The association publishing world occupies a unique space. The AM&P annual meeting, held this past June in Washington, D.C., provided the opportunity for those participating to take place in something meant just for their occupation.
Associations are always looking to improve member experience and technology provides many routes to do so. In one of the AM&P sessions, “Where Technology Can Take You – and Your Reader,” a panel of technology experts shared their expertise and addressed concerns to help associations understand which technologies should be on their radar – and why.
The afternoon session was moderated by Erin Pressley, the Vice President of Education and Media at NACS, an international trade association that represents convenience and fuel retail. AM&P brought in three panelists: Robert Flynn, CEO of Aggregage, Inc., with experience in many forms of digital media including traditional media companies and startups; Johnny Kaldor, the Founder and CEO of PugPig, an award-winning mobile engagement platform that works with major publishing brands; and Keanan Koppenhaver, CTO of Alpha Particle, a digital consultancy that frequently works with publishers.
Mobile publishing apps
Panelists quickly established the importance of mobile – 78 percent of publishing content is consumed via mobile. Apps are a key part of the mobile strategy – in the U.S. 87 percent of user time on a mobile device is spent with apps.
However, publications haven’t seen the results they want. They’ve been struggling to engage readers with apps. According to the panelists, this may be a problem with how they’re reading. People don’t interact with an app the way they’d read a magazine. They won’t read it front to back.
Associations should focus on creating a good reader experience in the app. That may mean a different way of storytelling than with the magazine.
Mobile web or app?
When asked whether associations should use a mobile website or an app, the panelists suggested meeting the reader where they want to be. A mobile website allows for quick access, but an app can create a deeper experience.
You could also take a cue from social media sites: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offer both mobile websites and apps, but their apps provide a much better experience than the mobile website as it completely focuses the reader on its content, with minimal outside distraction.
What’s working? Where should the association go?
Panelist Keanan suggested doing micro projects to experiment and see what works. Flynn suggested setting a solid strategy of what you’re trying to accomplish. Kaldor recommended looking at game developers to understand where things are going next – they’re often at the forefront of technology trends.
Don’t write off a trend just because it’s not the obvious choice. Voice technology is becoming a more widely-used platform to deliver content via device and publishers can take part. The Economist app has the ability to read articles out loud, so the audience can listen on the go in more of a podcast format.
People don’t like change. The panelists warned that some people will always complain when there’s a change. App replacements often get horrible reviews because complainers are always the loudest and first to react. However, later surveys often show high satisfaction ratings. So don’t despair if people don’t like your change at first.
It will work!
Audience members asked why some apps just “don’t seem to work” and the panelists reiterated that mobile, especially apps, are a different experience. Publications need to sort out how to make digital work in a content ecosystem. The experience is different. Content read on mobile is about a stolen moment of the day. Print is more of a luxury you sink into. If an app merely publishes PDFs, it’s a lesser experience than print and it’s not providing content that matches the platform.