HELLO! Magazine's seamless Apple News channel rebuild

May 30, 2023

HELLO! Magazine is an award-winning weekly publication covering celebrity news and human interest stories with a particular focus on British royalty. Its online publication launched in 2001 and attracts millions of readers every month.

At FlatPlan, we've been proud partners with HELLO! after helping them join the Apple News network in 2019. Since launch, our no-code software has delivered hundreds of articles a week from the HELLO! website to Apple News, with articles presented on fully-branded Apple News Format pages. The team at HELLO! simply hit Publish in their CMS, and the articles are pushed to Apple News automatically.

But now, HELLO! were planning to update the look and feel of the site and move it from one CMS to an entirely new system. Andy Macharg, CTO at HELLO!, was tasked with re-platforming

This is a huge undertaking for a publication the size of HELLO!. Attempting to relaunch an Apple News channel simultaneously adds significantly to the workload – here's how the team at FlatPlan removed this burden from Andy and his team.

Why redesigning an existing Apple News channel differs from initial onboarding

Delivery to Apple News requires rebuilding every element of every article to fit the Apple News Format. Article templates need to be designed and every part of an article, from images to embeds to pull quotes need to be converted and carefully QA tested as Apple rejects articles that don't meet their strict requirements.

A typical Apple News integration begins with an existing live website filled with content for our team to work from. We use this as a cue for design, then ingest new and archive content, and rebuild each article element so it will appear exactly as required in Apple News.

HELLO! Magazine
FlatPlan automatically converts digital publications into Apple News Format.

This process is handled independently by FlatPlan. We only need input for brief building and approvals. Here's what HELLO!'s Head of Digital, Sophie Vokes-Dudgeon, said about the process when we initially onboarded them in 2019: "FlatPlan has opened up our content to a wide new audience – crucially, without infringing on our day-to-day operations or draining our resources."

With a website rebuild, this process differs. Typically a publisher continues posting to their live site whilst building a new version of the website on a hidden ‘Staging' server. The website on this server would evolve as engineers perfect front-end designs, add functionality, QA test pages and make changes to configurations.

Each new design change, webpage update and bug fix can require replication in Apple’s format. Trying to tackle this internally can be a logistical headache for a publisher’s dev team, and it's a delicate balancing act for the FlatPlan team too – here's how we handle the process.

Rebuilding HELLO!'s Apple News channel without impacting daily operations

For FlatPlan, the steps to a rebuild are identical to a typical onboard but with an even stronger focus on carefully timing each step. Our team works on designs as soon guidelines are available, and monitors any changes behind the scenes as they progress, making tweaks to article elements as they appear to ensure we stay in sync with the final website build.

To offset the challenges of working with a Staging environment, we conduct much of our work close to the live date. At this stage, most of the website build has been QA tested, avoiding rebuilds of key functionality like galleries and call-to-actions. Despite the looming deadlines at this late stage, our expertise means we can work quickly to get HELLO!'s new Apple News channels set up for launch.

HELLO! Magazine

The lack of ‘live’ content means our team has to be creative with thoroughly testing archives of content. Our QA teams actively seek out content that’s available on the Staging site and tests it, repeating the process as soon as developers import an archive of stories ahead of launch. Content QA continues post-launch too, often responding to post-launch changes to the website within minutes of them being rolled out.

By working this way we don't disrupt developers with too many questions and queries. Much like when we implement an existing site, we work in the background getting things ready for launch so as not to divert HELLO!'s resources.

Launch for HELLO! was a huge success. Both the website and HELLO! Apple News channel was able to launch early in the morning on Tuesday 28th March. By preparing HELLO!'s Apple News channel to be released on the same day, we ensured no loss in traffic, with consistent branding as readers passed from our new-look CTAs to a new-look website.

The result? The new technology enhanced the user experience and provided better commercial opportunities, including new advertising placements, affiliate initiatives and many more. These improvements led to a 40% increase in click-throughs, 50% better page speed and a 10% boost in viewability. 

As evidenced by the stats, HELLO! experienced commercial success while we took care of their Apple News distribution. By managing the distribution process, publishers can focus on their primary content channels and mitigate the need to allocate resources elsewhere.

Andy Macharg, CTO at HELLO!, said of the implementation:

"Rebuilding a site like HELLO! is a huge task that needs to be carefully managed to achieve success. FlatPlan handled our Apple News rebuild without adding additional design, development, QA or training burdens to our team. This allowed our teams to focus on our website launch, safe in the knowledge that Apple News would relaunch that day."

Next steps...

No matter what stage you're at in your discovery of Apple News, we'll help you get the information you need to make the right decision for your media business.

  1. Are you an existing Apple News publisher?
    Our expert team can audit your existing Apple News channel to ensure your integration is stable, determine how optimised your channel is, and provide recommendations that will help you make the most of your setup. Book a free audit now.
  2. Looking to integrate Apple News with your media business?
    Leading publishers use FlatPlan to grow their media business by leveraging the power of Apple News. With help from reader engagement tools, we help publishers reach new readers, nurture them into loyal followers and then funnel them to first-party data strategies on owned properties. Book a free consultation now.
  3. Still learning about Apple News?
    We're always providing insider knowledge and expert advice to our network of publishers. If you want to access that same material, head over to our Article pages, download our free Guide to Apple News eBook or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.
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