Time Out New York is making a big leap into the digital world today, says Aksel van der Wal, who’s president of Time Out North America and chief operating officer of the Time Out Group. Specifically, it’s launching its first iPad app, an updated iPhone app, and a new e-commerce model for all of its properties.
As a product, the new iPad app sounds the most interesting. (I wasn’t able to try it, and also I don’t live in New York, so I’m going off the company’s description.) Time Out specializes in reviews and listings for arts, food, entertainment, and more, and now the iPad app personalizes the experience. Apparently, every time you select content in a specific category, that increases the likelihood that the app will present you with similar content in the future. In six weeks or so, Time Out plans to improve these personalization features, so that content that’s been viewed or liked by similar users is also recommended.
The personalization is based on technology from LikeCube, a semantic analysis company that Time Out acquired last year.
More broadly, van der Wal characterizes this as major milestone in Time Out’s shift from the print business into “more of a digital direction.” And that includes settling on a digital business model — the website now allows transactions, so if you read about a great Broadway show or a hot new restaurant, you can buy tickets or reserve a table. Time Out will also be offering discounts and deals. (Advertising will play a role too. In fact, MasterCard will be the first global sponsor of the iPad app.)
Apparently the new direction can be laid at the feet of Oakley Capital, which acquired a 50 percent stake in Time Out London in November 2010, followed by a majority stake in New York (which operated independently) in May of last year. Time Out says unique visitors to the website have increased 92 percent since the deal, from 967,000 in May to 1.85 million in February.
Time Out London will get a similar revamp eventually, van der Wal says.