Ready for the storm of Umbrella Apps?

See the Martí Noticias app

One of our big mobile projects for 2013 has been preparing a series of mobile and tablet apps for most of our language services and major brands (Alhurra, Voice of America, Radio y TV Marti and Radio Free Asia).
These “Umbrella” apps will be available in the market under the umbrella core brand, such as VOA, and then within the app the content, design and language customizes based on which language service you select. Doing this is in so many languages is challenging and frankly, unheard of.  From our survey of the major international media organizations, the most languages supported are 4-5 in their apps. We’re working on supporting more than 40 languages in the VOA app alone.

The Radio y TV Marti application is the first out the gate available now on Android and Apple IOS tablet and mobile devices. They’ll soon be followed by Alhurra, Voice of America and Radio Free Asia too — joining Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s apps that are already on the market.

The applications are available on Android mobile phones and tablets, as well as for the Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. We’re also working on a Symbian version focused on African countries/languages, where the Nokia operating system is still popular within the market.

The app features include:

  • Ability for producers to send out push alerts through Pangea for breaking news (on platforms that support push notifications).
  • Bandwidth consumption optimization.  When the app first starts, the user will be notified about the possibility to turn-off the loading of images.
  • Psiphon proxy integration for content delivery in closed internet countries (available only on Android only, IOS doesn’t allow proxies).
  • Support for content assets served out of the core CMS:
    • Video
    • Audio
    • Live streaming audio (for services offering this)
    • Text stories
    • Photos
  • Allow background downloading and offline access to content.
  • Locally stored user generated content (audio, video, photos, texts).
  • Support continuous play as a background app (on platforms that support multi-tasking and continuous play in the background on platforms that support it).
  • Support for the landscape and portrait orientation, as well as design changes for right-to-left reading for Arabic language services, and support for core touch gestures including pinch to close, swipe left and right navigation through sections and stories (on platforms that support touch interactions).
  • Sharing of all the content (articles, audio clips, videos, photo galleries) on Facebook, Twitter, VKontakte and by Email. (On Android Operating system, any other installed sharing application is integrated too.)

  • User generated content submission built into the application so the audience can send pictures/audio/video/text directly to the CMS from the app.
  • Customizable navigation categories/tab bar order for iOS.  This is to allow the user to customize the the number of articles shown within the section at home view and to customize the auto-refresh of data after application start.
  • Full featured audio player – seeking, volume, play/pause, playback time/remaining time for listening to full programs/audio clips and news casts.
  • Customize the article categories shown on home screen and its order.
  • Search for articles within the app integrated across all assets based on asset metadata.
  • Apple TV OTA streaming is supported, DLNA streaming is supported for DLNA enabled Android phones and TVs.

We’re working with RFERL and the Pangea team to merge and upgrade the mobile app platform, we’re moving to a single code base for all the applications on the services fed out of our core CMS. This allows for web producers to manage their website, mobile website and mobile apps all in one interface for each of the platforms.

Web browsers have a larger overall audience... (Pew Report, 2012)

Web browser users are a larger overall audience…

This is just one new product we’re working on to help spread our content and information around the world. One of our next major projects is building the CMS in a fully-responsive and progressively enhanced format optimized for mobile- and performance-first. It may seem like duplication but these projects can be complementary products as the audiences for both can be very different from a contextual and usage perspective, as research indicates app users tend to consume content longer, deeper and more frequently, but they’re a smaller and more passionate group.

Mobile web users are quick content grazers, they come from social media, search engines and other quick visits, but they’re a much larger group

...But app users are more rabid and deep news consumers. (Pew Report, 2012)

…But mobile app users are more rabid, frequent and deep news consumers. (Pew Report, 2012)

Serving both these audiences is important for BBG audiences, but this just two mobile/tablet products we’re building, with many more in the works — including tools focused on low bandwidth and offline tools like eBooks, iBooks, PDF, and traditional cellular tools like SMS, MMS and voice communications like IVR.

These apps would not be possible without the indomitable spirit of ODDI’s Borana Kostro and Rebecca Lundregan, who have worked tirelessly to customize, train and test these apps, as well as the support of each of our language services for their hard work translating and providing feedback. They’re built on the foundation of work done from RFERL and their amazing team. We’re also blessed to have the support of our QA team Alena Simakova, in Prague, and our newest team members, Danish Ahmed and Son Tran, in DC helping us move this project forward faster.

Go ahead and download the Marti Noticias apps now on Apple IOS or Android.

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