Today, magazines and newspapers aren't the only sources of news. In fact, the media sphere has evolved impressively. You can read posts on Medium, where anyone can share their stories, browse aggregators like SmartNews that pull together articles from different sites, and find digital news among other posts in your Facebook feed, just like two-thirds of Americans do. But all of these channels, especially social networks, are full of fake news and clickbait. Just remember Facebook’s fake news scandal and you’ll understand why over 71% of Americans don’t trust social media and only 36% of Americans trust newspapers.
People want news from trustworthy channels like well-established news agencies (BBC, The New York Times, and others). Engaging news apps created by such agencies can result in great income. In their report for 2019, The Guardian stated that 29% of their revenue comes from users of the Guardian mobile app. The New York Times reported over 3.3 million paid users that generated over $544 million in revenue in 2018. So if you’re looking to get more clients and more sales for your news agency, building a dedicated news app can be a great option.
In this article about newspaper and magazine app development, you’ll discover what challenges news apps face, how to overcome them with technology, and how to attract more clients and boost their loyalty — as well as get more money. Here we go!
What challenges do media outlets face?
Richard Gingras, the head of news and social products at Google, Niketa Patel, who’s in charge of news partnerships at Twitter, and other influencers of the news world name these main challenges for online magazines and newspapers:
Low engagement rates (few active users and short session durations). People prefer to discuss the news on social media rather than on a news site or within a news app.
Rising reader churn rate due to mistakes in articles that make it to print as writers and editors often squeeze within deadlines at the expense of quality.
Decreasing media income as users install ad blockers to get rid of annoying banner ads and focus on content.
To be successful, a news app can't be just another mobile news aggregator, but it has to be as engaging as social media, have high-quality content, and monetize in new ways. If your app doesn’t meet these criteria and you do nothing about it, there’s a high risk that you’ll soon lose your audience and money. But have no worries. We explain how to make a news feed app that will help you overcome these challenges.
How to attract more users and make them loyal?
Why do people discuss news on social media or independent bloggers and not on your site or in your app? Because with social networks, users get a substitute for a busy social life, news about their friends and idols, video and audio content, and games. And though competing with social media may at first seem like a suicide mission, there are things you can do better — or at least as well.
Ensure that your news app is easy to navigate
Navigation and content structure are still soft spots of social media apps. You can win more loyal users for your news app if your content is well organized:
Advanced search by author, category, and topic
News feeds with categories including breaking and popular news
Article collections and saved articles to read later
Socialize your news app
Make your news app as engaging as social networks to get more people to regularly use it. You can let your readers:
Rate content and comment on it with threaded replies
Follow influencers and news categories
Share quotes from articles
And don’t forget to supply push notifications and newsletters about new content by category and influencer to boost interest in your content.
Bring in personalization
By using machine learning technology like Amazon Personalize, you can provide feeds that are carefully tailored to individual readers. With such a technology stack, you can add a human touch and use social filtering to suggest content that was accessed by other people who read or watched the same news. SmartNews, for example, uses a machine learning algorithm that predicts which topics will interest readers.
Supply diverse content
On social media, you can find diverse audio and video content as well as live audio and video streams. Why not provide such content in your news app? Your application can display short documentaries, political debates, or business analysis. An online magazine about fashion can display makeup tutorials and fashion week commentaries.
One news app that has taken this approach is Newsy: Video News. The app provides entire news stories within two-minute (or shorter) videos and podcasts. If you choose to implement such functionality in your software, check out our guides on audio streaming and video streaming apps.
Virtual reality (VR) is another exciting opportunity for news apps. Instead of simply reading the news, people can get immersed in the story. Virtual reality lets viewers experience events like protests, conflicts, and sports championships almost like they were there. The New York Times has launched a VR app for streaming news that’s available for both iOS and Android devices. You can check out our article on how to make content for a VR app.
Respond to reader requests and complaints
Here’s the bad news: at most a dozen out of 1,500 American news agencies actually have a person assigned to respond to users’ comments and complaints. The reason for that is usually budget constraints, as not all news businesses are ready to hire an ombudsman, while big news businesses actually need a whole team of them. But the good news is that you don’t need multiple people to handle hundreds and thousands of user comments. You only need a help center to assist you.
Do your best to drive perfect content
The Daily Source surveyed journalists worldwide, and 40% of them said that their news organizations don’t have a person responsible for reviewing and assessing requests for corrections. One way to handle mistakes and corrections effectively is to use an autocorrect feature.
While articles go through a cycle of editing and corrections, readers still discover and report mistakes. To reduce the number of such mistakes , you can implement the Scribendi proofreading API to highlight and suggest corrections to texts in your admin panel before you publish.
Let users enjoy news anywhere and anytime
Say you’ve seen a cool article about new app design trends and want to read it on the plane or in some other area without Wi-Fi. With social media, you’d have to wait till you found an internet connection. But in your news app, you can provide offline mode and let users download content for later. In the Guardian app, for example, you can easily find the offline reading option:
Give people time killers
You’ve probably tried the instant games on Facebook that are really popular right now. People play these games when they have an extra 5 or 15 minutes and have nothing to do. That’s why it’s a good idea to add HTML5 games to your app. You can embed everything from 3D shooters to crosswords, like The Guardian does.
How to get more money for your news business?
Back when local news agencies distributed newspapers and magazines at kiosks, supermarkets, post offices, and bookstores, people could purchase a paper copy or subscribe to the newspaper and have it delivered to their porch.
Then everything changed with the internet: more and more people started to prefer reading online to reading on paper. To survive through the era of digitalization, news businesses had to build websites and run banner ads on them. For years, advertising was the main source of income for newspaper and magazine companies.
And here we are today, with people enabling ad blockers and disabling this revenue source. So what can you do?
News companies have recently gone back to the subscription model. Most of them have adopted a freemium model, limiting access to their content in different ways.
The Guardian, for instance, doesn’t allow free users to see longreads, real-time news, and broadcasts. In addition, all free users see ads in the app. But readers who purchase a subscription can enjoy unlimited access to all news content and ad-free reading. The offline mode in the Guardian app is also a feature available with the paid subscription.
Traditional digital ads like banners and pop-ups often seem invasive, and users are sick and tired of them. What’s more, many readers have grown so accustomed to ads that they don’t even notice them. That’s why traditional advertising with pay-per-click monetization is no longer profitable. But if you think that mobile advertising is dead, you’re wrong. It’s still a dominant monetization model for news websites and apps.
Ads can be presented in a meaningful and effective way. One way to make ads effective is by using native advertising. Native ads look like part of an app’s content, offering a smoother reading experience and stimulating people to pay attention to them.
The Huffington Post app, for example, runs ads along with its articles. The ads don’t stand out from the news content. The only thing that differentiates ads is a “sponsored” tag and a direct link to a product page. Forbes does this as well with its BrandVoice, a whole marketing and news platform that allows businesses to publish to the same streams as editorial materials, promote their posts, and see analytics on the promoted content.
What else do you need for your news app?
There are some other things you have to be aware of when you decide to build an app for your news business. Let’s see what they are.
Native or hybrid app
Before creating an app for your company, you’ll have to choose whether it should be a hybrid or native app. Hybrid apps seem like a better option at first — you create only one app for iOS and Android, saving money and time. But building native news applications for three platforms (the web, iOS, and Android) or a single native app will allow you to achieve:
better performance for non-text content
a highly responsive, customized, and user-friendly interface
top-class security for mobile apps
functions that are specific to the operating system (access to contacts, camera, location, and so on)
access to all native APIs
Though your initial investment in native apps will be higher, in the long run you might not have to fix user interface and performance issues. Moreover, you’ll have less security issues and will worry much less about your content being stolen and distributed without your permission.
Content management system
Most likely, you already use a content management system (CMS) to upload articles to your site with different text styles, pictures, videos, animations, and audio clips. But for a mobile app, you’ll also need a mobile CMS. Giants of the news industry like CNN, the BBC, and The New York Times have their own custom CMSs, and they’ve spent a pretty penny and a lot of time building them. You can either follow their example and build your own CMS or use a solution like Directus or Butter CMS.
This is the mechanism behind paid subscriptions that allows news companies to limit the amount of content available for free to, say, three articles per month (like The Washington Post does). The Washington Post has its own paywall developed by ARC publishing. Again, you can either create your own paywall like the big news players or choose among ready ones like Pool, Leaky Paywall, or Tecnavia.
News companies have come a long way, surviving digitalization, and now they’re fighting with social networks for the spot of primary news channel. But building a dedicated news app with an outsourcing development company can be the secret weapon to winning this fight. With a news app, you can provide user-friendly navigation and better structured content that’s personalized and diverse to make your users want to use your app more and more!