Reading has always been important to me.
Not only is it one of my favourite ways to bond with my best friend, but it’s also how we’ve learnt to stretch the limits of our minds. We’ve been reading since we were eleven—using words to cure our curiosity and language as a map for self-discovery and learning.
One of my fondest memories is of 11-year-old Fadekemi, time travelling through eras in history far removed from 2003, moving from world to world through the pages of a book. Countless memories follow it: lending and borrowing novels from friends and their parents, reading and writing anything we could think of, and then passing it on. Always passing it on.
Throughout my life, I have had both personal and communal experiences of reading—in schools, libraries, bedrooms, queues, books and sheets, tablets and phones. To keep the reading spark alive, I lean towards the most seamless reading experiences possible, which means everything I want to consume at my fingertips—literally.
In a way, that makes me the perfect customer for the first version of the Stears reading app.
After I defied the Japa train, booked a one-way ticket from London to Lagos, and joined Stears as the Editor-in-Chief, I wasn't too surprised to learn that the team was inundated with requests for an app.
I understood why.
Our users wanted fewer clogged email inboxes. They wanted search & content discovery. They wanted a personalised user experience.
Now, we are here to give it to them.
The Aha moment
When we launched Stears Premium in July 2020, we wanted to do things differently from our counterparts, be subscriber obsessed and set the gold standard. As we said at the launch, ‘our job is not just to publish. Rather, it is to set the standard against which all other platforms—general or niche, print or digital—publish.’
Two years in, our newsroom has built an unrivalled capacity to distil insight into the Nigerian economy in remarkable new ways. Yet, it's still just Day 1 for our subscribers.
As Yvette, our Head of Subscriptions Growth, loves to say: we only have one customer in the Stears newsroom. The subscriber. You.
This focus means we are hyper-aware of the frictions you have been experiencing. From the emails you’ve sent us, the tweets you’ve posted and the DMs you’ve sent us, we know that we need to do more.
Here’s some of what we heard:
I enjoy reading emails but want fewer steps to get to the article. I don't want to have to click on a link, open the browser, and sign in - Adewoye
Every time I click on the Stears home page, I see a bunch of articles that have passed me by. If there was an app I wouldn’t have missed those so easily. - Abdullahi
I want to be able to save articles for later. As a workaround, I’ve been saving articles on my To-Do list! - Bolanle
I only want to read articles on topics I’m interested in. For example, I don’t know much about economics, but I need to learn because of my job. - Timi
As I said, we heard and got building.
Beginning today, the Stears app is the most frictionless way to read Stears' insights.
So we understood the need. Next, we had to come up with how.
We pored over the apps you know and love to learn everything we could to build for you. For instance, how do publishers compete for screen time? How do they make products that people love?
That’s why the Stears app is built around two core user experiences: discovery & personalisation.
#1 Discover the content that’s right for you
Along the way, we’ve learnt the importance of helping our users find the right content. Some of you are energy & aviation geeks. Others are obsessed with banks and crypto. And yet many others just want to read everything we publish.
So, we designed the app to make it easier to find the things that get you excited and keep you engaged. You can now say goodbye to infinitely scrolling through our website or using Google to find that one article for that research project you remembered reading from the lockdown.
But, it’s not just about search. We’ve become more intentional about organising our content, what topics we use, and how we classify our content. We’ve used a simple system of interlinked tags and topics to help you find the content you might be interested in—in the way that best mirrors your search behaviour.
Finally, for those who don’t yet know what you love (don’t worry, just give it some time), we’ve organised the app so that it’s easy to find pre-categorised content. We grouped your favourite content on topics like ‘the CBN’, ‘Technology’ and ‘Lagos’, but also introduced newer categories like ‘Educate me’ and ‘Give me perspective’ to help you discover more.
Of course, we aren’t stopping here.
We know you value our long-form pieces, and you cannot find them elsewhere. So, we will continue to serve you with these stories. But, soon, you will be able to access so much more; shorter stories, data stories, op-eds and newsletters. So. Much. More.
#2 Make it work, just for me
In this first app iteration, we didn’t just think about discovery. You told us, in more ways than one, that you want control over when, where and how you read our content.
So, to optimise for you, we decided we had to get…personal.
Unsurprisingly, you have diverse interests, so achieving your ‘aha’ moment has to have you at the centre. We've created the "For Me" section that allows you to select topics that matter to you. This means filtering your content so you only see what’s relevant. Using the app, you can also handle all your Stears-wide notifications (in-app & email). Right now, personalisation depends on what you select.
While we have focused on solving these problems first, the work certainly doesn't stop here. We will keep building, specifically for you. Next, we will release features to enable greater customisation of the app experience, like allowing you to set additional preferences on when you want to receive notifications.
But there’s still more coming.
We have heard from many of you that you want to share our articles, but the paywall makes this challenging. Soon, each Premium subscriber will be able to gift a select number of articles each month, allowing you to share our insights with your friends and family who aren’t subscribers.
Finally, as the 2023 elections get closer, we will launch personalised features that make it easy for you to follow the races & candidates you care about most. Our goal is to encourage greater transparency and participation in the elections. While the app is launching for Premium subscribers today, we will make the app available to the general public (non-Premium subscribers) once election season kicks off.
At this point, there is no need to keep going—the Stears app by the Stears team is ready for you.
It’s where it all comes together. But don't just take our word for it. See for yourself (link to app).
Release the app, or whatever Beyonce said.