Push, a mobile app for small news orgs, to be explained at 2017 LION Summit
By Matt DeRienzo | Sep. 24, 2017
Christopher Guess, a Reynolds Journalism Institute fellow working on "Push," a mobile app for small news organizations, will be among the speakers at the 2017 LION Summit, the country's largest gathering of local independent online news publishers Oct. 26-28 at Columbia College in Chicago. We asked him for a preview.
1. What is the problem you are trying to solve with development of Push?
As a small newsroom, getting into a reader's daily routine is very difficult. Retaining daily or weekly readership is very difficult if you only rely on people to remember to come to your site. Using social media to promote your work is expensive and time-consuming. Push notifications can help get around this. However, it's only possible to use via a mobile app (web pushes don't really work and are a very young technology).
The rub is that to get an app is almost certainly outside of any small- or medium-sized news organization's budget and expertise. Push solves that problem by making it cheap and fast.
2. What unique issues do small news organizations face when it comes to mobile publishing and readership?
Small news organizations are limited by staff, money, and expertise. They may want an app, but they don't have the money to pay a developer to build one from scratch, they don't have the expertise to manage the development of one, and they don't have the staff to maintain it.
3. Where do you think we stand on the question of whether to go the app route or focus on a single mobile-responsive or mobile-optimized website? What are the pros and cons of investing in apps?
I think you need both. You need a mobile-optimized site so that when people share an article their friends can reasonably read it on on their iPhone. You need a mobile app for readers who want to stay up-to-date on your content. Retaining readership and returns on a desktop site has proven difficult enough over the last decade, and on a mobile device it's even more difficult to convince someone to type in your URL every day.
Mobile apps provide a faster, cleaner, and lower-bandwidth experience. Push caches stories and photos offline, allowing consumers to read the stories even if they're out of data range. In this caching, the images are resized and the text is standardized so the stories load faster on mobile devices, especially in rural areas with low bandwidth. Mobile apps allow for push notifications, letting you reach your users any time that you wish, and not relying on Facebook or Twitter algorithms to surface them when they feel like it.
4. What is your advice or admonition to publishers who are not focusing on mobile because they're overwhelmed by the development involved?
Come talk to me. Push is a system that's designed to be up and running in days, not months, and to be hands-off in production. Unless you want to send a push notification out your editors should never even have to remember the app exists.