by Tracy Johnson
Apps are all the rage. Now that most of the population carries a smartphone, stations have elevated developing a dedicated app to a much higher priority. How’s that working out? And do you really need a dedicated station app?
The short answer: There’s nothing wrong with having an app for your station or for your show, as long as you have realistic expectations, develop it for the right reasons and actually put time and resources into keeping it relevant.
And, there’s no doubt that more and more listening will be taking place on mobile devices. So having a mobile presence is critical to your future success.
What The Research Shows
Let’s look at the numbers. In the United States, 49% smartphone app users tap on less than 10 apps in a week. (Survey by Localytics conducted by Research Now).
Less than half of all smartphone users tap on fewer than 10 apps per week. Does your radio station need a dedicated app?
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Meanwhile, a Pew Research Center report reveals that 62% of smartphone users had less than 20 total apps on their phone. Among those, 46% use just one to five apps per week.
More surprising, in a finding reported by eMarketer, many apps are deleted the same day they are downloaded. And after 30 days, only 3% of all newly downloaded apps still had active users.
Not surprisingly, apps installed for organic reasons, as opposed to the result of paid app-install ads, are more likely to be retained. After 30 days, an organic app install was 156% more likely than an ad-induced install to result in continued usage on Android phones.
So maybe you don’t really need one.
4 Reasons You May Not Need an App
There are plenty of app developers that can produce a good-looking app quickly and somewhat affordably. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
1. Audio Is Already Available.
First, the primary reason for having an app is to make your audio available on mobile devices. In that regard, there are options.When users can get thousands of audio streams on apps like iHeart, iTunes and Tune In, why would they download an app that offers just a single station?
Maybe it would be better to point your attention to getting your stream on those services.The counter-argument, of course, is that your station is unique, and has a fan base. The app could provide community for those fans. Evaluate your brand objectively. If the station is a commodity, without a loyal and passionate fanbase, don’t get an app. Don’t develop an app hoping to turn it into more fans. Apps won’t build fans.
2. Website is Responsively Designed.
One reason managers are drawn to apps is that they’re designed to fit mobile devices. But if your website is responsively designed, it functions as if it were an app already. It will adjust to the user’s screen. If your site is not responsive, you’d be much better off investing in that, rather than producing an app.
RELATED: Here’s a Cheat Sheet on Free Publicity For Your Show
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3. Will We Really Generate Revenue?
Another argument for apps is to add a revenue source. While it may be sexy to take that sponsorship package that demonstrates how exciting your digital presence is, this is a weak reason to create an app. Revenue derived from mobile apps is sustainable only if it delivers value to advertisers over time.
4. Our Website Is A Mess.
This is a sad commentary on the state of radio websites, but I’ve heard this more than once. Some programmers want a station-specific app because their website is a cluttered, jumbled mess and they know they can control the content on the app.Fight the clutter battle on your website. It will get far more traffic than your app.
If You Already Have A Station App
Maybe you already have an app, or have decided to get one. Now what? Three key things:
Manage it. Make sure it’s working, and keeps working. You can’t set it and forget it. As software is updated and new operating systems released, many apps have a tendency to break. If it doesn’t work, even once, chances are the user will delete or ignore your app. And they won’t tell you about it. So it’s up to you to launch the app and use it every day. Make sure it’s functional.
Program it. The primary reason anyone will use your app is to listen to your station, either live or on-demand. The app should be consistent, but it shouldn’t be static. Update the content regularly (daily) and use it to promote your station features, contests and content.
Promote it. They won’t find it on their own. It must be promoted. How will it be promoted? And what unique selling point makes it worthy of the time and resources dedicated to driving awareness?
Most smartphones are loaded with dozens (or hundreds) of apps, but that doesn’t mean users are actually using them, or even keeping them for long.
What It Means For Your Station
Look, I’m not against an app for your brand as long as it delivers value for listeners. Just make sure you’re developing the app for the right reasons and are able to devote resources to keeping it fresh, relevant and useful.
It’s a crowded competitive arena, and stations have limited resources. If you decide that an app fits your brand’s strategy, do it and do it well. However, based on my experience, most stations would be better served investing their resources (money and time) elsewhere.
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