Innovation @ BBG » will sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com Fri, 20 Nov 2015 18:47:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.6.1 Listen to VOA audio programs over your cellular voice connection with the VOA Mobile Streamer apps http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/07/07/listen-to-voa-audio-programs-over-your-cellular-voice-connection-with-the-voa-mobile-streamer-apps/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=listen-to-voa-audio-programs-over-your-cellular-voice-connection-with-the-voa-mobile-streamer-apps http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/07/07/listen-to-voa-audio-programs-over-your-cellular-voice-connection-with-the-voa-mobile-streamer-apps/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 14:16:59 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6515 The award-winning ODDI Mobile Team is excited to announce a new product launching in July, the VOA Mobile Streamer. This audio-only experience is available for Android and  Apple mobile devices and serves broadcast audio news in more than 30 different languages.

Besides offering hundreds of radio news programs on-demand in more than 30 different languages, the app also offers live 24/7 radio streams of more than a dozen languages. There’s also a bunch of smart features like a low-bandwidth mode that saves on download time and user costs, and deep social media platform integration, but the true killer feature of this app is its simple, unique design that allows you to listen to audio over data *OR* cellular voice connections.

For VOA audiences in emerging markets this is especially valuable since mobile data rates are very high and connections are often poor quality so streaming is not always an easy proposition.

Why are we doing this? What is the unique value of the Mobile Streamer for VOA & its audiences?

  • It allows us to better serve and connect with audiences in low-bandwidth countries using click-to-call cellular/voice minutes to get our audio content, instead of having to stream it over costly data connections in emerging markets

  • It offers a new way to experience VOA audio content on the go through a unique and refreshing design offering a very non-traditional news app experience, especially for younger audiences that might be turned off by the more traditional news approach.

  • It offers a passive, hands-free way to consume VOA’s content in the background while commuting to work or doing chores or other tasks.

  • It helps showcase the depth and breadth of all the thousands of hours of VOA audio programs we produce each week.

  • It allows us to leverage our partner, AudioNow’s, international Interactive Voice Response (IVR) infrastructure, phone numbers and tools to expand our content reach for new audiences.

Try out the VOA Mobile Streamer now on:

The VOA Mobile Streamer will join our fleet of dozens of free, innovative mobile apps for high- and low-tech audiences around the world. Check them all out here!

 

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Radio Sawa selected as a finalist for the 2015 Appy Awards http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/26/radio-sawa-selected-as-a-finalist-for-the-2015-appy-awards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=radio-sawa-selected-as-a-finalist-for-the-2015-appy-awards http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/26/radio-sawa-selected-as-a-finalist-for-the-2015-appy-awards/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 16:36:56 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6522 Sawa ChatRadio Sawa, the all-Arabic streaming music and news application we created with the team from MBN Digital was selected as a finalist in the 2015 Appy Awards for “Radio/Audio Apps” and it’s competing against Disney’s Frozen Karaoke app and HuMX: Human Mixtape app that uses iBeacons to customize audio experiences.

Radio Sawa just launched version 1.1 a couple months ago and is getting close to it’s one-year anniversary since launching last June. The new version added another live stream, so now there’s 8 total, added push notifications, performance improvements and more audio on-demand podcasts.

Radio Sawa was also selected as a finalist for the GSMA Global Mobile Awards earlier in the year for “Best Mobile Music App.”

Download all the BBG’s award-winning mobile apps at: http://apps.bbg.gov

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How Alhurra drives more mobile, desktop, social shares and app installs, with just a small, strategic ‘Push’ http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/18/how-alhurra-drives-more-mobile-desktop-social-shares-and-app-installs-with-just-a-small-strategic-push/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-alhurra-drives-more-mobile-desktop-social-shares-and-app-installs-with-just-a-small-strategic-push http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/18/how-alhurra-drives-more-mobile-desktop-social-shares-and-app-installs-with-just-a-small-strategic-push/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 14:50:45 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6509 The digital team at Alhurra has found an effective way to easily, free and smartly grow their audience from content they are already producing: Push Notifications.

They sent their first push when Nelson Mandela passed away in December of 2013, and continue to do it at the present time and over time have found that besides driving people to read stories more in the award-winning Alhurra apps, but sending pushes they can generate surges in mobile web, desktop web and social media traffic to stories they chose to push, as well as drive new app installations.

Below is one of the best and unique examples from Alhurra, one of the most digitally-first minded BBG entities, proving a story that did “ok” when it was initially published on the web can explode in popularity 2 days later on the mobile website and social media — from a simple nudge via their mobile app Push Notification.

Alhurra published this story about how ISIS makes its money on August 25th:
http://www.alhurra.com/content/where-isis-get-its-funding-from/256556.html

Two days after publishing it on originally on the web, they sent it out by Push Notification through the Alhurra app and it drove:

  • 112,000 more pageviews on mobile

  • 25,000 more pageviews on desktop

  • There were more than 12,700 social shares for the story on Facebook and Twitter

How did they start engineering these social and mobile web surges? 

1- First, create the audience expectation by being consistent and regularly deliver value with your pushes. The Alhurra web team sends out a Push Notification for a relevant and important news story at a strategic time during the day when the audience is awake and active (Some days they’ll send several Push Notifications to different stories, especially as important news breaks on busier days or as a huge story is updated with new information). The critical part of this is to be consistent and make sure you’re not just pushing every story to push stories. They should be important and interesting stories that deliver value for your audience or they will turn off notifications. Push is a very personal tool, so be careful and mindful of your audience’s needs, interests and time of day.
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2- Alhurra App audience members get the breaking news Push Notification on their device and read the story in the Alhurra application.

3- If the audience members like the story or think others would be interested, they easily share it on their social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, and through email using the Alhurra application.

4- The audience member’s friends and followers then see the story, interact with it and potentially share it too, creating an amplifying effect. Bonus incentive: Also, if audience members open the story on a mobile web browser, they will be prompted to install the Alhurra App, which also helps grow the App audience.

5- This snowballs and helps drive more and more traffic by social media, mobile web sharing and app installs — all originating from Alhurra’s smart and very engaged Push Notification strategy, and also driving new app installs to interested users.

Bonus Alternative Method for Re-Engaging App Users: Another way to get users to re-engage with the application after installing it is promoting the apps Home Screen Widgets, which allow users to get the latest headlines from their preferred service easily, without launching the app. Users can even customize which category sections and how frequently the Home Screen Widget should update. Android is currently live and supports this and in the Umbrella 3.1 version of the apps, we’ll add support for automatically feeding our news into the Apple Notification center widgets for Apple devices, further expanding the reach of the BBG entity’s content.

All of the BBG entities (and anyone building apps) can learn and optimize their workflow for this tool to create a force multiplier of audience growth. Learn more about the BBG mobile products at:
http://apps.bbg.gov

ODDI Mobile Release Manager, Bo Kostro, and Billy Sabatini, Marwan Sadiq and the MBN Digital team helped with the creation of this best practice report. 

 

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ODDI rockstar Scrum Master shares his Agile expertise at GSA DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/18/oddi-rockstar-scrum-master-shares-his-agile-expertise-at-gsa-digitalgov-citizen-services-summit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=oddi-rockstar-scrum-master-shares-his-agile-expertise-at-gsa-digitalgov-citizen-services-summit http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/18/oddi-rockstar-scrum-master-shares-his-agile-expertise-at-gsa-digitalgov-citizen-services-summit/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 12:45:25 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6489 I’m proud to announce that our own ODDI Scrum Master extraordinaire, Ashok Ramachandran, has been asked to share his expertise at the upcoming and sold-out GSA DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit. Government leaders of all levels — from federal to local municipalities — will be attending to learn more about topics ranging from 3d Printing to Human-Centered Design. Ashok is speaking on May 21 at 12:30 p.m. about “Agile Methods in Opening Government” with Bill Brantley from the Department of Agriculture.

AshokAshok has been in our office for just under two years and has made an exponential impact on the products and services we offer — especially on the mobile team, where he’s helped us manage multiple teams on-shore and off-shore, launching more than a dozen award-winning products from low-tech to high-tech in more than 60 languages, often with multiple products rolling out at the same time. At the same time, he’s also miraculously worked as Scrum Master for multiple other teams with dozens of developers, designers and stakeholders helping ship live products for the BBG marketing team including a new CRM system, BBGDirect.com and digital publishing technology tools working with a few other small federal agencies (The State Department and Department of Defense).

“Ashok is one of the best scrum masters we’ve ever worked with, he has kept the Mobile Team focused and executing on multiple projects at the same time.” Bo Kostro, ODDI Mobile Release Manager said, “He works hard on meeting the deadlines and removing blockers.”

Ashok has been key in the execution of our fleet of mobile products and the team’s #AlwaysBeShipping attitude and culture;  we’re proud to have him making a larger impact sharing his expertise with other government agencies.

The Citizen Services Summit is sold out for in-person attendance, but the there’s still remote attendee seats available here.

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Alhurra and VOA Java apps prove wildly successful growing audience quickly in emerging markets http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/07/alhurra-and-voa-java-apps-prove-wildly-successful-growing-a-large-audience-quickly-in-emerging-markets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alhurra-and-voa-java-apps-prove-wildly-successful-growing-a-large-audience-quickly-in-emerging-markets http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/07/alhurra-and-voa-java-apps-prove-wildly-successful-growing-a-large-audience-quickly-in-emerging-markets/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 18:10:32 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6475 While the mobile and media industry loves to over-hype fleeting technologies like Google Glass and Meerkat, serving the BBG audiences in emerging markets requires that we focus on user experience and building for not just the elite — and that often means building for very old or low-tech devices like Java phones.

Over the past few years, the ODDI Mobile team has launched and evolved the award-winning flagship fleet of mobile and tablet applications available for the most high-end devices on Android and Apple IOS (as well as supporting old versions of the operating systems back to Android OS 2.3 and IOS 5), and this Winter we launched an improved lineup of low-end device products on Symbian and Java phones to round out our technology offering. One thing we didn’t count on when launching the Java apps was the swift adoption and audience growth — in some markets faster than more modern smartphone products.

In Middle East and African markets we’ve seen ‘hockey-stick’ growth surpassing the weekly installation rate of our larger, flagship smartphone apps. For instance, Alhurra for Java phones already more than more than 50,000 downloads across all the app store markets in less than 3 months since we publicly launched them.

VOA’s Java app has also done exceptionally well in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan and Nigeria — and we recently received a shout out from the BiNu store for the app’s surge and top rankings in African and Middle East markets. RFE similarly does well in Iran.

Not bad for a very low-tech, text-and-image experience, but that’s the reality of these media environments, mobile networks and what these audiences need.

Try out all the Java mobile apps for the 6 BBG brands for yourself:

Learn more about the awesome ODDI Mobile team’s products at http://apps.bbg.gov/

 

 

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ODDI Mobile team selected to present at Government Mobility Application Fair http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/06/oddi-mobile-team-selected-to-present-at-government-mobility-application-fair/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=oddi-mobile-team-selected-to-present-at-government-mobility-application-fair http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/06/oddi-mobile-team-selected-to-present-at-government-mobility-application-fair/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 17:46:56 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6470 The ODDI Mobile team has been selected as one of 10 government agencies to showcase their work at the 2015 ACT-IAC Mobility Application Fair in Washington, DC on Wednesday, May 27th at the Renaissance Downtown.

Mobile Release Manager Bo Kostro shows off the VOA AppMobile Release Manager, Bo Kostro, and Director of Mobile, Will Sullivan, will be showcasing the team’s work along side more than 40 exhibitors and 25 federal agencies to demo their products and digital work. There will also be an event keynote delivered by Greg Godbout of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The official announcement details more of the mission of the ACT-IAC group:

Federal agencies are continuing to embrace the use of not just mobile devices, but wearable technology for mission execution. With the increased use of all things “mobile” in the government, there has been a surge in the development and use of mobile applications in order to enhance operations. The American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council is pleased to announce that its Advanced Mobility Working Group (AMWG) will be hosting the 2nd Annual Mobile Application Fair on Wednesday, May 27 at the Renaissance Washington in Washington DC.

Learn more about the award-winning mobile products from the ODDI Mobile team at: http://apps.bbg.gov

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Alhurra app redesign wins international recognition from Society for News Design http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/03/27/alhurra-app-redesign-wins-international-recognition-from-society-for-news-design/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alhurra-app-redesign-wins-international-recognition-from-society-for-news-design http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/03/27/alhurra-app-redesign-wins-international-recognition-from-society-for-news-design/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 17:42:38 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6424 The Alhurra Android and IOS mobile and tablet apps were recently recognized by the Society for News Design’s Best of Digital competition with an Award of Excellence in the “Redesign” category.

The Alhurra app redesign, executed by the ODDI Mobile Team in partnership with MBN Digital, featured revamped branding and an interface featuring larger, bolder images and typography, a new tablet-optimized interface, a live video streaming channel, enhanced push notifications and redesigned user-generated content offering audiences tools for submitting video, photos, audio and text directly to the news organization in breaking news situations.

“This award is the result of an organization filled with amazing content partners, a team of fantastic designers and developers and a QA and support team that executes excellence and focuses on every detail to create a great experience for Alhurra audiences,” said Will Sullivan, Director of Mobile for the BBG. “SND is the big dog in news design and we are so excited for all of our hard work to be recognized in the industry alongside pioneers like NPR and The New York Times.”

“We are extremely proud of this recognition of the SND Awards. We always strive for excellence when it comes to generating content and delivering it to our audience,” stated the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) President Brian Conniff. MBN manages and operates Alhurra Television.

The Society for News Design (SND) is an international organization for news media professionals and visual communicators who create print, web, mobile publications and products. The Best of Digital Design is an annual competition that rewards skill, innovation and high-quality digital journalism. The competition was launched in 2002 and invites entries from all news sites published anywhere in the world.

  • Download the Alhurra apps and learn more about all the other ODDI mobile products at:
    http://apps.bbg.gov/
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ODDI Mobile Team pioneers new BBG Java mobile apps for low-bandwidth users http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/03/27/oddi-mobile-team-pioneers-new-bbg-java-mobile-apps-for-low-bandwidth-users/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=oddi-mobile-team-pioneers-new-bbg-java-mobile-apps-for-low-bandwidth-users http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/03/27/oddi-mobile-team-pioneers-new-bbg-java-mobile-apps-for-low-bandwidth-users/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 16:03:13 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6415 The ODDI Mobile team is proud to announce the launch of the a new fleet of mobile applications for low-end Java phones for VOA, RFE, RFA, Alhurra, Marti Noticias and Radio Sawa, supporting more than 60 languages and more than 80 language news services.

This pioneering effort to reach low-tech devices uses Javascript-based applications for “feature” phones, especially the old Nokia phones that still have a stronghold in African, Middle East and Asian markets.

The apps are built using technology from BiNu, a popular caching and proxy service used by other services like WorldReader, to deliver content faster to very low tech and low bandwidth communities who often don’t have phones equipped with modern or fast-performing web browsers. For example, Wikipedia is 10x faster on the BiNu platform than their Wikipedia-optimized mobile website.

Danish Ahmed, from the ODDI Mobile Team who pioneered the Java app effort, said, ”Its amazing how surprisingly fast the application is on older phones. You can navigate through articles without any lag or long downloading.”

These Java app’s content is limited to text and photos but through at a smartphone-like interface, and in these markets and with limited bandwidth text and photos is a great place to start. The platform also uses a proxy, which helps get content into closed and censored markets around the world so it’s a win-win for audiences. These low-bandwidth apps will compliment our current fleet of multimedia-rich Android and Apple mobile and tablet apps for all entities.

  • Download and learn more about the BBG Java apps and all the other ODDI mobile products at:
    http://apps.bbg.gov/
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Radio Sawa & VOA News Apps honored by GSMA Global Mobile Awards http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/03/27/radio-sawa-voa-news-apps-honored-by-gsma-global-mobile-awards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=radio-sawa-voa-news-apps-honored-by-gsma-global-mobile-awards http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/03/27/radio-sawa-voa-news-apps-honored-by-gsma-global-mobile-awards/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:44:36 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6412

Two of ODDI’s flagship mobile products launched in the past year were selected as finalists for the prestigious GSMA Global Mobile Awards: the VOA News relaunch was selected for “Best Mobile Media & Publishing App” and Radio Sawa was selected for “Best Music App.”

The GSMA is the largest global mobile industry group and they operate Mobile World Congress,  Mobile World Congress, the largest mobile event in the world with more than 93,000 attendees from 200 countries.

VOA News serves users in more than 200 countries and is available for Android and Apple IOS mobile and tablet devices in 44 languages and for Symbian mobile phones in 4 languages. The industry-leading application has also been recognized as a finalist in the Appy Awards for “Best Multicultural App” and in the Mobile Ecosystem Forum’s Meffy Awards for “Best Mobile Service.”

“It is amazing that ODDI has created apps for over 87 language services on different operating systems,” said Bo Kostro from the ODDI Mobile Team, “We could not have done it without the support of all the BBG language services”

Radio Sawa is a youth-oriented mobile streaming app for Android and Apple IOS devices offering more than a half dozen music streams, podcasts, news and user-generated chat feedback through an beautifully designed application.

“We are very proud of the Radio Sawa app and were honored to have been recognized by the Global Mobile awards,” stated MBN President Brian Conniff. “The app encourages user participation through the network’s popular Sawa Chat feature, as well as making Radio Sawa available to cities and countries where there are no Radio Sawa transmitters.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Radio Sawa Arabic music streaming app launches on Android & Apple iOS http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/06/30/radio-sawa-arabic-music-streaming-app-launches-on-android-apple-ios/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=radio-sawa-arabic-music-streaming-app-launches-on-android-apple-ios http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/06/30/radio-sawa-arabic-music-streaming-app-launches-on-android-apple-ios/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 11:34:47 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6063 Seven 24/7 streams of Arabic music from around the Middle East and North Africa region is featured in the Radio Sawa app.

Seven 24/7 streams of Arabic music are featured in the Radio Sawa app.

When Radio Sawa launched as a network of FM radio stations across the Middle East in 2002, the Arab world had not really experienced anything like it as many countries had state-controlled media environments. Radio Sawa provided an alternative, with a mix of Arab and Western popular music coupled with newscasts and social issue programs.

Radio SawaTwelve years later, Radio Sawa has a lot of competition on the radio dial and has limited radio reach in countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt because authorities have not permitted FM licenses. To evolve and engage new audiences in the digital age, Radio Sawa needed a new platform to reach closed markets and serve a new generation of listeners; that opportunity lay in designing an innovative audio mobile app for Arab youth.

So the Office of Digital & Design Innovation and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks joined forces to design and build an app unlike any in the Arab market. We focused on building a gorgeously design, touch-driven, mobile-only application which played to the huge popularity of streaming radio on smartphone devices. Streaming radio ranks higher than any other content format as the most popular form factor according to a comScore’s Multi-Platform and Mobile Metrix report released this year:

Streaming radio use on digital devices

Streaming radio use on digital devicesThe application is an audio-first experience, with newscasts and featured podcasts from Sawa’s journalists available on demand. But the crown jewels of the experience are the seven Arabic live-streaming radio stations from around the Middle East and North Africa region. Arab youth can listen to music and news 24/7 and in the background while they read, play or use other applications.

The Sawa Chat feature allows audiences to record and send their thoughts to our programs instantly.

The Sawa Chat feature allows audiences to record and send their thoughts to our programs instantly.

Another fantastic feature of the app is our expanded Sawa Chat functionality. For years, Sawa journalists have asked people on the street questions about social concerns. With the app, users can now respond to weekly questions by recording and uploading their thoughts and sending them to our producers in a couple quick taps. These submissions will feed expanded Sawa Chat content on the air and on the app.

Quick sports, tech and pop culture news is featured in the application.

Quick sports, tech and pop culture news is featured in the application.

The app also showcases articles from Radio Sawa’s digital journalists with six news feeds rich in original journalism, music news and sports. It also showcases Sawa’s innovative Have You Read This? youth-focused journalism which builds stories around trending ideas and conversations spreading on social media.

Check out the Radio Sawa app now, it’s live in the app stores and available for mobile devices running Android 4.0 and above and Apple IOS 6 and above. We’d love to hear your feedback and if you dig it, please give us a review and rating and share it with your friends!

Davin Hutchins, Editorial Director of MBN Digital, and his rock star team collaborated on this blog post and the Radio Sawa design, development and launch.

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