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App Discoverability - Q&A

Yesterday, Rebekah Billingsley presented an InPublishing ‘Top Tips Webinar’, entitled ‘How To Improve The Discoverability Of Your Digital Magazine’. In the Q&A session that followed Rebekah’s presentation, we ran out of time before all the questions could be answered. Here, Rebekah provides a follow-up Q&A.

By Rebekah Billingsley

Q. Any tips if it's a free pub?

A. The discoverability tips are the same whether paid or free in the main. Obviously, the fact that you are free is the biggest advantage over paid so I would draw attention to that in the key marketing areas: your search result image could carry a free banner; try using in your key words and see if it increases results and ensure when you mention it in your app description page, that you balance free with premium (there are a lot of terrible free apps out there) and highlight that free is free; no in-app purchase or catches when they download you.

Q. Are you losing anything by doing your own ASO as opposed to approaching an agency to undertake it on your behalf?

A. The pros and cons to this are the same in any area of your business. An agency will bring expertise and dedicated resource to the table. They’ll have tested and honed their knowledge over many brands and verticals so you don’t have to and they will know the latest tricks, updates and changes within the industry. They’ll also have the budget to purchase any tools and services to track and analyse their every move. In return for the service, you become part of their roster and limited service. You also end up investing your money to further their knowledge and create a division between this form of marketing and the rest of your business. You also potentially limit the results to pre-agreed levels. It is really down to your resource versus your ambition and how your agency guarantees an ROI.

Q. Could I highlight the fact that my apps are ad-free and is there any evidence that this works positively for consumers?

A. It really depends how frustrating the ads are in similar apps available for the consumer. I haven’t personally seen any apps to date which make me wish for an ad-free version across any vertical. I’m not sure the market is at such a saturation point yet, that ads are providing a conflict for customers. As always, the balance of advertising and positive customer experience is key and there is no reason why, if done properly, you would need to remove this revenue option from your business, certainly at this stage.

Q. Do big publishers and multiple title owners naturally have greater advantage in cross-promoting new apps visibility than individual publishers?

A. There is little escape from this; their relationships with the store providers are better and their marketing budgets are bigger. There is nothing democratic about the store environments right now; the dailies and weeklies also chart higher due to frequency, that’s why it’s important to focus where you can on ASO.

Q. Our title is unique in that it's an annual and comes out once a year in December, it's a Formula One annual but we have a sought after archive which we are digitising into apps and eBooks. How can we improve our app and historic editions discoverability?

A. There are lots of ways to approach your product. Without knowing much about it, I’d be looking at a native app, themed content, books and a powerful back end which allows you to cross promote content. I’d also recommend reviewing your online commercial model and tying it in for a ‘value added’ subscription package. And going for something super-interactive that Apple’s wants to promote.

Q. How will this differ if the bulk of my readership is on Android - Amazon App Store and Google Play? (Because my readers will be teenage and early 20s and can't afford Apple.)

A. ASO is much the same on all of the platforms however, if you need to make money, you need to review the products you are creating for that audience and find ways to engage. Advertising may be an interesting solution for you to consider in those markets; advertisers are really struggling to find effective content vehicles for the teen market. If you have a great teen offering, Amazon for one may be very interested in running some promotion editorially with you.

Q. Is there a difference to the success of the title if it is free or paid for?

A. It’s completely dependent on the product, audience, brand, content, quality and so on. For example, in simple mobile gaming, Freemium is working miracles, but gamers are prepared to pay an upfront sum for Minecraft. Going free is fairly risky at this stage for a few reasons; free may communicate lacking quality or a ‘con’ further down the line of in-app purchase, and without significant ad revenue, it means a drain on your company every time you need to update the app (for example when a new software update comes along).

Q. Our title was previously discoverable in the 'What's Hot' section; can you tell us what data is used to show these?

A. The algorithm driving the charts is a top class secret. We think we know the main components (downloads, purchase, frequency, ratings, time spent) but we don’t know in what measure. This protects customers from clicks farms, hackers and so on. It’s possible that you were in the top 120 chart or a New and Noteworthy pick the week before; you could look at App Annie for the period before and dig further. Lucky you, though.

Q. Will iOS8 change the 'rules' of discoverability?

A. The only things I know of at this stage which may aid is bundling (between titles on the same developer account only) and video embeds on the app page. I haven’t had any rumblings of more positive news...

Q. Do you believe in cross-media promotion, ie. using print magazine to promote an app?

A. It depends on your strategy and your audience; this determines your marketing tools and messaging. Some publishers want to protect print at all costs and only promote bundle packages. Some only want to convert international subscribers at this stage to save costs and therefore only promote via their international communications. Everyone is different, my main advice is to try and measure everything you use.

Q. What's a typical average conversion from free shell download to purchase?

A. There is no typical average I’m afraid, in the same way that there isn’t with someone seeing a magazine on a shelf and buying it. There are untold factors in play, the cover and the content that week in relation to the person, why they downloaded the app, how tight your marketing is to the product itself, cost, audience, brand equity, quality of product, international appeal, personal or business expense...and so on.

Q. Is getting momentum on discoverability dependent on your existing print readership?

A. It is but not necessarily as a translation from big print audience to a big digital audience. If your existing print readership is unlikely to have a tablet, then your momentum is likely to be non-existent; the early ABCE results showed that. However, as we’re seeing the tablet becoming more mainstream, there is an advantage but again, you need to be positioning marketing in the right way. We know that higher downloads drive chart discoverability so bigger brands could play to that advantage.

Q. Can you suggest 2 or 3 titles which have very successful discoverability strategies?

A. The Economist and The Weekly know what they’re doing. As do The Times and Sunday Times. If you want to monitor success for a while, look at the charts and find the monthlies batting above their weight digitally and throughout the month. Also keep an eye on the gaming apps and who is generally topping the charts across the store.

You can view a recording of Rebekah’s webinar here.