Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mobile app developer DoApp reaches one million downloads; iPad and ad network moves on the horizon

Mobile local news applications developer DoApp is justly proud of its rapid growth, reaching the one million download plateau, but the developer is moving forward with updates, development of iPad apps, and creating its own national mobile ad network to take advantage of the traffic created.

DoApp's Daily Herald iPhone app. →

With 125 iPhone apps already in the iTunes store, and a similar number available for other platforms such as Android, DoApp is one of the leading developers of applications for local news outlets -- whether they are newspapers or local broadcasters. Their latest app is for WCAX-TV, a Vermont broadcaster, but the company has recently announced agreements to develop mobile apps for Journal Communications (the iPhone app for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel can be found here), and the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

"One million downloads proves the viability of local news on the mobile platform," said DoApp CEO, Wade Beavers in a release. "We are continually signing news entities to our platform. With the growing popularity of smart phones, I expect our download and use numbers to double in 3-6 months. Local news on mobile will explode in 2010."

Back in February I spoke with Wade Beavers about his company and their plans for their mobile ad solution Adagogo. Yesterday I caught up with Beavers in a conference call which also included founder Joe Sriver, formerly a user interface designer with Google. I asked them what changes they have seen in the first few months of the year.

"We're seeing a huge growth in Android. Which is really an interesting story. We're now supporting 49 different Android devices," Beavers said.

In addition, DoApp is adding new features to their apps, including local traffic that utilizes Google Maps.

"We've added traffic into our apps… we looked at all the aggregators out there -- Google is doing something really cool, not only are they using the sensors that are part of what mobi.traffic and others use, they are also using the technology from your phone to know how fast flow is. We find it more accurate," Beavers said. "It also hits markets that haven't been done before. I live in Rochester … with Google they track it."

Newspaper and broadcast clients are offered the ability to opt-out of updates, but none have so far. "(When) we updated traffic, that was an update made available so we updated all 100 apps," Beavers noted.

Video from the WCAX-TV DoApp iPhone app.

Another thing the company is noticing is that they are being called on to assist with video. "We do a lot of encoding, what they call transcoding, for these folks…We are actually doing it for quite a few clients," Beavers mentioned. While it is something the company didn't think they would get involved in they were able to react to customer requests in a timely fashion.

DoApp iPhone apps have always incorporated user generated content. As I mentioned in my post in February, the Daily Herald app allows users to upload photos, videos and story leads directly from the app. I wrote at the time that "I would think this would be very handy in covering high school sports -- an area notoriously difficult and cumbersome for many newspapers. My first thought was that contacting the local high school booster clubs could identify contributors, they are always looking for ways to promote their teams."

I also pointed out that some of the apps had content issues arising from publishers not doing a great job of making sure their RSS feeds were correct and filled with new content. The situation though has improved greatly in the past couple months as publishers begin to jump on the mobile media bandwagon.

"People want local content, they want that information, but that app has to provide them what they are looking for," Beavers said. He added that the "average life expectancy of a game is two days . . . while, the average life expectancy of a news application is running in the range of 60 to 90 days."

"It points out that people are looking for local news, and the local news stations and newspapers still have a brand that are of value," founder Joe Sriver added.

DoApp's first iPhone apps hit the iTunes store back in late 2008. Then they were exclusively games and utilities.

"I think a lot of the early apps like the Whoppie Cushion, or the myLite Flashlight or Punch-O-Meter were initially apps to get us fluent in programming for mobile phones and everything else. I think we knew, even at that time, we were going to grow up and do something more serious or bigger," Sriver remembered.


iPad Internet traffic by state
according to Chitika Labs.

Since then the company has grown quickly, but the next logical step is the iPad.

"Huge demand. It's the number one question I get from any new client. Those stations and properties that have our iPhone apps are getting the calls saying 'do you have something for iPad?'" Beavers said. Much of the inquiries are coming especially from California based customers.

"Our strategy was we didn't want to develop anything until we had the product in our hand. Now that we've actually touched the product it's opened our eyes to what we could do," said Beavers.

In particular, the two executives at DoApp talked about the whole page turning metaphor inherent in both the magazine apps currently found for the iPad, and the books in iBooks and Kindle. "It's not a book, why make it look like a book," Sriver pondered.  "I think it may be designed out, or it should be."

"It's still digital," Beavers said. "USA Today acts just like a newspaper, is that really what people want? You talk to someone who is under the age of 30 and the metaphor doesn't make sense to them -- we have some challenges with that, more than anything."

The final piece of the puzzle, of course, is advertising. Like Outside.In, the news aggregation company that creates web pages with aggregated local content, DoApp would like to see local papers and broadcasters more aggressive in selling local mobile advertising. When I spoke with the head of biz dev at Outside.in, Camilla Cho, she told TNM of their plans to create a sales team capable of selling national advertising for the aggregated local news pages they were creating for the newspaper clients.
"Everybody is trying to figure out how to sell digital, meaning digital local." -- DoApp's Wade Beavers
DoApp is looking at moving in this direction, as well. "Everybody is trying to figure out how to sell digital, meaning digital local," Beavers said.

"We're excited because our next update is really going to help the properties sell advertising," Beavers said. "We're looking at an interstitial ad when the app opens up . . . which isn't too obtrusive, we want to minimize that."

"The other thing we really want to emphasize, too, we want to start seeing these apps sell local. Ninety percent of the traffic we have for advertising right now is nothing but national ad campaigns," said Beavers.

The interstitial ad position should be something local broadcasters and newspapers could sell easily -- sort of like a single-sponsor ad solution, since the spot is so prominent.

In the meantime, however, DoApp plans to bring on some sales talent to develop their own national mobile advertising network. Within 12 weeks, Beavers believes, DoApp should be ready to roll out a national ad platform, as well as an advertising self-serve component.

"The thing that we offer, we offer a fantastic app, a great ad network, and, oh, by the way, we have all this traffic we can offer advertisers," Beavers said. (At which point I would have been smart to pass along my resume, right?)

It is good to see a company enthusiastic about both the mobile space, and the need to help publishers and broadcasters monetize those efforts. Like other companies assisting media firms entering the mobile media space, they are finding that traffic is growing at an extremely quick pace and they see the value of that traffic as the engine that will spur profits.