Era of Apps!!

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Mobile apps are becoming very popular as people are increasingly using it for finding information, buying products/services or just for entertainment. Here, Varsha Verma finds out how mobile apps work for book and newspaper publishers. The app era is upon us. Growth of smartphones with mobile data has made it easy for users to access information on their mobile phones.

Mobile apps…an obvious
step ahead for publishers

A decade ago, print was the defacto medium for newspapers. Even while ePapers and website readerships were growing, today there is a huge amount of traffic from Smartphones. A study by The Economist Group shows that 62 percent of smartphone users use their device for news. Mobile reading is on the rise. “In such a scenario, it is important for publishers of both newspapers as well as magazines to have their mobile apps,” tells Sanjaya Gupta of 4Cplus (Internet) Company Ltd. In an emerging information and knowledge driven world, 4Cplus aspires to help businesses to use “Information Technology” to enhance productivity, bring about transparency, customer satisfaction and streamline workflows.4Cplus is working for some of the best newspaper publishers in India as well as overseas. In fact, their revenues from foreign and Indian publishers is almost 50:50.

Publishers want to increase readership. “What better way to gain reader loyalty than with an app, one of the most personal items… their smartphone,” adds Akal Sujlana of Clavis Technologies. “We’ve created apps for e-commerce, digital publishing, enterprises, education, government and social media. With our affiliates, we’ve made over 900 apps for many verticals. For the book industry, TABiT Books is one such app that gives publishers their personal eStore, eReader, Apps on iOS and Android – creating a personal connect with readers while strengthening their brand value,” tells Akal.

What works?

Sanjaya Gupta“There are two kinds of mobile apps that are getting popular – news mobile apps and vertical mobile apps. Of these, vertical mobile apps are more popular as they are specific to a particular industry/segment. Youngsters wish to read specific news like sports, fashion, etc on mobile rather than general news. People prefer newspaper for general news items,” tells Sanjaya.

“Innovation is the key…non-news items on the website and apps, which give a different flavour are attracting people,” he adds. When it comes to app development that includes an eStore, eReader and DRM, very few companies are doing white label native apps in India.”Many smaller players have folded up as there is lot of competition at the market front,” adds Sanjaya.

Alternate revenue model

Recently a report in the Hindu showed that 41 percent of all online sales take place via phones. “Apps give a better user experience that let readers buy books and content on their phones. While many Indian publishers are toying with the idea of having their own apps, mature markets already have proven trends with in-app purchase of books on phones and tablets,” tells Akal. Besides, publishers can earn through advertisements on these apps. “Bigger publishing houses have created their own advertising teams and getting ads directly from the advertisers. This is a good revenue model. One just needs to do profiling of readers directly to get ads,” adds Sanjaya.

Managing apps…

Akal SujlanaCreation of an app is not enough. You have to maintain and update it with the times just like a website. “Some of the newspaper publishers manage the content themselves, while a few prefer to have the service provider do it. For those publishers, we tie up with news agencies like PTI/ANI and upload relevant content periodically,” shares Sanjaya.

Talking about the book publishers, Akal shares, “Once an app is live, that’s when marketing begins. Driving traffic to the app, getting your loyal users to download it and then serving promotions which will entice them to buy and read e-books. Apps need to be dynamic so you submit and display new e-books regularly without having to download a fresh app each time. Regular maintenance, bug fixing, improving user experience is an ongoing activity.”

Technology…

Platforms in the market include Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, Microsoft’s Windows and Blackberry’s RIM. Each vendor has their own coding platform. “So from a development perspective, you need to have a separate iOS developer (who codes in C or SWIFT), Android developer (who codes in Java), and Windows developer (who has many options like C++, C#, VB, JS),” tells Akal.

While, Sanjaya says that at the end of each platform is the XML feeds which works.

Challenges….

Creating mobile apps for different platforms with a solid backend takes time and effort. “One challenge is that customers feel it’s as easy as making a website till they are educated about the details of what all goes into an app. A quick monetisation from apps is another challenge. Book publisher feel that they need to see immediate results. Changing that perspective to make them look at a five year plan takes quite a bit of effort,” tells Akal.

While, Sanjaya adds, “There are a number of devices. Hence, we need to test an app on atleast six android versions and different sizes of screens. Besides, in most cases, the top brass of the company sports the latest mobile and we need to test our app on the same as well, which is an expensive proposition.”

Talking more about challenges, Sanjaya shares, “There is lot of competition in the market and it is difficult to get projects. Smaller players can develop apps at low costs, therefore the project costs are coming down.”

Future of mobile apps…

Today the average person spends more than two hours a day on their smartphones. Just like various devices and entertainment factors have been fighting for your time, apps fight for your time since that is where you will be spending most of your time in the coming years. “Other than the commonly used apps like Facebook, Google Maps, Whatsapps and YouTube, users have apps that grab their interest in terms of personal utility. So there will always a good population that will use reader apps – especially with the growing e-book trend,” tells Akal.

“But, smaller players will die or there will be aggregators who will aggregate the content from various apps and present it to the user. This is because users will not download 100 apps on their mobile; they will just use the ones they like. Hence, the smaller players will vanish,” adds Sanjaya as a matter of fact.

On a concluding note…

As an industry, unlike newspaper and magazines, the book publishers in India are yet to get on the bandwagon of having their personal apps. “There is a stronger education required on the potential of mobile e-book reading. But over the next few years, we expect this market to grow. The first mover advantage will always be there in 2015. With rapid changing technology trends, you never know when the strongest of publishers becomes a dinosaur!” tells Akal.

“It is important for publishers to understand that Indian IT is at par with foreign counterparts and companies like 4Cplus have made their mark in foreign territories as well. So, its time they can actually look at solutions from the Indian IT companies,” concludes Sanjaya.

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