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Panel discussion: Efficient app creation key for newspapers

February 16, 2011

By Pat Haynes

The art of designing an efficient app was the purpose of a roundtable discussion held by Bob Rose of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tim Kelley of the Wisconsin State Journal and Tim D’Avis of the Quad-City Times at the MPI “Managing in the Digital Age” workshop.

“You’ll see that targeting niches like sport teams is going to be more beneficial than a newspaper app,” Kelley said.

Rose told the audience of professionals and journalists the list of apps the Post-Dispatch have created for their readership:

  • St. Louis Cardinals app – An app for 2.99 that tracks the Cardinals progress throughout the season.
  • St. Louis Rams app
  • St. Louis Blues app
  • Prep Sports app – A free app tracking the surrounding area’s high school teams.
  • General News app
  • Beer Finder app – A mobile website app for locating beers and reviewing them worldwide.

The panel also discussed the process of creating apps, highlighting everything from how to find a vendor for creating an app, picking a strategy and what is necessary in a serviceable app.

“One of the things you are going to have to do is partner with someone to build the app,” Rose said.  “We have companies out there that specialize with constantly keeping up with new phones as they are released.”

Some of the possible partners described were:

  • Semaphore and Wonder Factory: Some partners will design new apps with high function.
  • Verve, Handmark and DoApp: Some take monthly fees and revenue share.

D’Avis described the difference between designing apps for Apple products and for Droid phones.

“You will either deal with Apple’s tight control or Google’s wide open accepting of anything,” D’Avis said.  “Apple will take a cut over whatever you do, while Google wants to commoditize it and put ads on it.  Neither is ideal.”

Overall, there are a few commonalities that should be found in any good app, regardless of the platform.

Rose emphasized the ultimate app as one that contains the following:

  • “You want to give the user a sense of place,” Rose said.
  • Allow the user to dig deeper.
  • Give a holistic view by aggregating content.
  • Use trends and local sentiment to complete pictures.
  • Put users where cameras can’t go.
  • Let the user organize the app the way they want.

To close out the discussion, Rose talked about how to promote your app.

“How do you get the word out?  A little bit makes a big difference if you review the app,” Rose said.  “It doesn’t take much traffic to drive you to the top of the app store.”

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