7 Mistakes Radio Stations Make With Their Mobile Apps

Seth Resler
Seth Resler

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

Over the past decade, the smartphone has absorbed or integrated with just about every household device you can imagine, from the remote control to the thermostat to the alarm clock. So it’s only natural that radio listeners now expect their phones to take on the role once played by the radio, too. To thrive, radio stations need to ensure that they have a presence on their listeners’ phones.

A mobile-responsive website alone won’t cut it. According to eMarketer, 86% of the time that people spend on their phones is spent in apps, while only 14% is spent on a mobile web browser. So if you want to capture the attention of your listeners, you’ll need a mobile app.

Our sister company, jācapps, has built over 1,000 mobile apps for radio stations. In that time, they’ve learned a thing or two. They’ve also seen some common mistakes made by radio stations when it comes to their mobile apps. Here they are:

1. They Don’t Know Where the Mobile App Fits Into Their Overall Digital Strategy
When it comes to digital strategy, always start by setting goals: What do you want your listeners to do? Once you have clearly stated goals, then you can start to think about how your different digital tools — including your mobile app — help your station achieve those goals. For example, if one of your station’s goals is to capture data about listeners, is your mobile app set up to do that? If one of the goals is to drive online listening, does that app put that functionality front and center? You don’t need an app just to have an app; you need an app to achieve specific station goals. Know what those goals are.

2. They Include Too Much Stuff
When it comes to deciding what goes into their mobile apps, radio stations have a tendency to cram everything in. This can result in an app that is difficult to navigate because it’s overloaded with things that listeners don’t really care about. Just because something is on your website, that doesn’t mean that it should be in your mobile app. Be judicious with what you include: live streaming, blog content, podcasts, and concert listings should rank high on the list. But that doesn’t mean that you also need to include the playlist from the Saturday night techno show. Less is more.

3. They Don’t Showcase Their Brand in The App
Your mobile app is an ideal place to place to strengthen the connection between your station and its listeners. Make sure that your app showcases your station’s brand properly. The station’s logo should appear in the header of every screen in the app and important content, such as “WKRP’s Phone Scams,” should be named so it aligns with the station’s on-air programming.

4. They Only Think About Smartphones
While smartphones are one of the most important places for radio stations to make apps available, they are far from the only place. As more cars roll off the assembly line with Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto in charge of the dashboard, stations need in-car apps to maintain their presence in vehicles. As smart TVs and home streaming devices like Apple TV and the Roku penetrate more homes, radio stations will want to be available there as well. And as smart speakers, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home, see increased sales, radio stations will want to make themselves available as “skills” on these devices.

5. They Don’t Perform Usability Tests on Their App
One of the most important tests we run on radio station websites is a usability test, in which we invite average people to think out loud as they use a website. This helps us figure out how websites get used in the real world and uncovers any tasks that people find challenging.

A usability test can also be run on a mobile app. Pay a handful of testers to come into the station. In one-on-one sessions, ask them to open the app and perform basic tasks: listen to the station, find the venue for an upcoming concert, set the alarm clock up, etc. Watch to see how easily the testers are able to perform these tasks. You’ll quickly discover any issues that need to be fixed.

6. They Don’t Promote the App
Many radio stations develop a mobile app, only to let it languish in the app stores. Once you’ve got a mobile app, develop a plan to tell your listeners about it. You have a number of tools at your disposal: live on-air mentions, sweepers and recorded promos, your website, your email database, social media, signage at on-site events, etc. You should even promote it on the side of the station van!

Occasionally, we hear radio broadcasters object, worrying that if fans listen to the station through a mobile app, the station might lose a PPM meter. While there is this risk, we think it misses the larger picture. These days, people expect to consume media when they want, where they want and on whatever device they want. It’s important for radio stations to make their content available on as many platforms as possible.

7. They Don’t Monitor the Analytics on a Regular Basis
You would never put a radio station on the air and then ignore the ratings. Yet many stations build an app but never look at the analytics to see how it’s performing. Set aside a regular time, such as your Weekly Web Meeting, for your staff to review your app analytics as a group. Pay attention to how many downloads the app gets, the reviews it is receiving in the app stores and any data points related to the goals of your digital strategy.

Webinar: Mobile App Strategy
If your radio station needs a mobile app, or if it needs a better app, our sister company, jācapps, is happy to help out. Next month, we’ll be teaming up with them for a webinar on mobile app strategy. Please join us!  Register here.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at mab@michmab.com or 1-800-968-7622.

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