Does it add value? Will it enrich a subscriber’s experience? These are the questions we always come back to when discussing new features for apps. Up until recently, that experience was mainly contained within that icon on your mobile device. With the exception of the occasional push notification (a virtual “hey I’m still here”) you were left to rely on the strength of your brand in a sea of other brands.
2017 will serve as a coming-out party for media companies looking to capitalize on recent innovations built to engage app audiences. With the release of Apple’s latest version of iOS and the rise in partnerships, we are finally seeing some legitimate creative capabilities surface for app developers and editors that will allow for compelling experiences outside of the traditional app.
Here are three ways apps will evolve in the coming year:
Your mobile lockscreen is the prime real estate — it’s the gateway, and the place apps battle for your attention. Until recently, the standard notification — targeted at 131 characters or less — was the only way to compete in that space. With the debut of iOS 10, we’ve been given a whole new set of tools to experiment with in the notification universe. With one flick of the finger/3D touch, readers can be exposed to expandable, dynamic notifications that can feature bold visuals — from photos to video — accompanied by a more in-depth story summary. These tools are allowing us to embark on a whole new form of storytelling with very little cognitive overhead. I see a near future where your favorite story or digest arrives each morning in the form of a notification that expands, allowing you to swipe through reading a synopsis for each story, with the ability to read the full story right there.
Apple has made another interesting advancement with iMessage apps. We’ve now reached a point where the media has a more seamless opportunity to integrate into your personal conversations. If you are messaging with Mom about the latest Trump controversy, you are able to, with one or two touches, access your Washington Post iMessage app and insert a relevant story link. No longer do you need to leave iMessage → open your news app → find story → click share or copy → then work my way back to my conversation. It’s all there with minimal effort. Right now, we have recognition for emoji in our keyboards (type “happy,” get a smilie), and soon we could have the same for news. For example, entering a certain phrase in a conversation, such as “Did you hear about the shooting in Orlando?” would provide options to insert relevant content directly into your conversation.
Media companies will continue to pursue partnerships that can add value to their app users experience. Recently, my colleagues at the Post integrated Uber with our classic app. The result allows our readers the utility of having an in-app trip progress bar, so they can continue to browse while also monitoring their journey. These types of integrations are not only a convenience, but also smart way of letting the reader know that we respect their time.
At the end of the day we are here to inform, surprise, and delight. I believe these new developments will allow the industry to make exciting progress to that end.
Christopher Meighan is director of emerging news products at The Washington Post.