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Is It Time for an App? - 5/10/2011 -

Want your members to spend more time reading your digital publications? Consider a mobile app for your magazine or newsletter.

By Beth Mirza

At an Association Media & Publishing Roundtable discussion earlier this year on Digital Editions and Mobile Apps, Texterity’s president, Martin Hensel, said readers feel a more personal connection to their mobile devices—iPhones, iPads, and Android phones—and spend more time with them than they do their desktop computers. Desktops are for work, Hensel said, while mobile devices are for personal time.

Mobile apps "follow reader engagement,” he said.

Another good reason to consider a mobile app: An association can charge a fee for its app, make it a member benefit, or ask for a free registration—and thus obtain the user’s name and contact information for subsequent follow-up.

Although building a custom app can be expensive, Hensel pointed out that "print economics are marginal and getting worse.” With an app or digital edition, association publishers can add pages of content for "free” and can entice advertisers with supplemental content and deep links to products.

Kim Kett, director of business development for Texterity, said an association’s digital publication can boost member retention and engagement. Some key points to know when considering the design of your own mobile app:

The average digital publication or mobile app user is 46 years old.

Digital publications/mobile app users are more educated, wealthier, and more likely to live in an urban area.

These users are more likely to live in the United States.

Some associations use the launch of mobile apps as part of a re-engagement campaign for lost members, Kett said. They push the app out to former members to say "look what we’ve done since you’ve been gone,” she said.

Associations that offer mobile apps also should offer web editions, Kett said, so that members who don’t use mobile devices can still get the content.

What that content can be is limited only by the editors’ imagination: newsletters, conference summaries, books, slideshows, video, and other multimedia elements. Mobile apps "improve the weight and value of an issue to the reader,” Hensel added.

Beth Mirza is senior editor of HR News for SHRM Online. Association Media & Publishing thanks her for volunteering to cover this roundtable discussion for our members who were unable to attend.


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