Surviving in a Crowded App World

When was the last time you opened your station’s news or weather app and actually used it? Was it…

When you first downloaded it?

A month ago?

Last week?

Or you don’t remember?

I’ve learned that stations don’t do enough quality control.

Here’s an example. We have a client station that has one of the better weather apps. I love the feature that tells me when there is lightning nearby and gives me a push alert to warn me. It even gives the distance to where the strike hit.

A few days ago we had storms in Florida and lightning was everywhere!  But my push alerts were nowhere. I wasn’t getting them.

I opened the app and checked the setting. I discovered the app had reset itself back to provide weather info in the station’s market instead of my location. I reset to show my location and stored it. I closed the app, opened it and checked the settings – and again it didn’t save my location. Now I’m a frustrated and disappointed user.

We were surrounded by lightning but the app I loved no longer worked.

In their moment of need, will a failure of your app push users to download someone else’s app? Very possibly, especially if it’s free. And if the new app works, will they return to yours? Possibly not.  Now you’ve lost a user and some credibility. (That’s exactly what I did, and in fact, I had to delete another weather app to create space to download the new app.)

In looking back on the history of the app I learned it was updated a few weeks ago and now that updated software apparently has a bug. I’ve notified the station, but as a user it was too late.

Here’s why I think problems like this happen – and why they happen with other stations, too.

While news people are focused on their big screen for the six or so hours of news a day, few in the shop are focused on those small screen users who have access 24 hours a day.  Some stations get a million page views or more on their apps. You actually could have days where more people use your app than watch some of your newscasts.

Who in your shop is paying attention to the apps? I’m not talking occasional checks, but making sure every day that the apps work the way users expect.

ScreenHunter_03 Apr. 04 07.28

Every newsroom should have a process:

  1. Ask all folks in the station to use the news and weather apps. If they see a problem, tell the appropriate manager. If they have a suggestion as a user how to make it better, they should pass it along.
  1. When an update is being pushed, news managers must know in advance. Once it’s pushed to the users, then station employees need to make sure they have the update, and then play with it to see if they can break it. Test the simplest of things: Is the app localizing properly? Does it save the location you put into it as the “home location?” Does the information display properly on the screen or is it cut off? Do all the links work?
  1. Many news apps are designed to live stream a newscast. When was the last time you watched the newscast stream on the app to make sure it’s working properly? I have, and many times I find issues.
  1. Do you ask users for feedback? You can do this through the app and even do it on your Facebook page. Engage with your users to improve their experience. Invite them to tell you when they have a problem – and pay attention to what they tell you!
  1. This last point maybe the most important. Many station apps are designed, implemented and pushed by corporate and third parties. Corporate doesn’t deal with the users. That’s often left to the stations who must deal with frustrated users and try to explain “we’re aware and working on it.” Bug are often left to be fixed with the next release or upgrade. In the case of the weather app I mentioned before that could be way too late. At that point the user has moved on. Bug fixes are like corrections on air – the longer you wait the worse they get. Bug fixes need to be a higher priority other than the response some might give: “we’re working on it, it’s on the list

A survey done in October says smartphone users use 6 to 10 apps a week!  On an average day, most will use 1 to 5 apps a day. (Chances are Facebook, Instagram, Google and messenger are the most used.)

The same survey project said 30%t of apps downloaded by a user only stay on the phone for one day.  At the end of 30 days, “a tiny 3.3% of Android apps and 3.2% of iOS apps still had active users.” Wow.

Check it out:

It’s a crowded app world out there.  Consider that users have a choice of more than 400 weather apps to download, and hundreds and hundreds of news apps.

Bottom-line: If they decide to download your apps, those apps MUST work. They need to deliver or they will be deleted.

Credibility lost. Opportunity lost. Money lost.

By | 2016-12-13T15:28:01+00:00 April 4th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

About the Author:

Today developing an effective digital media strategy is critical for revenue growth and brand-building. Steve is working with station groups, website developers, content suppliers, and others to in three key areas: social media, web and mobile. In addition, Steve puts his extensive television news expertise to work for clients helping them develop and refine their on-air product. Steve has led news operations in markets across the country including Philadelphia, Atlanta, Hartford and Tampa. In addition, he has served as an executive at the corporate level for NBC Universal and Meredith Local Media leading strategic growth and digital content initiatives. Most recently, Steve was vice president of news at WTXF, FOX Philadelphia where he took all newscasts from a fourth place position to second or first. Steve has also served on several industry boards and is the winner of many awards including the Georgia AP Best Website Award and numerous Emmy awards.