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Refinery29 Debuts Its First App, A Morning News Round-Up Called “Refinery29 This AM”

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Refinery29, a media company catering to a younger, female demographic, has today launched its first-ever mobile application, called Refinery29 This AM. The idea with the new application is to deliver a round-up of curated news stories to readers, meant to be viewed first thing in the morning. Says the company, these stories will be presented on eight different cards in the app, and will focus on topics including world events, celebrity news, politics and fashion.

The pared-down selection in the app, versus the breadth of content available on Refinery29’s website, gives Refinery29 This AM more focus, and better positions it to become a part of users’ daily routines, the company believes.

That is, the app’s content is able to be digested fairly quickly. Users can choose to go in-depth if they want to by clicking a link to view the longer article, but they can also just use Refinery29 This AM to flip through cards that feature a headline and summary of that same linked content.

That makes the app seem more competitive with something like NowThis News, for example, which similarly tries to deliver top headlines and summaries to readers across platforms and social media.

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And while the Refinery29 This AM app may sound, at first blush, like something that would also compete with the company’s presence in Snapchat Discover, the type of content provided by the app is notably different from what’s directed at the Snapchat audience.

For instance, today’s Snapchat content includes stories about new nail polish trends, makeup tips, Netflix recommendations, and more, set to jazzy, upbeat music. Meanwhile, the AM app presents a selection that includes “real” news – like Boko Haram’s burning of homes in Nigeria and the spread of the Zika virus in Colombia, alongside pop culture stories like one involving last night’s “Grease” Live” and Netflix’s “Gilmore Girls” reunion.

The company tells us that the app will refresh with new stories every day at 6:00 AM ET, Monday through Friday, but the weekend edition will remain the same on both Saturday and Sunday.

Content that refreshes on a schedule has been tried before, with mixed results. Today, Yahoo’s News Digest app updates in the morning and evening with new stories, but the app is floundering in the 70’s and 80’s in iOS’s News category. It does a little better on Android – ranked in the 50’s through 70’s, generally, in the News & Magazines category.

Meanwhile, an earlier experiment – News Corp’s iPad-only newspaper The Daily did something similar, but ended up shutting down.

Other news summary services have been doing better. For example, the daily newsletter theSkimm reported reaching 1.5 million subscribers as of August.

The challenge for Refinery29 is that it has to get users to actually make launching the app a part of their daily routine. This is prompted by way of push notifications, which can tend to get annoying. While they can be disabled, doing so could have users forgetting about the app entirely.

In Refinery29’s favor, however, is that the app is built out of  the company’s popular web franchise, “8 Things To Know This AM,” which already has a readership familiar with its headline round-ups. The company says that transforming the series into a standalone app was a natural way to meet its mobile audience’s needs.

“Mobile content consumption has been a strong area of growth for Refinery29 and we are always testing new ways to reach and engage our audience. The app is an opportunity to take one of our most successful content series, 8 Things to Know This AM, and package it into a format that our audience is demanding as they are spending less and less time on desktop.

Plans to invest more in distribution via mobile were also a part of the company’s goals following its 2015 Series D raise of $50 million from Scripps Networks and WPP.

Today, Refinery29 claims over 100 million monthly viewers across platforms, 25 percent of which are from desktop. However, the company also tells us that its mobile footprint is already quite strong: 63 percent of users come to the site via mobile, and 2 in 3 only accessed the site on mobile instead of desktop in December.

“Mobile content consumption has been a strong area of growth for Refinery29 and we are always testing new ways to reach and engage our audience. The ‘app is an opportunity to take one of our most successful content series, “8 Things to Know This AM,” and package it into a format that our audience is demanding as they are spending less and less time on desktop,” a spokesperson explained of the new release

The app was created in-house using React Native, and content is sponsored by an advertiser. BelVita is the launch sponsor, but Refinery29 declined to detail how sponsorships would work or be priced.

Refinery29 This AM is a free download on iTunes.