To App Or Not To App …..

Does your radio brand have an app that’s available to mobile device users?  Should you have one?

There are single-station mobile apps.  There are corporate apps that give you lots of choices of stations to listen to.  There are even broader apps, like TuneIn Radio, which lets you access most radio stations around the world, but also has a “Local Radio” option so you can find any station in your area.

This doesn’t even include other, non-broadcast music apps like Pandora, a brand worthy of respect but not the fear that some radio people seem to have about it.  But I digress!

The old 80/20 rule applies to apps.  Mobile users download a bunch of apps, especially when they first discover how to do so.  How many of those apps regularly get used?  I’m sure you’re not surprised to know that a few apps on each device get used far more than the others do.

So for a brand-exclusive mobile app to be successful, and get frequent usage, you have to find and address those people who:

  • are so passionate about your brand they don’t see the benefit in being able to listen to anything else;
  • are inclined to spend a significant amount of time listening to you on their mobile device; and
  • have the platform for which you are issuing your app (i.e., iPhone, Droid, BlackBerry, whatever).

The big corporate apps like Clear Channel’s iheartradio and CBS’s Radio.com would seem to have an advantage here … because they offer more choice and variety.  Both of these let you search by location, so I was able to find a variety of local radio stations on both apps.  With iheartradio, I also got a bunch of other streaming choices that weren’t exclusive to my city, but did give the appearance of greater variety.  With the Radio.com app, I got the four CBS stations here in town and nothing else.  However, both companies … and others … clearly see the need to keep growing in terms of the digital choices they give people.  One would think that these mobile apps will continue giving a more robust, more choice-oriented experience than a single-station app does.

However, the unlimited aggregator would seem to have the upper hand.  The simpler and more uniform these devices and software get, the more one has to believe that people gravitate towards choices that give them more control and variety.  After all, what if I listen to your country station … but also the news/talk station across the street for traffic and weather … and the variety hits station down the block for fun on the weekends?  I’m going to like having one place to easily find all those stations, whether it’s on my radio, my computer or my phone.  Already, I find that when I want news, I’m going to my Google News app instead of any of the TV and newspaper brand apps I’ve downloaded.

In other words … you making your exclusive app available to me is probably not going to change my behavior, even if I actively use other apps on my phone.

What it comes back to, ultimately, is the benefit to the listener.  The big benefit to your fans is that you are easily available everywhere!  Remember, you’re not just a transmitter owner; you’re now a brand manager and content provider, brightening people’s lives by being the best type of radio brand that you are.  That means no matter whether they’re listening over the air, hearing you online, meeting you on site at appearances, or now listening on their phone.

Long story short, I’m not sold on single-station apps.  I think they’re a novelty item.  Unless we see them all become uniform in features and quality, I’m convinced people will move in the direction of more choice and more variety in how they choose to listen to audio entertainment on their mobile devices.

Finally, a quick note about presentation and marketing.  Too often, you hear stations say something like, “Download our new iPhone app!”

Instead, if you’re promoting your mobile app, the emphasis needs to be, “We’re available everywhere … on your radio, on your computer, and now on your mobile device, too, with the new Radio 109.1 app … download it today.”   In other words, don’t just promote your app.  Most people won’t care.  Instead, promote that you’re making it even easier to get what you offer however they choose to listen … which now includes their smartphone.

Let’s discuss how this affects what YOU do next … click my name to learn how to contact me and we can continue this conversation …

Chris Miller

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