June 14, 2012

Building a good app starts with asking yourself the right questions.

The most fundamental one: What does my audience want? That’s the problem that people at ABC News have tried to solve since launching an iPad app almost two years ago.

But the snag was, there’s not just one answer to that question.

“We realized that people are using the app in different ways at different points of the day,” Joe Ruffolo, ABC’s senior vice president of digital, told me.

So now ABC has started asking a different question: What does my audience want, when? The result is the new ABC News iPad app, released Thursday, which shifts to different formats at different times of day:

The updated ABC News app has different editions at different times of day.
  • Weekday mornings until noon, it emphasizes top headlines and weather — need-to-know information to get you out the door.
  • Midday, from noon to 8 p.m., it features updated news, adds some lifestyle and feature stories, and introduces more video content.
  • Evenings after 8 p.m., the “primetime edition” kicks in, with a prominent video player designed for the lean-back experience when tablet usage peaks.
  • Weekends have a mix of the other three approaches, with a variety of content.

I could see this day-parting strategy opening up some new revenue opportunities as well, giving ABC the option to sell different sponsorships at different rates for each time window. For now, the app has one exclusive launch sponsor, but the company may explore that later, Ruffolo said.

Earlier: News apps are starting to update content when users change location | Orange County Register reinvents evening news cycle with curated iPad app

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Jeff Sonderman (jsonderman@poynter.org) is the Digital Media Fellow at The Poynter Institute. He focuses on innovations and strategies for mobile platforms and social media in…
Jeff Sonderman

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