Your App is a “Walkie-Talkie” and You Need to Start Using It Like One

docwalkietalkieAs news publishers talk about ‘unbolting’ their digital enterprises and newsrooms work on being more mobile in the name of more engaged with their audiences, it’s hard to imagine what that eventually looks like. To start, it might be helpful not to change our actual news products but focus on new ways of using what we have.

Investing in baby steps, if you will.

That’s what the guys behind the software seem to think anyway. Mag+ is the ‘content publishing ecosystem’ and software behind many of the newspaper and magazine apps you might read — New York Magazine, The Atlantic Weekly, Bloomberg Markets, Chicago Sun-Times, Popular Science, and The Next Web to name a few.

They’ve also just released an upgrade to their software that mirrors some general trends in news publishing. Mike Haney, co-founder and creative director for Mag+, says that the upgrade focused on redesigning the storefront and better sorting, so users know what they have when they want it. They’ve also partnered with eMagazine Insight, so publishers can track the effectiveness of in-app links and banners and hone their marketing campaigns. Most interesting for a mobile newsroom is the take on push notifications and alert channels. Another partner, Appboy, brings custom segemented messaging to Mag+ apps. From their release:

In addition to issues, the app can deliver custom push notifications, promotions, cross app promotions, in-app notifications and news feed items that can be specifically targeted to users based on what they’ve done in the app. Combined with a built-in feedback tool, these features make the platform a more effective communications tool and opens it for a broader range of uses.

It’s just one step in looking at the app as a multi-channeled tool to build better engagement with readers. Haney explains:

We talk about being a content hub. Its not about just designing your issue and pushing it out, but it’s about creating a relationship with your consumer. It’s like a walkie-talkie — you have one in your pocket and they have the other one, and you have the ability to reach out and talk to them and give them control about what they get from you.

Mag+ CEO Gregg Hano agrees that publishers need to think differently about how they engage with readers and use the “different channels around that content hub” to interact with them.

In between issues, Hano thinks it makes sense for brands with libraries of evergreen content to repackage it and curate it in-app. For a travel mag, that might be a special mini-issue on the wines of Tuscany, for New York, that could be a weekend eating guide, for no other reason says Hano “than keeping them engaged with the brand…and getting an idea of what they want from you.” He cites The Atlantic, which uses Mag+ for Atlantic Weekly, a single issue that goes out on Friday, as a “great example of breaking the issue based model.” Haney says issues like that don’t have to drain newsroom resources — it’s heavily templated so they can “crank it out” every Friday. There’s nothing wrong with that.

It’s about finding an “efficient way to move forward,” says Haney. Newsrooms need to start investing now in what consumers are going to want three years from now, according to Hano:

It’s hard to keep up with evolving technology. I think [newsrooms] have been busy to get efficient and keep content strong and keep subscribers engaged. That’s what [publishers] need to do first and foremost. But I believe if they set aside a certain budget or find a few people who have a passion and begin testing and trying things now they’re going to have more success…now’s the time to test and get ahead.

Instead of thinking of the app as a copy of what you put out on the Web or in print, it’s time to start using it like a whole new outlet for certain kinds of content, for certain subscribers, and figuring out what channels work best in various situations.

How does your newsroom use their app? Have you started thinking about how to make it a more effective way to engage with your readers? 

Image via Futurepedia