Location is where it’s at for news apps

Geo-location tools are key to delivering relevant content for consumers, News Corp Australia’s head of innovation Mark Drasutis has said at the sixth NewsFoundry event, as the company contemplates a number of delivery extensions.

More than 600 News staff across all disciplines, from tech development to journalism and sales, attended NewsFoundry in which 10 teams pitched new ideas.

A team from NewsLocal pitched an app which would recognise the user’s home, work and current locations and deliver news accordingly, with users able to give a thumbs up or down on each piece of content, providing the app with a clearer idea of the type of content they prefer. Another pitch, Map My News, was a simple app with news stories placed as pins on a map of the user’s surroundings.

The innovation team at News Corp Australia, led by Mr Drasutis, is currently working on enhancing app for national commuter newspaper mX with location services and Apple beacon technology.

“If you deliver the right content at the right time, in the right context, on the right device, then you’re going to be relevant to the customer,” Mr Drasutis said. “That’s where location based tools come in.”

Businesses such as supermarkets have experimented with iBeacon technology – where a transmitter placed in a location can trigger activity in a mobile app. Media outlets such as NBC News have added location services to breaking news apps.

Location technology has the power to enhance the life of consumers, and mX provided a great example its potential, he said.

“I know for a fact that nearly all mX readers go through a train station. With the mX app, we’re building location services into that, and we’re going to be building beacons for mX which mean that anyone with any News Corp Australia app who walks past – that beacon could do something.”

It would also know where you got on and off your train, calculate the length of your journey and deliver content accordingly – not just from mX but from across the News Corp Australia stable, providing more content for mX readers and a greater audience for other titles.

“It might trigger you to update your SuperCoach, or it could tell you the recipe of the day from Taste, or that there’s an offer around the corner from Vogue; or that there’s a car accident or a delay on your train,” he said.

“In a 20 minute commute, a news update, sports update or lifestyle update would be interesting [for readers],” Mr Drasutis said, citing The Australian’s videos on Facebook – “they’re like OPEC in 2 minutes”.

“It’s perfect for an mX reader, but an mX reader would never consider The Australian. Now, we can take The Australian brand to that customer via the app.”

The same technology has also been used in an app created by the News Corp innovation team for APN, Matcha. The app, triggered by beacons on buses and currently being trialled in Brisbane after a successful run in Sydney, quizzes users on news headlines and pics – signifying another emerging trend, the “gamification” of news.

At NewsFoundry, a set-up called The Connected Home showed the potential for consumers’ daily routines – from a “digital mirror” to location-triggered stereos and lamps – to be enhanced by beacon technology.

“You walk in the door, the door knows you’re there, your favourite music switches on; or you’re on your way and your family instantly knows you’re 15 minutes away from home,” Mr Drasutis said.

The two winning pitches, iPrefer and NewsIQ, both “clearly satisfied the customer need, increasing engagement or revenue, and understood the needs of the business”, Mr Drasutis said. iPrefer aimed to minimise churn by allowing customers to control how often they hear from the publisher via email and other avenues, with an estimated cost saving of $500,000.

NewsIQ was an analytics dashboard for journalists allowing them to get a more complete picture of their audiences in real time – from how many readers in each article to factors like gender and location, KPIs and social media, with the aim of increasing traffic, engagement, advertising revenue, producing better quality journalism and increasing staff morale.

There now are plans in the works to take NewsFoundry to agencies with in-house events.

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