Journerdism

Will Sullivan's guide to global mobile, tablet & emerging tech ideas

May 23, 2015
by Will Sullivan
0 comments

Alhurra app redesign wins Award of Excellence from Society for News Design

Alhura HomeThe Alhurra Android and IOS mobile and tablet apps were recently recognized by the Society for News Design’s Best of Digital competition with an Award of Excellence in the “Redesign” category.

The Alhurra app redesign, executed by the ODDI Mobile Team in partnership with MBN Digital, featured revamped branding and an interface featuring larger, bolder images and typography, a new tablet-optimized interface, a live video streaming channel, enhanced push notifications and redesigned user-generated content offering audiences tools for submitting video, photos, audio and text directly to the news organization in breaking news situations.

“This award is the result of an organization filled with amazing content partners, a team of fantastic designers and developers and a QA and support team that executes excellence and focuses on every detail to create a great experience for Alhurra audiences,” said Will Sullivan, Director of Mobile for the BBG. “SND is the big dog in news design and we are so excited for all of our hard work to be recognized in the industry alongside pioneers like NPR and The New York Times.”

“We are extremely proud of this recognition of the SND Awards. We always strive for excellence when it comes to generating content and delivering it to our audience,” stated the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) President Brian Conniff. MBN manages and operates Alhurra Television.

The Society for News Design (SND) is an international organization for news media professionals and visual communicators who create print, web, mobile publications and products. The Best of Digital Design is an annual competition that rewards skill, innovation and high-quality digital journalism. The competition was launched in 2002 and invites entries from all news sites published anywhere in the world.

(This is another of my blog posts from the BBG Innovation Series blog that I’m cross-posting here to keep an archive and share knowledge and brag a little.)

May 23, 2015
by Will Sullivan
0 comments

Alhurra and VOA Java apps prove wildly successful growing audience quickly in emerging markets

Alhurra Java apps

While the mobile and media industry loves to over-hype fleeting technologies like Google Glass and Meerkat, serving the BBG audiences in emerging markets requires that we focus on user experience and building for not just the elite — and that often means building for very old or low-tech devices like Java phones.

Over the past few years, the ODDI Mobile team has launched and evolved the award-winning flagship fleet ofmobile and tablet applications available for the most high-end devices on Android and Apple IOS (as well as supporting old versions of the operating systems back to Android OS 2.3 and IOS 5), and this Winter we launched an improved lineup of low-end device products on Symbian and Java phones to round out our technology offering. One thing we didn’t count on when launching the Java apps was the swift adoption and audience growth — in some markets faster than more modern smartphone products.

In Middle East and African markets we’ve seen ‘hockey-stick’ growth surpassing the weekly installation rate of our larger, flagship smartphone apps. For instance, Alhurra for Java phones already more than more than 50,000 downloads across all the app store markets in less than 3 months since we publicly launched them.

VOA’s Java app has also done exceptionally well in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan and Nigeria — and we recently received a shout out from the BiNu store for the app’s surge and top rankings in African and Middle East markets. RFE similarly does well in Iran.

Not bad for a very low-tech, text-and-image experience, but that’s the reality of these media environments, mobile networks and what these audiences need.

Try out all the Java mobile apps for the 6 BBG brands for yourself:

Learn more about the awesome ODDI Mobile team’s app products at http://apps.bbg.gov/

(This is another of my blog posts from the BBG Innovation Series blog that I’m cross-posting here to keep an archive and share knowledge.)

May 23, 2015
by Will Sullivan
0 comments

How Alhurra drives more mobile, desktop, social shares and app installs, with just a small, strategic ‘Push’

MBN Digital Team

The pioneering mobile-first MBN Digital Team

The digital team at Alhurra has found an effective way to easily, free and smartly grow their audience from content they are already producing: Push Notifications.

They sent their first push when Nelson Mandela passed away in December of 2013, and continue to do it at the present time and over time have found that besides driving people to read stories more in the award-winning Alhurra apps, but sending pushes they can generate surges in mobile web, desktop web and social media traffic to stories they chose to push, as well as drive new app installations.

Below is one of the best and unique examples from Alhurra, one of the most digitally-first minded BBG entities, proving a story that did “ok” when it was initially published on the web can explode in popularity 2 days later on the mobile website and social media — from a simple nudge via their mobile app Push Notification.

Alhurra published this story about how ISIS makes its money on August 25th:
http://www.alhurra.com/content/where-isis-get-its-funding-from/256556.html

Two days after publishing it on originally on the web, they sent it out by Push Notification through the Alhurra app and it drove:

  • 112,000 more pageviews on mobile
  • 25,000 more pageviews on desktop
  • There were more than 12,700 social shares for the story on Facebook and Twitter

How did they start engineering these social and mobile web surges? 
Alhurra mobile app promotion1- First, create the audience expectation by being consistent and regularly deliver value with your pushes. The Alhurra web team sends out a Push Notification for a relevant and important news story at a strategic time during the day when the audience is awake and active (Some days they’ll send several Push Notifications to different stories, especially as important news breaks on busier days or as a huge story is updated with new information). The critical part of this is to be consistent and make sure you’re not just pushing every story to push stories. They should be important and interesting stories that deliver value for your audience or they will turn off notifications. Push is a very personal tool, so be careful and mindful of your audience’s needs, interests and time of day.

2- Alhurra App audience members get the breaking news Push Notification on their device and read the story in the Alhurra application.

3- If the audience members like the story or think others would be interested, they easily share it on their social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, and through email using the Alhurra application.

4- The audience member’s friends and followers then see the story, interact with it and potentially share it too, creating an amplifying effect. Bonus incentive: Also, if audience members open the story on a mobile web browser, they will be prompted to install the Alhurra App, which also helps grow the App audience.

5- This snowballs and helps drive more and more traffic by social media, mobile web sharing and app installs — all originating from Alhurra’s smart and very engaged Push Notification strategy, and also driving new app installs to interested users.

Bonus Alternative Method for Re-Engaging App Users: Another way to get users to re-engage with the application after installing it is promoting the apps Home Screen Widgets, which allow users to get the latest headlines from their preferred service easily, without launching the app. Users can even customize which category sections and how frequently the Home Screen Widget should update. Android is currently live and supports this and in the Umbrella 3.1 version of the apps, we’ll add support for automatically feeding our news into the Apple Notification center widgets for Apple devices, further expanding the reach of the BBG entity’s content.

All of the BBG entities (and anyone building apps) can learn and optimize their workflow for this tool to create a force multiplier of audience growth. Learn more about the BBG mobile app products at:
http://apps.bbg.gov

ODDI Mobile Release Manager, Bo Kostro, and Billy Sabatini, Marwan Sadiq and the MBN Digital team helped with the creation of this best practice report. 

(This is one of my blog posts from the BBG Innovation Series blog that I’m cross-posting here to keep an archive and share knowledge.)