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PJ Gurumohan

The Anatomy of Addictive Content Apps

PJ Gurumohan - 04/16/2013-13:24 PM


We’re addicted to mobile content. We use our tablets to lull us to sleep. We use our smartphones as alarm clocks, we bring our phone to the bathroom for reading material, and we have panic attacks when we realize that we’ve left our mobile device at home or—heaven forbid—lost it. According to a poll by Time Magazine, “1 in 4 people check their smartphones every 30 minutes and 1 in 5 check it every 10 minutes. A third of respondents admitted that being without their mobile for even short periods leaves them feeling anxious.” In fact, they compare mobile content addiction to a form of sustenance and point that, “twice as many people would pick their phone over their lunch if forced to choose.”

So, what are we spending so much time on? According to a new study by Flurry, we spend 80 percent of our time inside of apps. Not all apps are created equal. Some apps we open once in a while and some we check many times a day to read or view real-time updates.

Most magazines delivered on mobile apps are in the form of PDFs which often have low star ratings based on their interactivity limitations, dated content, and a long download process. What we’re doing, the industry standard, is clearly not working. We need a new approach—realtime content apps.

Real-Time Content Apps Have 3 Things That Make Them Addictive

Let’s break down what makes a real-time content app addictive:

  • Updated Frequently or in Real-Time: The 30-day content package, delivered as a downloadable PDF, is going to become a thing of the past. In today’s world of Twitter-speed content, consumers are demanding content at a volume and pace that will only increase as new generations of young people grow up in a ‘mobile first’ world. Addiction is created when new content is available every time a user opens an app. When consumers are sustained on a steady diet of new content, they will always come back to check out what’s new, different, and fresh.
  • Highly Curated: In the web world, the name of the game is about high volumes of content with each page providing opportunities for online advertising. Search becomes how we curate self-content—how we separate the wheat from the chaff and focus in on what is of most interest to us. In the mobile world, the, “Let’s throw all of our content onto a mobile device,” doesn’t work because screen real estate is a much more precious asset. Instead, it’s up to the publisher to be highly selective and only deliver the best content to create high levels of engagement for each user. Think about it. Publishers can know who a person is, what they are interested in, where they are, and—in some cases—know what they are doing. Delivering highly curated content, and advertising, becomes a real possibility and will open up new monetization opportunities.
  • Integrated with Other Media: Flat PDF-like apps retain the elegance of the print experience, but they miss out on all of the interactive, immersive experiences that can be delivered and give content more context for a richer, more meaningful experience. An article can be accompanied by interactive maps, video, social media, commerce, and even connect to calendars, to-do lists, and more.

Area1: A Realtime Content App that is Truly Addictive
A fantastic new example of realtime content app is the free Area1 app for iPhone, powered by GENWI, which has a 5 star rating and 39 reviews currently in iTunes. It gathers interesting content from around the web with a unique content that ranges from neon waterfalls to an inside look at the Porsche Panamera hybrid. For example, in a recent article from Mashable about Ken Block and his romp through Russia with his GoPro camera, the curated includes the article a video clip from YouTube, a link to GoPro website, and bonus materials from Mashable about 10 crazy ways to use GoPro cameras.

Because of the handcrafted curated content, the daily updates, and the tight integration with other relevant digital content, it is sure to become part of your daily app addiction.

Engagement Becomes Hourly Actives. Think TV Primetime.
As opposed to the 30-day packaged PDF, real-time content apps open up new possibilities, in terms of engagement and monetization. In the “newsstand” world, engagement is a long download. In the web world, we look at daily actives, time spent, unique views, etc., and we treat every hour equally. But, in the real-time content world, we need to think of mobile users more like television viewers. Usage of each device goes in waves throughout the day and peaks at the traditional TV primetime slot—at 9pm, according to a new study by Chitika. Not surprisingly, they also found that smartphone usage is high during commuting hours and tablet usage peaks in the evening.

These trends are incredibly important for creators and curators of real-time content apps. Special content can be delivered at particular times, in specific time zones (based on GPS data), and paired with context-aware advertising. The possibilities are endless. Of course, we can’t get there overnight. As in industry, it’s imperative that we begin to experiment to realize the full potential of the realtime content app opportunity.

PJ Gurumohan

Don’t Kill Your App: Five Rules for Getting iPad Publishing Right

PJ Gurumohan Digital Editions - 05/24/2012-10:48 AM

Jason Pontin, editor of MIT’s Tech Review, recently announced that, after much pain and expense, the Tech Review is abandoning native apps for the iPad and other mobile devices. Describing the publications experience with app development—which involved spending $124,000 on software development and selling only 353 iPad subscriptions—Pontin reports that, “Like almost all publishers, I was badly disappointed. What went wrong? Everything.”

It didn’t have to be this way. Tablets like the iPad offer rich possibilities for telling engaging stories that take readers well beyond the print experience, with the portability to enjoy that experience anywhere, anytime. But to fully realize that potential—without the high cost and frustration seen by Tech Review—publishers must think more holistically about their long-term strategy for delivering a fresh, high-quality experience across all mobile devices. A few simple rules can guide you to the right strategy for your publication and readers.

Rule 1: Remember the business you’re in. Publishing is supposed to be about content—not code. If you find yourself hiring separate development teams or agencies to create your HTML website, iOS apps, and Android apps, then something has already gone wrong. The right digital strategy will allow you to focus your resources on creating great experiences for your readers, not paying an army of developers to replicate those experiences in different languages for different form factors.

Rule 2: Don’t settle for static pages. Like many publishers, Tech Review began with the approach of replicating its print edition page by page in PDF form. The whole point of digital media is to do things that aren’t possible in print, using interactivity, rich media, social sharing, and other web-like capabilities to engage readers more deeply. And what reader wants to sit around waiting for an entire 96-page PDF to download before they can start exploring its content? As with a desktop website, publishers should curate their content for mobile engagement and focus on delivering the right experience for the right device at the right time—instead of trying to turn tablets into a paper delivery device. Tech Review realized their error and have since taken the PDF replicas off of their app and now have live streaming articles.

Rule 3: Don’t chain content to design. Editors shouldn’t have to deal with design code or the mechanics of layout—especially when that layout will have to change depending on the device a reader uses to access an article. Instead, designers can create templates in standard web protocols that allow editors to choose whatever layout they want, without the risk of breaking the design. This allows editors to focus on editorial, and designers to focus on design, while providing unlimited flexibility—and creativity—to present each article in the best way for each platform.

Rule 4: Think about the day after launch. A digital edition is never truly “put to bed.” A mobile app needs to be updated constantly with fresh content, enhanced usability, and new features. How will you get this done and who will do it? If you hired a development firm to build your app, then will you have to keep paying them for every change? If you build it in-house, will your editorial team be constantly at the mercy of your IT department’s workload? Find a simple, cost-effective way to flow your content everywhere your readers want to experience it or you’re likely to find yourself sharing in Tech Review’s misery.

Rule 5: Make friends with the cloud. The platform-independent nature of the cloud is a precious gift for publishers. Instead of having to create, update, manage, and analyze separate apps for iOS , Android, and HTML5 apps in addition to their mobile website and desktop website, a cloud-based strategy makes it possible for content to be published once, and then enjoyed on any device. Similarly, updates can be performed once in the cloud, and propagated automatically at the same time across both smartphones and tablets. The same is true for monetization and analytics, which are unified in the cloud rather than being fragmented in platform-specific silos. The cloud could have saved Tech Review a lot of time and money—and saved its native apps from their impending demise.

The iPad and other tablets were supposed to be a boon for the publishing industry, giving content creators new ways to connect with and engage readers. This potential still exists—in fact, it’s stronger today than ever. By learning from the mistakes of the first wave of PDF replicas and development-intensive app strategies, publishers can find the mobile success they’ve been looking for--in the cloud.

PJ Gurumohan is the co-founder and CEO of cloud solution provider GENWI.