DPS 2015 + Top Gear: From digital edition to sizzling mobile app

“In just over two months, we are already seeing 44% of our readers visit the app daily and 68% are accessing it from a smartphone.”
Simon Carrington, Publishing Director, Top Gear

BBC Top Gear is the world’s biggest motoring magazine with 31 international editions and a multi-award winning, critically acclaimed digital edition. After more than than two years of delivering an issue-based digital magazine modeled after the print experience, the Top Gear team knew it was time to innovate and create an even more compelling experience for the iPad and iPhone. They set out to leverage the vast amounts of Top Gear’s existing content and create an always-on connection with readers using the new Digital Publishing Solution.

Here, Simon Carrington, Publishing Director for Top Gear magazine, and Craig Llewelyn-Williams, founder of The App Lab and Top Gear’s creative agency, talk about how the new app fits in with Top Gear’s digital publishing strategy.

Adobe: Tell us about Top Gear Extra and why you created it.

Carrington: We’ve published a digital edition of Top Gear magazine using the previous version of the platform, Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, for two-and-a-half years. We believe in the old adage that you don’t stay ahead by staying still. So when we had the opportunity to work with the new Adobe Digital Publishing Solution, we jumped at the chance to explore a new app experience.

Our Top Gear digital edition is published once a month, but as a business we produce content every day. So, we took advantage of the flexible publishing and design capabilities in DPS 2015 to create a highly curated experience with Top Gear Extra. Readers can access the monthly magazine, plus get regular news feeds, and special content published in the last year.

Adobe: How does your new app fit into your larger digital strategy?

Carrington: The overarching strategy for Top Gear publishing is to create content once and publish everywhere. A journalist goes and drives a Ferrari and the resulting piece of content will appear in print, on our website, in our new DPS app, as a blog post, or in the news app. A digital interpretation of our existing print product, our first magazine app didn’t have the ability to publish every day. The new DPS gives us the opportunity to engage with readers more often, drive that content to each channel, and hopefully increase purchases.

“As we move forward, we’ll be exploring ways to add multiple sources of content into the publishing environment, from InDesign and HTML5 through WoodWing Inception to plug-ins from Top Gear’s current Drupal web platform.”
Craig Llewelyn-Williams, Founder, The App Lab

Adobe: How will you approach monetization differently?

Llewelyn-Williams: The Top Gear digital product has its own P&L and readership that needs to be maintained and grown. Digital publishing is a commercial proposition as much as it is a brand experience. The goal is to continue to monetize the traditional digital edition subscriber base while migrating to the continuous publishing model. Introducing metering with variable pricing based on a variety of items including content-consumption and access points in the Top Gear Extra app will allow consumers to access news feed content for free while paying for premium magazine and special edition content. It’s a win-win.

Adobe: How has the new DPS enabled you to rethink your app design and user experience?

Carrington: The content in our new DPS app is presented in a more intuitive way. First, it enables a content-first experience, so readers can jump directly into the content immediately after installing the app—no issues to download. We’re also taking advantage of the card layout framework and ability to organize articles into collections, which is more user friendly. Overall, it’s a cleaner, more beautiful way of presenting articles and interactivity and allows us to surface more content, more easily for our readers.

Llewelyn-Williams: For design, we focused on utilizing the browse pages at the collection level and structuring the app in a way that makes sense to existing subscribers. We want them to clearly see and understand our approach as soon as they open the app, including how to access the digital issue, and where to go for the latest content.

Adobe: What are you measuring in terms of analytics?

Carrington: We are looking at audience growth, time spent, repeat visits, advertising views, devices used to access content, and issues and monthly subscriptions purchased. Ultimately, we want to know if regular visits are driving more purchases. We are really excited because in just over two months, we are already seeing 44% of our readers visit the app daily and 68% are accessing it from a smartphone.


Adobe: How are you approaching advertising in the new app?

Carrington: In addition to linear digital editions, where advertisements are included in page layouts, we’ll be including ads as cards in Top Gear Extra. Built-in analytics will enable us to monitor results and make recommendations for what works best and what can be improved on for both revenue and the consumer experience.

Llewelyn-Williams: The conversation around premium advertising spaces changes as we move from traditional print layouts and linear digital editions to a more dynamic user interface with cards and browse pages. It will be interesting to explore new creative approaches to integrating advertising into this new model.

Adobe: What do you hope to do in the future with the new app?

Carrington: We produce extraordinary amounts of wonderful video, so we’ll be looking for ways to continue featuring that content. We’d also like to implement a feedback mechanism so we can get direct customer feedback on key parts of the app. We’re definitely interested in continuing to evolve with new features as they become available.

Llewelyn-Williams: One of the underlying benefits of the new DPS is the evolution to HTML5. We’ve implemented a workflow through WoodWing Inception that enables us to add HTML5 content to Top Gear Extra. As we move forward, we’ll be exploring ways to add multiple sources of content into the publishing environment, from InDesign and HTML5 through WoodWing Inception to plug-ins from Top Gear’s current Drupal web platform.


On October 15, 2015, Top Gear’s publishing director Simon Carrington shared app performance results at the annual FIPP Congress event. Watch an on-demand recording of the session here and view presentation slides below:

Download the Top Gear Extra app for iOS devices.

Visit our gallery and take a look at what other brands have created with the new Digital Publishing Solution.

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