, 20 Minuten has succeeded in distinguishing itself from other news outlets as an early adopter and innovative app developer, giving it a competitive advantage.
The long-term collaboration was a great success from day one. Thanks to technical expertise and innovative solutions, more than 1 million daily users appreciate our apps.Marco Di Bernardo
Chief Technology & Produkt Officer (CTPO)
How Do Users Benefit From This?
Users enjoy live news from sections such as sports, Switzerland and economy as well as a video collection, live TV, radio and podcasts free of charge, all in a single app. Personalised features such as ‘My View’ and various newsletters keep them up to date on the particular trends and latest news that they are actually interested in.
Live news, that is, the most relevant news of the past 24 hours, appears on the home screen, compact enough to be viewed at a glance. Users can choose between two views: the standard live view and ‘My View’. The latter will sort the articles based on personal preferences.
In the video section, users can browse all the videos published by the editorial team. Live broadcasts and exclusive events are also available free of charge in the app. If there is limited connection speed, videos are automatically streamed in lower resolution to avoid any issues with loading.
GOAT-Radio provides access to the greatest hits of all time and broadcasts news and information on weather and traffic every hour on the hour. Podcast lovers will also find popular podcasts here.
And the best thing: All this content is as personal and individual as the thousands of users using the 20 Minuten app each day: They can edit their profiles, choose an avatar and a nickname and access their article history or usage statistics at any time. In the cockpit, they can edit their view, language or notifications. They also have access to the e-paper here. Additional features include popular games and gadgets as well as vouchers for well-known brands.
And How Does Unic Feel About the Work on the 20 Minuten App?
Marco Ghinolfi, project manager for the team at Unic, is delighted with the success of the app: “We are very happy about all the things we have already achieved together. And we are always excited to implement the latest technological developments in the 20 Minuten app.”
That is very good news because the customer is also eager to continue the collaboration:
The personal connection and the professional commitment of the team are cornerstones of our partnership. We look forward to many more years of this successful collaboration.Marco Di Bernardo
Chief Technology & Product Officer (CTPO)
Our Services for 20 Minuten
The Unic team is involved in a range of tasks including mobile app consulting, design and development as well as in mobile advertising, SDK engineering, and manual and automated testing, to name but a few. We are in charge of hosting, streaming and delivery and are working on several AI projects.
Contact for your Digital SolutionBook an appointment
Are you keen to talk about your next project? We will be happy exchange ideas with you: Melanie Klühe, Stefanie Berger, Stephan Handschin and Philippe Surber (clockwise).
Contact for your Digital Solution with UnicBook an appointment
Are you keen too discuss your digital tasks with us? We would be happy to exchange ideas with you: Jörg Nölke and Gerrit Taaks (from left to right).