Just responsive or responsive + mobile app: What’s the ideal outreach strategy for online publishers?

Although responsive design has become a de facto standard for websites, web publishers and content aggregators continue to be undecided about their outreach strategy. This is because responsive websites do not guarantee optimal traction with mobile audience, and therefore businesses are forced to consider the costly proposition of building native mobile apps – in addition to a responsive website.

In this post we will talk about the need for building mobile apps from the stand point of content and its utility. We will provide an approach by which web publishers can evaluate their content, and determine the need for native mobile apps.

Our approach examines content from the perspective of purpose and convenience.

Diagram: Evaluate your content from the perspective of content and convenience

Purpose

The purpose of content is determined by the question, “In what way is content used by people?”

And, the answer typically falls in either of the following categories:

  • Find
  • Research

Find

Websites which are recognized as trusted source of knowledge e.g. Wikipedia, About.com, HowStuffWorks etc – are typically used for finding information. For example, people check out Wikipedia or HowStuffWorks when looking for basic information on something like internal combustion engine or DSLR technology. And, for latest news on current happenings, entertainment or technology people head to their favorite news/magazine website.

When it comes to finding information, people have their own favorites. And, a mobile app makes it easier to find information via one’s favorite knowledge/news source.

Wikipedia’s official Android app scored 10 million plus downloads since its launch in February 2012. And, reputed publishers like CNN, Fox News,TechCrunch and HowStuffWorks have gained many loyal readers through their mobile apps.

Stats: Mobile apps are used widely for finding information

If your website is helping people find information they need, and if you already have a loyal user base (or rapidly expanding user base), then an investment in mobile apps is definitely called for.

Even small publishers catering to local/niche audience, can boost loyalty through mobile apps. By deploying mobile apps, publishers of local information websites, business directories and real estate sites can establish themselves as a preferred source of local information.

Mobile app - Life In Hoboken

Research

Statistics show that mobile devices (especially tablets) are increasingly used for personal, academic and business research. A study by eMarketer reveals that in US – 58.7% of activity on smart phones and 73.9% of activity on tablets involves online search – implying that more and more people are using mobile devices for online research.

Publishers who specialize in creating content for researchers, for example product reviews, industry analysis, niche specific information etc – are likely to do well without mobile apps. This is because while conducting research – people prefer to collect information from multiple sources, which makes mobile apps impractical for online research. B2B mobile use infographics – published by Scott Design Inc, reveal that in B2B sector mobile browsers are preferred over apps for product/service research, reading reviews, feature/price comparison.

Mobile browsers are used for research not mobile apps

Convenience

With respect to content, convenience implies ease of accessibility and it is determined by the question “Which situations call for easy access and instant delivery of content?”

And, the answer typically falls in either of the following categories:

  • On the move
  • Look-up

On the move

In comparison to responsive websites, mobile apps are faster and more convenient to use. And, the convenience factor becomes all the more important when content is consumed ‘on the move’. Mobile apps make it easier to access content on the go, because apps are extremely user friendly and they can fetch data instantly even over inconsistent network.

Many companies in the travel sector have put out mobile apps, and statistics show that a significant amount of travel research and bookings are done through mobile apps.

Number of people using mobile apps for travel research and travel bookings

For publishers who specialize in creating content for ‘on the move’ audience such as: restaurant/nightlife info, local attractions guide, movie showtimes, event information etc – mobile apps are a necessity.

Look-up

We often look-up information on the fly, information such as: the going price of gadgets, schedule of television channels, real-time stock quotes and so on.

Mobile apps provide a convenient way for looking-up information on the fly, and people prefer to look-up information via their mobile devices (using apps), even when a desktop/laptop computer is close at hand. By June 2012, more than 50% of American smart phone owners had installed shopping apps, and statistics indicate that Americans smart phone users are accessing shopping apps at an average of 17 times per day.

Hence, publishers specializing in creating ‘look-up’ worthy content, stand a chance to increase traffic and profitability by investing in mobile apps.

Please let us know your thoughts on our approach to choosing between ‘just responsive’ or ‘responsive + mobile apps’. Give us your take on this burning issue, and let us know if our approach has helped you in any way.