We recently launched several new mobile and tablet news applications for BBG entities, the most recent being Alhurra’s IOS application and VOA News on Android and Apple IOS. These apps offer an epic step forward in BBG’s digital platforms for modern audiences at this especially critical time for mobile publishing, when the mobile internet and applications are opening up an entirely new generation of digital users. To serve those current and future audiences, we built them on the world’s two most popular mobile platforms: Android and IOS, which account for more than 90% of world-wide smartphone shipments according to IDC.
The Voice of America app is especially interesting with more than 43 languages–from Afan Oromo to Vietnamese–supported in the VOA News Apple IOS version and more than 33 on Google Android VOA News app (and more languages coming in future versions), including left to right languages.
This is truly a ground-breaking application given that no others have come close to supporting this many languages. Other news apps are in the single digits for number of languages supported. And I haven’t been able to find any news application not supported by the native operating system. The only comparable content application I’ve found was The Bible, pointed out by my colleague Brian Williamson.
Our app is built for both mobile and tablet devices and supports devices running Android 2.3 and newer and IOS 5 and above, so it covers more than 93 percent of IOS users and more than 96 percent of Android users.
The most potentially exciting part of the app–if properly supported by the language services–is the ability for users to send photos, video, audio, text and video news updates from the field directly into our content management system for BBG web producers to use. I think of it as sort of a ‘Trojan Horse’ way to give our users, who are often in regions that are hostile to journalists and free press, tools to send us multimedia news information. It exponentially expands the potential of our news reporting operations.
There are many other innovative features including:
- Multimedia content publishing including photos, video, audio and text content, including background streaming of audio content
- Breaking news push notifications
- Radio podcasts available on demand, without downloading
- Low-Bandwidth Mode allows user to save download time and data costs
- Directly send user generated content–photo, video, audio and text news reports–to BBG entities from within the app
- Customizable navigation items and ordering
- Share functionality for favorite stories, videos and photos via email, Twitter and Facebook
- Offline downloading and saving of news content for later enjoyment
- Integrated proxy available on Android in the settings to circumvent Internet blocking
- Apple AirPlay sharing support integration for IOS
These launches follow our applications already on the market from RFERL and Radio y TV Martí, which are built on the same framework and integrated into our content management system so that BBG web producers can easily and efficiently manage content across all platforms. RFERL was the pioneer in this work, building out the framework and CMS and we’re working with them to continue adding features and upgrading the experience and design in the future when we have all BBG entities on one platform.
This is just the beginning though. We have Alhurra on Android coming soon, as well as Radio Free Asia. …But the garden is never finished–we have many exciting upgrades coming soon, including more feature and streaming support, as well as a design refresh by the end of the year.
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