To App or not to App

Radar has been looking at articles which examine why and how two publications (Quartz and the Wall Street Journal), are currently investing in building new smartphone apps.

ComScore the U.S internet analytics company, released a white paper last September which showed that in 2015 mobile was the leading platform for digital media in the U.S with 62% of consumers accessing digital media through their smartphones. 54% of that media was accessed through mobile apps.

Despite these figures, the likelihood of generating revenue from apps is actually far less than certain. This from Chris Sutcliffe at The Media Briefing:

‘There are impediments to launching a successful app. Research has demonstrated that drop-off for app use is precipitous after the first launch, and that unless your app is among the top four or five most-visited on a user’s phone, it’s unlikely they’ll open it with enough frequency to generate significant revenue. In fact, comScore’s latest mobile app report suggests that well over half of all time spent in-app is spent in the user’s favourite app, with a very long tail for the apps afterwards. And since it also found that only 3 percent of users had a news app as that favourite, it suggests the vast majority of news publishers will have a hard time becoming that habitual favourite’.

So why are Quartz and WSJ taking the plunge now? For Quartz at least, it may have something to do with advertising models and the proliferation of ad blocking software. Whilst ad-blocking is now commonplace on the desktop, it is less of an obstacle for publishers on mobile platforms.

According to Sutcliffe, Quartz relies heavily on a strategy of native advertising and 42% of all its revenue comes from mobile. Marketing publication ClickZ says in-app advertising now offers ‘marketers a better opportunity to target the right audience at the right time’.

‘In-app advertising works well because it is enhanced by location data, which is the first step in understanding context and increasing engagement….while geo-targeting is a possibility, having access to the data and being able to use it on all points across the ecosystem is what is driving marketers’ ability to become highly targeted’.

In an interview with Joseph Lichterman at Nieman Lab Quartz publisher Jay Lauf also cited an apps ability to push notifications at the user as a driving force in their reasoning.

‘One of the things that changes the landscape with apps is notifications. Notifications are an increasingly popular mechanism for staying abreast of news and information and staying connected with brands. Apps certainly give you the opportunity for that’.

For the Wall Street Journal however, the appeal of apps lies in being able to personalise news. Using apps helps them to target specific groups of readers. This from Lucinda Southern at Digiday;

‘While the Journal has a main app for its content, the publisher is also making specific apps. For example, WSJ Live offers video content, What’s News is a daily digest of 10 stories a day, and City, the London-focused finance and markets app, is aimed at its 1.5 million U.K. readers. Now, according to the publisher’s chief innovation officer Edward Roussel, there will be three more apps to come in the next few months’.

See also our Radar post from earlier this month which examines just what it is that makes a good news app.