Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Doing more with mobile

I just finished watching a Poynter Institute webinar on structuring the newsroom to emphasize mobile apps and came away psyched. Etan Horowitz, CNN's mobile editor, presented his ideas for shifting an organization's focus to serve phone and tablet users better. He started the presentation by showing a growth graph of mobile app use that makes it clear smartphones and tablets are becoming the media delivery device of choice, especially for young people.

One of his really excellent suggestions was to make mobile site analytics available to everyone in the newsroom, then using that information to inform coverage. The Orion's numbers for last month, for example, show what mobile users are most interested in.

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Looking at the numbers suggests that getting a reporter over to the Chico and University police departments every day to update the blotter would be a good move.

The analytics for "Offers," the digital-couponing service that's part of the Orion app, shows nothing for December because there were no offers. The reason the paper purchased its app from iCampusTimes was for the offers function, so the numbers are pretty disappointing. The paper has to start making money from the app or stop shelling out $1,500 a year to maintain it.

Advertisers are understandably reluctant to try something new, especially when no one else is out there using it. Which made me think it's up to The Orion to introduce the benefits of offers in an easy, low-risk way. Here's what I came up with:
• The Orion creates a daily offer (The Daily Deal?)  that features a coupon for a different advertiser every day. It could be $1 off a burger at Mom's or a free game of bowling at Orchard Lanes.
• The advertiser doesn't pay for the offer. He or she simply makes the coupon available to customers for a single day.
• The Orion pushes the daily offer each morning to students who have downloaded the app.
• The advertiser sees results from the coupon and becomes more interested in increasing traffic by subscribing to the offers service.
• Students, who are always interested in a bargain, use the app more often and
• tell their friends, who download the app to get the same deals.

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The app is getting close to a critical mass of downloads (a little more than 2,000) thanks to the efforts of last semester's PR team. This semester's team could design house ads for print, web and mobile pushing The Daily Deal to make sure readers know about it. That, coupled with the push notifications, should give the strategy a decent chance of succeeding.

By the way, I need to thank the AS Sustainability Committee for extending the $5,000 grant it awarded The Orion that's allowed the paper to double its downloads this year.

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