How to build a news app in 2020: Everything you need to know
The way we consume news has shifted dramatically in the last decade and having a dedicated website is no longer enough. Users expect updates to be immediately available and accessible via multiple devices, and easy to share across their social media networks. News apps have also become increasingly important for users who want to avoid consuming news via social media and digest news from a reliable source. In this article we outline the significant benefits to developing a news app in 2020, how to begin this process and best practices for optimal results.
What are the benefits of developing a news app?
Whether you are developing a news aggregator or a news app for a single publication, there are several ways developing a news app can be universally beneficial. Here are four essential benefits to developing a news app.
You control content distribution: When users find your content through search engines and social media, you have less control of how your content is distributed. You also have to jump through hoops – such as SEO – to ensure your content is seen at all. If users value your company and install your app, you regain the ability to connect readers with the stories most relevant to them. This is a win-win scenario: you can share the most important stories which will be seen by users that have a specific interest in that subject. In short, having a news app means your content isn’t going to be buried by algorithms you don’t control.
Craft a superior user experience: Having a news app allows you to provide the best possible user experience for your readers. You can use your data to personalize what your user sees, enable notifications (in-app messaging, email and push notifications) for topics of interest and offer newsletters that will retain users for longer. You can also use in-app data to better understand your audience and use these insights to inform your content strategy. All of these benefits are likely to increase user engagement and provide a more satisfying user experience.
Push notifications: This is one of the critical elements that has enabled mobile apps to revolutionize the way users consume daily news. Once a user has opted-in to receive push notifications, they can receive updates for breaking news and essential stories immediately, operating as a 24-hour news service directly to a user’s device.
Push notifications can also be personalized to ensure that users are only alerted to stories relevant to their interest. This contributes to the superior service news apps can offer their audience to increase engagement. According to eMarketer, 43 percent of US smartphone users click on news notifications all of the time, 45 percent of that audience click some of the time, and only 11 percent claim to rarely click on new alerts.
App Store Optimization (ASO): Another considerable benefit to having a news app is that you can be found within the App Store and Google Playstore. This means you can practice ASO to ensure that your app is visible to a relevant audience, allowing you to acquire organic users in a cost-effective manner.
Three news apps you need to know
Here are three examples of popular news apps and what makes them a popular choice for mobile users.
Apple News: This app comes pre-installed on all iPhones, meaning users have instant access to the feed - and over 5 billion articles are read in Apple News each month. Another benefit is that users can enter their preferences and receive updates related to that topic. However, Apple News is unavailable for Android devices.
Google News: This powerful aggregation engine presents top trending stories and personalized news depending on users’ preferences. It’s available on iOS and Android, and free to use.
**Flipboard: **Flipboard curates worldwide news, personalizing a user’s feed depending on their interests. They have a ‘For You’ tab for users and provide options to discover stories that you may have missed.
Creating a successful news app: Where to begin
Find your USP and target audience
The most useful news app for any target audience will depend on their specific needs and subjects of interest. For example, will your users want worldwide breaking news or a more curated experience? Your first decision should be whether you want to develop a news aggregator or an app that caters for one publication. This will shape how you move forward as these two types of news apps have different functions, giving you an opportunity to define your target audience in a competitive market. You then need to determine how you can monetize your app and the essential features needed to make it successful.
You need to consider the various ways to monetize your app. There are two commonly used monetization models used for news apps:
- In-app advertising: This is the practice of displaying ads at opportune moments throughout your news app’s user experience. There are several ad formats that should be considered and tested for best results - for example, you may want to test the success of banner ads, interstitial ads and video ads. You also need to consider how these ads will affect the user experience, testing frequency to find a balance between generating revenue and offering the best experience possible to your users.
- Subscription models: Your news app can be accessed by subscribing or you can offer a freemium model, offering certain features for free while giving users an opportunity to upgrade to a paid subscription for full access to your app’s capabilities. Using a freemium model is a great way to introduce new users to your product and showing your news app’s value before they commit to a financial transaction. For more insights into monetization models and how to develop an overall strategy, read our guide here.
Essential features for news apps
Budding developers should start by considering all the features needed to give their users the best experience:
Profile: Your news app should allow users to create and manage a profile. This should also have social integration so that users can share content across their social media channels with ease.
Content tools: Users should be able to engage with news content by liking, commenting, sharing and saving an article for later. These tools make your content more interactive, increase the possibility of going viral and allow users to return to content they find interesting.
Newsfeed API: This is needed to provide a news feed according to user preferences. A successful news feed will increase engagement and enable users to find interesting content related to their likes, saved articles and favorite categories.
Search function: This is particularly important for news apps, allowing users to find categories, hashtags and individual articles relevant to their interests. You should offer an advanced search function where users can filter results based on time, category and content type.
Categories: For best results, manage content into categories that users can follow, browse and opt-in for notifications for a single topic. Depending on the function of your app, your categories may be manually curated or generated using hashtags.
Push notifications and alerts: It should be possible for users to receive in-app notifications, email alerts and push notifications from your app. This enables the user to receive news in their preferred manner.
Creating a news app: Seven best practices
Sort stories by relevance
Optimize the user experience by showing users the most relevant stories first. This helps prevent users from having to unnecessarily navigate through their feed to find something that could have been immediately available. This will likely improve Click-Through Rates (CTR) for breaking news and significant stories.
Organize content by categories
Curating your content into categories will make it easier for users to discover content relevant to their interests and individual needs. Categories are also useful when suggesting users similar content to what they have already read. This in turn can lead to an increase in page views and session length. Users should also be able to set notifications for specific categories.
Show estimated reading time
Each news article’s estimated reading time can be displayed as part of a thumbnail and once the user has clicked on the article. This tool is useful for users when determining whether they want to read the article, which will increase the average time spent on each article. It’s also a smart way to improve the user experience by being transparent with your readers.
Offer related posts
Another way to increase session length and articles per session is to present your users with related articles. This is usually displayed at the bottom of articles to avoid disrupting the user experience. To be effective, it’s critical that these suggestions are related to the article your user is reading – not just content you would prefer users to click on. This can be performed in conjunction with the implementation of categories and hashtags.
Avoid clickbait alerts and notifications
It’s always important to be transparent with your users, but especially when sending push notifications. Users want to be notified with clear news headlines with an option to learn more. You should avoid making the user feel as if they are being lured by curiosity gaps in your notification copy – while it may get the user to click, it can also be damaging for your brand, make users opt-out of push notifications and lead to higher churn rates.
Encourage users to share content across their social media channels
In addition to liking and commenting on posts, you should enable users to share content they find interesting across social media. The aim should be to make sharing content as easy as possible, allowing users to integrate their social media channels with their profile so that sharing your content is a few clicks away. Including a social sharing icon means you can acquire more organic users, build an online community and raise brand awareness. This is also beneficial because search engines will account for social activity, meaning that high engagement will lead to a higher ranking.
Create user-friendly, unobtrusive ads
Users have installed your app to receive news and updates, so nothing should detract from this purpose. While it’s widely accepted that free apps will have ads, it’s still important to avoid intrusive and irritating ads that prevent users from consuming your stories. One solution is to have paid sponsorships relevant to your audience’s interests. While you will need to signal when a story is sponsored, this can be an effective way to monetize mobile activity without distracting the user from your app’s selling points.
For more mobile marketing insights, read our post on Why you need mobile automation. You may also be interested in Everything you need to know about in-app messaging.