7 Lessons We’ve Learned From Developing 1,300 Mobile Apps

Bob Kernen has served as COO of jacapps, our mobile app company, for more than six years now.  And during that time, the company has grown into radio’s leading mobile app developer.
 Bob was the first person I thought of when I watched Iowa Caucus coverage Monday night. And in today’s post, he puts this debacle in Iowa into perspective – what it means to politics, and more importantly, what it means to radio. – FJ

I turned on the news late Monday night to see the results of the Iowa Democratic Caucus. After a minute or two it became obvious that the results weren’t in. After flashbacks to the election of November 2000 dissipated, I heard that the problem was with (gulp) a mobile application.
As someone who runs a mobile app company I had two immediate reactions: First, that visceral wave of nausea when the technology you’ve worked hard on fails, and second, thank goodness it wasn’t one of our apps!
Running a company of this type is complex.  It’s not just about writing code.  Great mobile apps require a strategic purpose, time and thought, quality control, graphic design, attention to the user experience, training, testing, and lot of debugging.
As we know, there are two app platforms – iOS for iPhone and iPads, and Android for virtually everything else.  Problem is, there are hundreds of different phone brands and models that run Google’s Android software.
You never want an app to go down, and you certainly don’t want to have problems like these when a) the app is only going to be used one time, and b) that one time is on national television and a presidential election is at stake.
Most of us view mobile apps as those cute little icons on our iPhones and Androids that we touch with a finger and cool stuff happens.  And when working properly, the consumer doesn’t notice just how complex this software is.
Over the past eleven years, jacapps has developed close to 1,300 mobile apps for radio stations and many other industries.  We’ve built simple streaming apps and amazingly complex apps with powerful platforms behind them that perform multiple tasks, while managing huge quantities of information. While we sympathize with the developer of the failed app used in the Iowa Caucuses, we also understand how a debacle of this magnitude can happen.

Based on the information provided so far, here’s our take on Iowa app’s face-plant, and how a disaster like this can be avoided:
1. Don’t rush it. The news is reporting this app was rushed to market in 60 days. While we appreciate that speed is important for many of our clients, it’s hard to conceive that a project this complex could be reliably done in eight weeks. It’s not surprising that there were issues.
2. Test it in the field. There have been numerous reports that in rural areas of Iowa, the app couldn’t cleanly connect to the Internet. Poor cellular coverage? What a shocker! It’s one thing to test an app in the lab (or even in a populous area) where there’s always excellent high speed Internet, but it was no secret this app was going to be used in fire stations in Pella and elementary schools in Waterloo. Simply sending someone out in the field (literally!) or provisioning the app to test in one of these places would have identified the problem quickly.
3. Test it on humans. There are also stories of how precinct captains and volunteers at local caucuses couldn’t figure out how to use the app (and in some cases, couldn’t even download it). Once again, the developer could have brought in five people from the street, handed them a phone with the app on it, and had them work through it.  And in a couple of hours, the developer would have a better understanding of how to make it more user-friendly. The people who built the app should never be the ones to test it.  These are called usability tests, and they’re effective.
4. It requires training. Most of the people reading this post know their way around a smartphone or tablet.  You’ve been downloading apps for years, and you know the in’s and out’s of how to manage mobile tools.  But many of the key spokespeople at Iowa precincts presented themselves very differently.  Some are self-described Luddites.  Other simply weren’t interested in new systems.  The developer and the Iowa Democratic Party needed education sessions so that all 1,700 precinct captains knew what they were doing.  Under the best of circumstances, that’s a heavy lift.
5. Apps are complex. People typically believe everything actually happens on your phone – that’s where the code and “stuff” resides. In fact, more complex apps are connected to a platform on a remote server that contains all of the data that flows into the app, registration information, etc.  The app used in Iowa could have failed in many different places – the app itself, the cloud-based platform, the connectivity, and more.
6. Do you even need an app? Smart brands do, of course. But for this type of “one and done” function, wouldn’t it have been simpler to create a special email box, and have them all send their results using an encrypted format that (hopefully) everyone knows how to use.
7. Don’t try this at home. Complex apps aren’t cheap, but too often people like to cut corners and either develop them “in-house” or hire a firm that has minimal experience with mobile do the job.  In every case where we’ve seen this occur, failure happens.

This is complex software that needs to be developed to handle multiple devices (how many hundreds of different Android phones are on the market?), operating systems, erratic WiFI or bad cell service, and other unforeseen events.
It’s one thing to cut a corner or two for an app that’s going to be around for years and can be course-corrected with updates over time.  But for an app that’s going to be used for just one night? You’d better make sure it’s as perfect as possible and pay whatever it takes in order to achieve that.
Every radio broadcaster needs to be part of the Mobile Revolution.  But simply checking off the “app box” by buying a mediocre product often comes with hidden costs – from operational problems to user issues.
Developing great apps is challenging, and we sympathize with the developer of the Iowa Democratic Party’s app, who clearly had a worse day than even the candidates waiting on pins and needles yesterday for the hand-tabulated results of the caucus.  But a lot of this could have been avoided.
When all else fails, try an abacus.  

Mobile Apps

63% of App Users Become Inactive Within 30 Days

By: Bob Kernen

An interesting confluence of news over the past couple of weeks got me thinking about the state of mobile technology in our lives. The first was a study from Localytics, the analytics and push-messaging platform many of you use, about app retention rates. According to their research, 63% of users become inactive within 30 days of downloading an app. That is up from 58% last year. And after 90 days, the news is even worse with 80% of users going inactive. What those numbers show is that it is absolutely critical to keep your app relevant to your users, and to give them compelling reasons to use your app, and never assume those reasons are self-evident.
Others have inferred that we are reaching the end of the “app revolution.” I can see how a few statistics could bring people to that conclusion, but to me these stats on downloads and retention don’t signal the beginning of the end. I think what they really herald is the end of the beginning. While the “there’s an app for that” craze may have finally run its course, the notion of an app has become the consumer’s favorite way to access the information and tools they need to get through their busy day.

Here’s some evidence:

Apple recently announced that it would begin sending out “take down” notices to apps that haven’t been kept sufficiently up-to-date as their operating system (iOS) and devices have evolved. Cleaning out these “zombie apps” shows Apple’s commitment to making sure that the app ecosystem stays vibrant and uncluttered.
Secondly, Apple also announced that they are working on a TV show about app developers. Major stars like Jessica Alba and Gwyneth Paltrow have signed on to participate.
Third, apps have busted out of the smartphone and are now showing up everywhere. From connected cars to watches to home entertainment systems, apps are redefining the old “there’s an app for that” slogan to mean there’s an app for just about everything that plugs in.
What we are seeing is that the pace of technological evolution just keeps accelerating so that product cycles, and even paradigms, shift in a matter of months – not years.
If you want to discuss how this mobile revolution is affecting, and will affect, your business now and in the future, give us a call at 248-353-9030, or email us at

Android Auto Apple CarPlay Connected Car Mobile Apps

CarPlay and Android Auto Have Taken over the Car

By: Bob Kernen

In case you missed our announcement earlier this summer, jacapps is now offering our apps with integration into Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto. As a company that lives down the hall from the connected car leaders at Jacobs Media, this has been a great tech adventure for us. Now that our first app, for WMMR – Philadelphia, is out in the connected car wild, I took the opportunity to go out and use these two systems in a variety of cars to really experience this new technology.
If you don’t know much about these systems are let me take a moment to explain. Connected cars on the market today have an 8-inch screen that is the car’s “control panel.” Each manufacturer has developed their own software system and user interface for these, and their quality and usability varies wildly. Because of the lack of standardization, both Apple and Google created their own software “layer” that allows the car’s native system to be overridden by an extension of your smartphone’s operating system. Apple’s is known as CarPlay and is rolling out in over 30 different manufacturers. Google’s is Android Auto and is rolling out in more than 50 brands.
If your car’s in-dash system supports one or both of these, you can bring your phone into the car and “connect,” accessing certain functions of your phone on the car’s touchscreen. Once connected you can make calls, access text messages and audio content – including our radio station apps. It’s a terrific concept: your phone truly “synced” to your car.
I tried out the two systems in over a half-dozen cars. Doing this was a little tricky since while most manufacturers have begun rolling out CarPlay and Android Auto support, it isn’t in every model, and even then not in every trim line. Typically, you have to have the top-end in-car navigation and entertainment system to get CarPlay or Android Auto.
When I did find the right model with these systems, I have to admit, it’s a real game changer – for both good and not-so-good. By bringing your phone directly to the car they succeed in making your car an extension of your iPhone or Android. The media, messaging, and mapping choices (the three M’s) in your phone are there in your car too. The connection is smooth and easy – practically seamless. The downside is that interacting with other features of your car, like the temperature control, and the radio can get a little more complicated.
But, if you’re someone who drives different cars from time to time, having the same in-dash experience no matter which vehicle you’re driving is fantastic. It’s easy to imagine how great this will be when most rental cars have CarPlay or Android Auto. No matter what car you drive, just hop in, connect, and you’re good to go.
As the smartphone becomes the essential Swiss Army Knife of modern life it’s inevitable that we will want other technology systems in our life to integrate easily and intuitively with our phone (the label “phone” seems woefully insufficient). So the car is here now, and reports from both Apple and Google indicate that your house is next as both companies are busy creating operating systems for that environment.
If you want to discuss how this mobile revolution is affecting, and will affect, your business now and in the future, give us a call at 248-353-9030, or email us at

Mobile Apps

5 Mobile Trends Agencies Should Keep an Eye On

By: Bob Kernen

Most agencies don’t have the personnel, or the bandwidth, to best support their clients needs in mobile media. Consumer behaviors are changing so fast, and the technology is evolving at such a pace that it really takes mobile specialists to make smart, strategic recommendations for your clients’ media plans. But, here are five trends that agencies should keep their eye on:

  1. Digital dollars are definitely moving to mobile. If you look at the growth of ad spending across all media, a couple of things become pretty clear: Traditional media is flat (at best) to down, and the only growth areas are digital video and mobile. Mobile’s CAGR over the next 3 years is expected to be well over 40%. So, if your client doesn’t have a complete mobile strategy, including apps and advertising, they’re falling behind.
  2. The mobile web doesn’t replace a mobile app. A lot of agencies say, “our client doesn’t need an app, their website is responsive, so it works great on mobile. Having a responsive site is great, and it’s important for capturing the growing number of people who are searching on their smartphones. But people don’t like to type in URLs on a phone, and time spent on mobile web is just 14% of the total, compared to 86% on mobile apps. Apps are where you engage your customers again and again, which brings me to #3.
  3. Mobile is all about CRM. Customer relationship management is most effective on mobile. It just makes sense. The smartphone is in your customers’ pockets or purses all the time. We know that over half of people surveyed even sleep with their phones within arms length. So, if you want to interact with your customer regularly, if you want to know more about them, and if you want to service them most effectively, you really want to put your app in their hands.
  4. Mobile is taking over the car. As I said at the outset, mobile technology is evolving at a blistering pace. All you have to do is shop for a car these days to know that the in-car infotainment system, the “center stack,” is the latest frontier in the competition for your attention. And systems like Ford’s Smart Device Link, Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto are connecting consumers’ smartphones directly to their cars. That means your clients need to have a strategy for intercepting these consumers when they’re driving. Surveys show that people spend over 35 minutes a days commuting, and this is prime spending time.
  5. Location technology is the next mobile wave. Between mobile phones and cars, clearly we are a culture that is on the move more than ever. Mobile technology is taking advantage of this, accessing consumers location and using technologies like geo-fencing and beacons to give consumers the information they need when and where they need it. These emerging technologies allow you to interact with them in context when they are most likely to be interested in your messages.

jacapps wants to help your agency power your clients’ mobile strategy. For a free consultation contact Beth Ayers at 248-353-9030 or email

Mobile Apps

Here We GO Again: How Games Fit into Your Brand’s Mobile Strategy

By: Bob Kernen

Unless you’ve been trapped in a mine, in a coma, or in a politically induced media blackout, you’ve heard about the Pokémon GO phenomenon. You’ve probably spent a significant amount of time talking about it. But, what does it all mean?
First, a little background: The augmented reality game (yes, your kids are seeing animated monsters everywhere) was released on July 6th, has been downloaded an estimated 75 million times, and initially put over $11 billion dollars onto Nintendo’s market cap. So, three weeks later, people all over the world are walking around staring at the world through their smartphone camera looking for Pokémon and Poke-stops. They’re talking to each other about where they’re most likely to find Pokémon, and fretting about “leveling up.”
What’s new about GO is that it’s out in the world. It was launched in the summer for a reason, as being out in the local environment is absolutely critical to the game play. As a result, it incorporates local places (for better and worse in the case of the Holocaust Museum) and creates a sense of pervasiveness, that is, “the game is all around me.” And that is a perfect fit for our mobile world.

What all this demonstrates is the tremendous power of games in our never bored society. People of nearly every demographic play some sort of game. Mostly we think of “gamers” as pasty-skinned teenage boys playing Halo in their parents’ basements, but the typical gamer today is a middle aged woman who likes the so-called “casual games” typically found on smartphones – games like Candy Crush, Bejeweled, or Solitaire. When you factor in the casual gamers, the demographics for games simply explode.
In that context, Pokémon GO is only the latest mobile gaming Phenom. Its predecessors include the aforementioned Candy Crush as well as Angry Birds, Farmville, etc. What these games all have in common are that they are highly social and equally addictive. Something in the gameplay makes it hard for people to stop once they start. They provide challenge, and reward in the right proportion to keep us coming back at every free moment.
Now phenomena like Pokémon GO are clearly an example of capturing lightning in a bottle. You can’t plan for that level of success, but what it proves is that people want this kind of stuff.
So in thinking about your mobile strategy, don’t forget to spend some time considering how games might fit. You probably don’t have the next Pokémon GO in your strategic plan, but you can look for ways to “catch” a little of that magic.
A couple years ago one of our radio clients, WCSX asked us to create a game for Michigan’s deer hunting season. We created a game for them, Deer Hunter, and the result was a programming and revenue success. The station aggressively promoted the game, resulting in over 55,000 downloads in just 5 weeks, which created over a million ad impressions for their advertiser.
Gaming is particularly advertiser-friendly, and there many ways to incorporate brands into games in ways that create high value exposure for those brands. The key is to leverage your brand’s qualities and its local flavor to make the game unique, special, and, most of all, fun!
To learn more about how mobile can drive your business, or to discuss your mobile strategy, contact us at 248-353-9030 or email

Mobile Apps

Happy Birthday, Dear App Store!

By: Bob Kernen

This past Sunday was the eighth anniversary of Apple’s launch of the App Store. It was originally part of an add-on to iTunes (remember that?) and designed to enable iPhone users to download small pieces of software (apps) that would provide all manner of tools and toys to make their iPhone more useful. Essentially, it did for the iPhone what iTunes had done for music – made it simple and easy to get what you wanted whenever you wanted it.

But the road to apps was circuitous for Apple. The iPhone first came out a year earlier in 2007. While it was a hit, it was not a breakthrough device for Apple. A big sticking point was Steve Jobs’ reluctance to allow third party app developers (like us) to create mobile applications for iPhone. In fact, Forbes contributor, Mark Rogowsky, calls it Jobs’ “biggest blunder.”

In his Steve Jobs biography, Walter Isaacson tells the story of how Apple board member Art Levinson phoned Jobs a dozen times to lobby on behalf of outside developers creating apps for the iPhone. The rest, as they say, is history.

Amazingly, Apple’s App Store launched with just 522 apps. Of those, 80% came with a price tag of at least 99¢. That trend has reversed as most apps now are free. As Statista’s dynamic chart shows, there are now 2 million mobile apps in the App Store. And Apple takes a 30% cut of all revenue produced in these apps.  For them – and for us – apps have turned out to be a pretty scalable business model.

The late Gordie Howe would agree this trajectory is even better than so-called “hockey stick growth.”

Once those apps were out in the world, people fell in love, and before long, Apple was selling its iPhone 3 with a catchy ad campaign pointing out that, “There’s an app for that.” And there was. Things quickly evolved from apps that mimicked the sound of flatulence to ones that told you just how many calories you were burning, or that made the concept of “getting lost” obsolete.

Of course it wasn’t long before Google jumped into the game with its Android platform, and we were off to the app races. Over the past eight years, everything from time spent (almost 41 hours a month) to apps/phone (30+) has grown as we’ve become increasingly addicted to our phones and their many little tools. Today, the Facebook app accounts for the majority of the social network’s traffic, and mobile streaming recently passed desktop streaming in total hours delivered.

jacapps owes its very existence to the existence of the App Store. It was just 100 days after this Apple launch that jacapps was born, after an employee of our sister company Jacobs Media (and an iPhone early adopter), Tim Davis, declared, “We should make apps.”

Those guys saw it coming through their Techsurveys that clearly showed the meteoric rise of smartphones. Of course, jācapps was launched during the worst of the Great Recession, so you have to give the Jacobs Media team kudos for vision and nerve.

And they helped us better understand the public’s addiction to apps in the “Goin’ Mobile” ethnographic study they put together with Arbitron that provided depth, clarity, and human stories to the growing app culture.

So clearly the mobile app is no flash in the pan. Apps are here to stay, and in fact, have influenced the way software tools are delivered everywhere. Beyond smartphones, apps are now ubiquitous (in fact jācapps has addressed this with our App Everywhere℠ program). We develop apps that work in your car, like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, on your television (like AppleTV), and even on your wrist (AppleWatch). Apps have thrived because they are efficient little problem solvers, and they keep evolving, and becoming ever more powerful and useful. It seems that today, everything’s an app.

And at any point in time, apps can become a runaway hit. Right now, the Pokémon GO app has an estimated 8 million downloads in the U.S. alone, netting $1.6 million in daily revenue. Yes, Apple (and Google) are collecting a lot of money from this phenomenon that just started a few short days ago but have become buzzworthy and very profitable.

So for us, the conversation of mobile apps is very much rooted in radio.  In the early years, many stations simply bought (or bartered for) the least expensive app they could find just to check off that digital requirement. Today, we’ve learned that a one-dimensional app or one that simply does not feature a great UX (User Experience) is tantamount to not having one at all.

Like everything else in the digital ecosphere, apps require a strategy, a strong connection to the brand, and a plan that includes marketing and revenue generation. With so many apps in both Apple and Google’s respective app stores, the bar has most definitely been raised.

The Apple App Store’s birthday means that jacapps will soon celebrate its 8th birthday, too. During this wild and woolly period, we’ve created more than 1,000 apps, and we’ve learned a ton about the space and what it means to the radio broadcasting industry.

So hats off to Apple for setting us all on this path. Yes, Virginia, there’s an app for that. The only question you have to answer (to quote another popular tech slogan) is: “Where do you want to go today?”

And I’ll be sure to use the Zippo Lighter app when jacapps’ birthday rolls around this fall.

If you want input on your mobile strategy, or want to learn more about monetizing your mobile assets give us a call at 248-353-9030, or email

Mobile Apps

5 Factors Driving the Price of Your App

By: Bob Kernen

We get asked all the time: “How much does an app cost?” And we always give the same answer: “As much as a car.” You see it all depends on what kind of car you want to drive. You can get a nice compact sedan for a few thousand dollars, but a luxury sports car with all the bells and whistles could easily run into six figures. It’s the same with apps.

There are a number of key variables that drive the cost of an app. A good app developer can work with you on those variables to help you create an app that accomplishes your business goals within your budget.

Here’s what’s driving that quote you get from your app developer:

  1. Customization
    A bespoke suit always costs more than one bought off the rack! If your business needs special features and functions that’s going to cost you. The good news is that usually you don’t need anything special. Chances are your app falls into one of a half-dozen categories for apps (media delivery, location guides, ecommerce, etc.) and so if you find the right developer, who has the expertise you need, and has built apps like what you need before, you’ll save a lot. Even if you need a few custom features, if you can pull most of your app’s functions off the shelf, you’ll be okay.
  2. Design
    It’s easy to get caught up in beautiful design, and certainly there are some really great looking apps out there (we’ve built some of them here at jācapps). But, speaking from personal experience, the apps I use every day – Facebook, Instagram, Michigan Radio, the NY Times and my favorite solitaire game – are less beautiful than utilitarian, and that’s as it should be. Getting caught up in design returns only limited benefits. Mobile apps aren’t like websites – there isn’t a lot of room for pretty designs and images. Easy user interface is the most important thing. If websites are epic poetry, mobile is haiku.
  3. Back-end
    Many clients call us up and say, “I need a mobile app,” but upon further conversation with them, they need a lot more than that. In most cases, whatever the functionality of the app, something needs to be powering it. It can be something as simple as a web content management system, or something as complex as a relational database, and sometimes both. Those elements are not technically the “app,” but they are a crucial part of the product. And they cost money to build.
  4. Integration
    Integration with other digital systems is another thing we work with a lot. The good news is that clients frequently already have some of those back-end elements mentioned above, and our job as the app developer is simply to integrate with them.
  5. Maintenance and upkeep
    Mobile never stands still. New devices, new operating system versions keep the space as dynamic as anything I’ve ever seen. We believe that part of our job as an app developer is to make sure that no matter what happens in the mobile space, your apps should keep running and up to date. So we usually charge our clients a small monthly maintenance fee to protect them from the whims of Google and Apple.

To learn more about what drives the cost of your mobile app, or to discuss your mobile strategy contact us at 248-353-9030 or email

Mobile Apps Radio

Big Changes to the AppStore Means Big Opportunities for Your Station

By: Bob Kernen

Last week in this space, we gave you some suggestions on how to use your native assets – your broadcast and website – to promote the download and usage of your apps. This week, we want to talk about what you can be doing in the AppStore (and Google Play store) to drive downloads of your app.

It turns out that our timing is great, as this week, in anticipation of Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple announced some changes to how things will work in the AppStore that could be potentially beneficial to app publishers.

The first thing Apple is changing is their review process. If you’ve worked with us, you know that it could take as long as two weeks from the time we submitted your app, to its approval and publishing in the AppStore. That could be a frustrating wait, as there was little rhyme or reason to the process and you were as likely to be surprised by a long approval as you were by a quick one. Company executive Phil Schiller has streamlined that process and apps should now be approved “within one to two days.” We’ve definitely noticed shorter approval times – though not yet anything like 48 hours.

The second big change is Apple’s announcement that it would cut the commission it takes on subscription apps. Typically, Apple takes 30% of the list price for paid apps, and 30% of the subscription as well. They also discourage use of services like PayPal and Venmo, as they are determined to get their cut. But now, after a subscription is active for one year, Apple will cut their share to 15%. It’s not huge, but shows a willingness by Apple to begin making the terms more favorable to app publishers.

The biggest change, however, is opening up the AppStore for publishers to advertise their apps. In the past, all promotion within the store was based solely on the AppStore editors’ preferences. Now, brands will be able to buy advertising space on the main page of the AppStore. This may not be all that efficient for more locally targeted apps like radio stations, but Apple will also be offering search ads that will bring your app to the top of the results list on relevant searches.

Finally, Apple has announced that its search algorithm is being improved making for better, more relevant results.

All of these changes will help reduce the frustration your audience experiences finding your app. To learn more about promoting your app or your mobile strategy contact us at 248-353-9030 or email

Mobile Apps

3 Keys to Effective App Promotion

By: Bob Kernen

We frequently get calls from our clients concerned about downloads or the usage of their app. The calls are usually similar – “We got a lot of downloads and usage when we first launched, but we’ve hit a plateau.” I always ask the same question: How are you promoting the app? Almost invariably, I hear the same thing: “Well, we promoted it heavily for the first few weeks, then moved on to other things.” There’s the problem.

Ask anybody who has an (non-radio) app and they’ll describe the pain of getting people to download and use their app. Typically, marketing costs for an app can run upwards of $1.50 per download. Radio has such an amazing advantage in this area. Namely, their 24/7 broadcast is an effective (and free if done properly) marketing channel. With the Nielsen digital SDK, and great opportunities to monetize your app, getting your listeners to download and use it can have real impact on your business.

Here are three key elements to successfully promoting your app:

Be creative

Asking listeners to download through a generic promo just doesn’t cut it. Have some fun with it! WCSX (Detroit) PD JT Tarrants and production director, Paul Buck have created a great and ever-changing set of promos that use classic rock songs (The Who’s “Goin’ Mobile,” sure, but tons of others, too) and their lyrics to remind listeners that there’s an app that allow them to take WCSX with them everywhere.

Be contextual

I learned back in my days at the History Channel that “visit our website for more information” is a total loser. Nobody’s moved to action by “more information.” But if they know what that information is and that it matters to them, then they act. So “download our app” is boring, but “if you missed the show this morning, listen to the podcast on our app” gets audiences moving. Also, calls-to-action like “photos from last night’s concert are on the app” give listeners a sense of urgency, and also create the kind of check-the-app habit that will drive more listening and more engagement.

Be timely

Urgency is a huge driver with mobile. So make sure you promote the app in ways that create a sense of what’s happening now. Use push messaging or other tools to keep you audience checking in with you on a regular basis. Then make sure that the content delivers.

To learn more about promoting your app or your mobile strategy contact us at 248-353-9030 or email

Mobile Apps

8 Steps to Make Sure Your App Succeeds

By: Bob Kernen

We saw an article from “Business Insider” with the disturbing headline, The App Explosion Is Over.  Since we have a lot invested in the space, it got our attention. Beyond the provocative headline, the point of the article is that growth in the mobile application space has leveled off – the average number of apps used by a typical smartphone owner has been around 27 for the past four years.

Concurrently, the article points out that the time spent using those apps continues to steadily increase, from a monthly average of 18:18 in 2011 to 40:51 today.

The app “explosion” may be over, but that’s okay. Explosions are messy and chaotic and cause a lot of damage.  What it really means is that consumers are more discriminating than ever, and to be one of those 27 apps, you will have to meet their high expectations for utility and performance. Your app must do the job it was “hired” to do well, day in and day out.

As the creators of around 1,000 apps over the past 7+ years, we’ve learned a lot about what makes a great one.

Here is what you need to do to succeed in this less frenetic, but more lucrative space:

  1. Have a strategy.  Sounds basic, but your app needs a strategy just like your station does. A mission for your app takes the guesswork out of mobile.
  2. Excel at one thing and deliver an outstanding user experience.  If the quality of your stream is suspect, or ad insertion is buggy, you are giving listeners a reason to go elsewhere.  Streaming is the number one reason radio apps are used, so make sure it’s loud, clear, and performs without interruptions.
  3. Provide reasons for every day use.  People use Facebook to check in to see what’s happening.  Your apps should provide similar value.  Publish and promote new content and events each day. Be more than a streaming utility. Be a part of your audience’s daily routine.
  4. Provide engagement.  Don’t think of the smartphone as just a receiver. It’s the digital hub of a listener’s life and can distribute content as well as receive.  Ensure that your app easily shares content like podcasts and videos on social media.  Make the app a way for listeners to communicate with your station personalities. Features like Open Mic and video sharing can feed audio and videos directly to you.
  5. Promote it.  Most stations promote their app for the first few weeks after it goes live and then move onto other things. This is a mistake. The app needs to be continuously promoted, and the message needs to be more than just “download our app to hear our station.”  Promote the tangible benefits of your app – “take us on vacation,” “listen at work,” or “use the alarm to wake up with our morning show.” 
  6. Streamline it.  Apps that deliver and don’t clutter themselves with unimportant functionality or “cool” design perform the best. 
  7. Metrics don’t lie.  Your stream, on-demand content, and social media will probably dominate.  Everything else resides in the “long tail.”
  8. Find your secret sauce.  What is unique about your station that can be transformed into a great app experience?  KISW in Seattle has created the “Magic 9-Ball” where users can shake the app to get answers to quirky questions like “Why I didn’t text you back.” 

Whether or not the app explosion is over, smartphones are the dominant way your audience accesses information.  Their phones are always with them, and your station should be too.

We can help you design a great app, adapt one you’re currently using, or help you with mobile app strategy, so don’t hesitate to connect with us.  The bar is rising, and it’s important that brands step up in the mobile app space.

If you want input on your mobile strategy, or want to learn more about monetizing your mobile assets give us a call at 248-353-9030, or email