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Nine Tips About Mobile Apps From Paul Jacobs

Radio app developer notes its fourth anniversary -- and the 'tectonic' impact of apps on society

After four years in the mobile apps game, Paul Jacobs has some tips for radio broadcasters. Number One: “If you aren’t in the game, get into it quickly.”

Jacobs Media, a rock radio consulting firm, started its jacAPPS division four years ago and has since developed approximately 750 apps. Noting the fourth anniversary, VP/GM Paul Jacobs posted some perspectives on the company’s blog, and thanked early customers like Greater Media and Entercom for their support of the business.

Here are Paul Jacobs’ suggestions for stations about their use of apps, republished with permission:

1.If you aren’t in the game, get into it quickly. I don’t think we’ve ever seen a product category explode so rapidly, much less have tectonic impact on virtually all of society — individuals, families, businesses, and organizations.

2.Apps aren’t static. Even if you start off with an app with a few basic functions, don’t stop there. This is a fluid space. Your audience’s needs change, and it’s important to keep your app fresh. And by the way, every time you re-launch your app it goes to the top of the list in New Releases in iTunes — a great way to garner new attention and downloads.

3.Don’t stop marketing. Too many radio stations promote their apps for a few weeks and then move on to the next bright shiny object. There are new smartphone owners in your market emerging every day, excited to download all these cool apps. Think of them as potential new cumers who just moved into town. You need to create a constant reminder about your app on the air, on your website, as well as via email and social. These people aren’t buying radios, but many are buying their first smartphone — or tablet.

4.Focus on a feature. We’ve seen downloads jump when a station promotes a specific app feature instead of just the stream. One jacAPPS client focused on the alarm clock looking to create that “First Occasion” opportunity by promoting the ability to wake up with their favorite station. Other stations rotate features they promote, which keeps their app sounding fresh and updated.

5.Keep it simple. The biggest mistake that brands make is cramming too much content into their app. In other words, don’t try to stuff your website into a mobile phone. The best apps are those that satisfy one or two specific needs — things the audience can enjoy and appreciate. Your listeners interact with you differently when out-and-about with their smartphone, compared with how they use you in front of a computer or listening to you on a conventional radio. Get rid of the superfluous content in apps, and focus on what’s most essential. Your app will be cleaner, more efficient, and more successful as a result.

6.Ask the audience. We’ve been fortunate to work with a number of clients that have conducted research prior to deciding on the specifics of their apps. More companies need to go this route. We encourage brands to bring in listeners that own smartphones and not only talk to them about what they want, but have them play with selected apps to identify the best design, the most desirable features, and other information that can take an average app and turn it into a great one. Usability studies are a great learning tool that can lead to a more effective mobile outcome.

7.Apps should be a cume-builder. When we first started building apps, our assumption was that smartphones were great receivers. Today, we know they are also a powerful bridge for sharing your content. Everybody in the audience has their own audience, so today, when we design an app with branded content (blogs, podcasts, news stories, events), we encourage users to post it on Facebook, share it on Twitter, and email it to friends. There is no greater compliment to your brand than a fan who wants to share it with others. A great app allows this to happen seamlessly and naturally.

8.Apps generate revenue. While many are fixated on banner ads, we believe there are more effective options that have nothing to do with CPMs. Because of the flexibility of apps, solutions include sponsorship, sponsored content, and client-generated features that are valuable to mobile users (like ordering a pizza for delivery). Stations should also consider creating apps designed for their major events, as well as for popular segments of their station’s life group (apps for moms, entertainment guides, ski reports, concert listings, etc.).

9.Whenever possible, do something unique or fun. We like apps that pass the “two guys sitting at a bar” test. You know, where one guy says to the other guy, “Hey, have you seen the WXXX app?” When that happens, you’ve got a winner. Every radio station has something special — a personality, feature, morning show, event, or tradition that can be translated to a cool application. Your app should embody that aspect of your station and have it featured prominently. This creates a high level of engagement as well as repeat visits.

Jacobs went on to say stations should get ready for the connected car. “The way that users access audio content is undergoing a revolution unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. … Broadcasters need to take the digital dash revolution seriously.”

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