How to Build A News App that Makes Cash

March 2, 2017 | Rob LaPointe

For years we’ve been hearing about the death of Print Media. Subscriptions are down, people are reading fewer newspapers, and even spending less time watching cable news. Recently the press took another hit, gaining the nomenclature of “Fake News” and termed the “Opposition Party” by Donald Trump (though this actually seems to be having the opposite effect, with NYT and others reporting a big spike in subscriptions).

But there is one thing about humans we often forget: the unending ingenuity of our species. We are the consummate adapters, always finding new ways to reinvent ourselves, new ways to survive. How is this ingenuity going to save the news industry? Through the conveyance of technological platforms – apps and websites.

Facebook, Twitter, and Google were hot button issues during the 2016 US Election cycle, from legitimate news to actual fake news. But no matter what your opinion is of these news vehicles, there is no denying their impact. Articles on Facebook especially seem to have a lot of life, sometimes getting views numbering into the millions.

Technology’s power to disrupt traditional business model has certainly changed how we receive and consume the news, but much of the News industry itself is still stuck. Sure, they have mobile apps and cool websites. But revenue generation is still an issue with many news businesses.

This doesn’t have to be the case. The technology exists to rewrite (pun intended) how News organizations make money. Strategies to create a successful News App exist; we know this to be true because we’ve done it ourselves. From a Mobile First focus to dynamic pricing and more, we know every trick in the book.

Mobility

Responsive Design was once the big thing, where websites were revamped to function better with mobile devices. But today, we always recommend that entrepreneurs design for mobile devices first. In other words, the assumption is that the modern consumer uses a mobile device far more often than a desktop. This assumption is continually validated; in fact, the majority of eCommerce purchases on Black Friday 2016 were from a mobile device.

Whether or not most internet traffic is mobile or not today is besides the point. Business owners need to plan for the future, and the future is clearly mobile. This is why we recommend building a news app and not a website. Having a News service that is oriented towards mobile users will drive engagement and get more downloads. Having a News App that is designed from the perspective of the mobile user from the get-go will keep users engaged and talking about your service.

While downloads and improved engagement are all great buzzwords, they’re chopped liver without a decent revenue generation strategy. Clever designs and top-notch coding only get you so far. What the News industry really needs is a shift in how they approach subscriptions – enter our next subject, Dynamic Pricing.

Dynamic Pricing

You know what this is – it’s overthrown the revenue approaches of many an industry. Dynamic pricing is when pricing changes depending on different variables:

♦ Location;

♦ Time and/or Date;

♦ Browser; and even

♦ Internet History.

The best examples of this are Kayak, Travelocity, Expedia, etc. Dynamic Pricing revolutionized how the Travel Industry operated (RIP Travel Agencies) – and it hasn’t stopped there. The power of technology allows businesses to know where a user is, within a block. Recently, an excellent Quartz article discussed how to apply this to the News Industry. We recommend checking it out but we’ll do our best to quickly summarize.

Not all people are created the same; people living in wealthy metropolises (New York, Austin, Denver, Los Angeles, and so on) tend to have more disposable income as compared to those living in rural areas. But Traditional subscription models use a fixed cost model – people in Seattle pay the same amount as the people in South Bend, Indiana.

This is neither a necessary or an effective method of revenue generation. Dynamic Pricing enables business owners to offer unique pricing, drilled all the way down to a user’s IP address and precise location. By offering pricing in keeping with a potential user’s disposable income, you are increasing the chances of converting a visitor into a paying user. While your overall profit per user may go down, your overall number of subscriptions is likely to go up (thus causing an increase in your profit margin overall).

The article goes on to discuss how this can happen using existing services from Google and Facebook, the world’s two largest distribution platforms, but the basic point is already made: custom pricing for the News industry is not only possible, but quite likely exceptionally profitable. But there is something else we know about the modern consumer: they/we love tailored services.

The Dilemma of Facebook

Facebook’s news feed is an excellent representation of how to improve news consumption and how not to present the news. One of the gravest threats to journalism and possibly politics overall we saw arise this last year was the increase of “bubbles.” Facebook, like many advanced tech services today, use algorithms that employ machine learning; this enables services to learn from users, becoming ever more effective.

While this is great in a Virtual Personal Assistant, it caused issues in 2016. People stopped getting exposed to legitimate news sources, as FB prioritized articles shared from Friends. This helped give rise to actual Fake News. Then, because of Machine Learning, a user would get more and more articles in the same vein. It doesn’t even have to be fake news – if you prefer one news source, FB’s feed would provide similar articles to the exclusion of other news sources.

That being said, FB is clearly on to something. They upended the News industry in the last year, and that should not be ignored. Feeds can use other information to tailor articles:

Location. Many users go to the news to learn about local happenings. Local news has been climbing in popularity as well. With a mobile app, we can easily tailor articles to the precise location of the user.

Favorite topics are another metric that can be used. If a person’s history indicates they love breaking science stories, create code that learns to satisfy the need for science. The same goes for politics, or healthcare, or any other interests.

Preferences and topics directly indicated by the user themselves. It never hurts to straight up ask a user what interests they have.

The key to preventing “bubbles” and isolationist thinking is to not tailor based on the News source itself. The divisions and biases are too raw, too fresh. The aim is to create a News App that keeps people informed, not something that simply confirms previously held beliefs.

Ready to get your own News App up and running? Give us a call at 408.805.0495/408.621.8481 – or click to contact us!

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