Optimizing Digital Services: Donald Duck Case

Sanoma
Optimizing Digital Donald Duck Wunderdog

Donald Duck’s Finnish digital service, launched in 2012, consists of approximately 250,000 pages of comics, including every Finnish Donald Duck comic magazine ever published. Quite impressive!

However, in general terms the business was struggling. The service suffered from some technical debt, and the user experience needed enhancing. Actions were needed to also improve the profitability of the business. 

It was time to decide. Should digital Donald stay, or should it go? How to turn around the business?

To find out the optimal solution Sanoma, the publisher, chose Wunderdog and its Finnish ecosystem partners Coventures, OrangIT and Polar Squad, to carry out a transformation including both business and tech.

Digital Service Optimization Roadmap 

Phase 1: Kill Or Revive

Team: Wunderdog, Coventures

Digital Donald needed attention. It hadn’t met the initial expectations and had slowly sidelined into a negligent maintenance mode. Thus, the focus at this stage was on understanding why the digital Donald Duck service hadn’t grown as Sanoma had projected.

The key finding of product/market fit and AARRR (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral and Revenue) analysis was that there was a highly committed and loyal group of users creating an income stream that was steady, yet way too small. These users felt passionate about the service and actually had a wishlist for improvements. Based on thorough evaluation Sanoma decided to save digital Donald.

Phase 2: Saving Digital Donald

Team: Wunderdog, Coventures

Based on user feedback some quick fixes were made and new features were added to the service. However, from the very beginning it was evident that improving the product alone wasn’t going to be a game-changer.

There were two fundamental challenges in reviving digital Donald:

  1. Gaining and retaining new active subscribers.

  2. Improving digital product profitability and optimizing digital product cost structure.

Thus, it was time to take a closer look at the revenue streams, subscriber retention and lifetime value, as well as expenses.

Phase 3: Optimized Maintenance Is The New Black

Team: Wunderdog, Coventures, OrangIT, Polar Squad

At this stage, the service was improved both in terms of functionality and features. The plan on how to gain and activate users went into action. However, the business case was still not sustainable, mainly due to high operating leverage.

OrangIT, together with Polar Squad, first modernized the infrastructure, and then made the maintenance transition cost-effective. The maintenance services, which include support, monitoring and keeping the software proactively up to date, reduced the annual maintenance costs significantly. 

The Wunderdog ecosystem enabled us to flexibly scale our maintenance and development work, which has ensured that the operating costs stay reasonable.

Matilda Akkola, Product Owner at Sanoma

Results By The Ecosystem: Profits Up And Costs Down

The show must go on. Digital Donald is well and alive. All parties involved in the rescue operation are still actively making it even better for the subscribers as well as for Sanoma.

The Wunderdog Ecosystem succeeded in making the business case more sustainable. Other key results so far include:

1. Significant increase of monthly subscribers

2. Customer reviews in Playstore 2.3/5  →  4.8/5

3. Significantly reduced product management hours


If you’re looking for options to make your digital service cost structure leaner and more variable, book a free 30-minute meeting to hear how The Wunderdog Ecosystem can turn ideas into action.

Digital Donald Duck Wunderdog ipad