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The Best Mobile App Your Radio Station Doesn’t Have

There’s an app for almost everything, to be sure. And that means two things in particular: All apps are not created equal, and there are more apps in existence than there are folks interested in using them.

I have written before about the unfortunate radio apps that do little more than package the stream in a mobile-friendly rectangle and slap a logo on it. This is still all too common in the radio business – our zeal for an app is ahead of our thoughtful consideration of why we really need one and what it really needs to do.

I regularly hear broadcasters talk about how many of their apps have been downloaded. This is a specious figure. It’s meaningless. The statistic that matters is not how many downloads you have but how much usage you have on those downloads. Otherwise it’s like boasting about the outfit you just bought while never bothering to wear it.

Too many apps built today treat the smart phone as a little PC. That’s the wrong way to think about it. Mobile experiences make up for their interface limitations with knowledge. When a phone knows where you are, what you’re doing, your identity and history, and even potentially your attitudes — based on what you’ve done in the past year and the past five minutes — it can help predict and deliver what you want right now. This is the context that makes mobile devices more intimate and completely different from traditional Web experiences.


Specifically, a solution to a consumer problem or need in the context of that problem or need, leveraging the special abilities of the mobile device to know who you are, where you are, what you’re doing, what that has to do with your friends, and what you need next.

Radio on a mobile device is not simply “mobile radio.” Not when the mobile device is more a digital assistant than an FM radio with a phone built in.

Bernoff advises brands to “layer in intelligence,” to use data and context to create more engaging experiences – something which makes a mobile app distinctly unlike a conventional radio.

He also suggests we “break from PC contexts” and create experiences that recognize who the user is, what her history is, what she wants right now, and which of her friends are nearby.

Like a good PIXAR movie, problems are generally three-dimensional and so should be their solutions.

A good app like that is hard to find.

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