While some publishers greet the rise of the app environment as a potential game-changer for publishing, others are concerned about the costs of developing separate iPad/iPhone apps, Android apps, Websites and Facebook apps while maintaining the quality standards of the print product. Hearst has incubated a startup to prove that multichannel publishing can be both cost-effective and profitable.
LMK, which stands for "Let Me Know" is "a startup within a large enterprise," says Christina Bender, senior director of product and project management at LMK.com. The division is fast, nimble, and taking a unique approach to the app environment. Instead of trying to figure out how to make apps for Hearst's brands, the group has figured out how to develop apps in a scalable and cost-effective manner.
The key to LMK is its investment in technology. The company has developed a means of creating iPhone/iPad apps, Android apps and Facebook apps via its content management system, Drupal. Bender described how one LMK team member, using a collection of RSS feeds, could create an LMK app on all three environments in under an hour. With apps for Alex Rodriguez and Lady Gaga, LMK needs to be able to create apps quickly and easily to execute their "long tail" app strategy. These apps are priced at $0.99 to $1.99 and are very niche. So, the time and financial investment need to be kept low.
One of the more surprising elements of the app strategy of LMK was the use of Facebook metrics. When LMK first launched their apps, they were priced at $1.99. Recognizing that LMK was a new brand and simply aggregating content, the team tested an aggressive price point and then pulled the price back to $0.99 on some apps. One of the determining criteria on which apps stayed at $1.99 was the metrics that the team collected from LMK's Facebook app. It's important to remember that Facebook has over 500 million users, far more than own devices with Apple's iOS or Google's Android.
While LMK used Drupal, other CMS products could be configured in a similar fashion. In doing some research on the topic, I found specific work being documented on many open source systems such as Drupal, Joomla and WordPress. However, they are all using API's to create this ability. So, there's no reason why another CMS vendor couldn't do the same.
The advantages of using a single publishing system to power multiple app channels is significant. Instead of spending thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars on an app for each environment, publishers can make an investment that positions their brand(s) for long-term growth.
If you are interested in turning your CMS into an app builder, have your developers take a look at this video which details how to build apps for iPad, iPhone or Android using Drupal. Also, a module has been created for developing Facebook apps in Drupal, and it is open sourced. Much of the information is applicable to other CMS products as well, and this should not be a reason to think of switching to Drupal. CMS decisions are far more complex that that.
Here's a demo of that initiative. You can see how video, picture galleries, blogs and users can all be pushed into the app environment.