Some media companies are trying mobile content strategies a little outside of the box ― or, at least outside of what they would produce in the print or on the Web. One such publisher is MediaNews Group, which recently launched an iPad app for the San Jose Mercury News that blends mobile, user-generated content and location to truly take advantage of the mobile environment for content and advertising.
The publisher teamed up with Tackable
to create the TapIn Bay Area app
, a mobile social network for news
that allows users to submit news from wherever they are. Tackable founder Luke Stangel told GigaOm he hopes the app convinces local newspapers that they can benefit from both the explosion of mobile app usage and the news-generating abilities of ordinary citizens. The platform plans to work with other newspaper partners in the future.
“Our ultimate goal is to run a platform that is on the desktop, mobile and tablet, incorporating super high quality layers of live, location-aware information, partnering with major news organizations, brands and others,” Stangel told me in a recent email. “It's an ambitious goal, and we're still on square one.”
A new model for mobile content
Jeff Herr, vice president of digital for the California Newspapers Partnership, a division of MediaNews Group, said the newspaper was looking to engage users and develop local channels that would bring people together where they live ― “basically a better approach to geo-based networking at the local level.”
While the group's newspapers already have replica versions
of their print content and news-feed-based apps, Herr said the company saw an opportunity for a format that offers more of a lifestyle-based community channel.
“It's a new take on what a magazine might evolve into,” he said in a recent phone interview.
That goal led the media company to Tackable, which had the game mechanics and geolocation capabilities to serve as the base for the TapIn Bay Area app. The gaming capability comes in handy because the newspaper wanted the ability to reward users who submit news, through giveaways or points toward the subscription to the app. (While the app is now free, they intend to charge for it in the future.)
It's been debated whether publishers should develop mobile apps
in-house or go to an external partner (and, let's face it, no one knows for sure what the best route is). Herr said in this case they wanted a platform that was already familiar with those types of features. "Instead of hiring three relatively senior people, we just earmarked those dollars to help underwrite the development work with Tackable,” he said.
The geolocation element not only serves as a network of community news, but provides the newspaper with a monetization opportunity in the form of location-based deals
. The newspaper started by reaching out to a handful of advertising clients to offer deals.
The marketing program has been successful so far, even when accounting for the novelty of the platform, Herr said. More specifically, the click-through rates of 11 percent is about 150 times higher than click-throughs on a regular banner ad.
Could the TapIn Bay app be a future location-based model for more local publishers to monetize mobile?