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Using social features to create an engaging news and media app

Gabriel Troiano
Gabriel Troiano
April 4, 2022
Gabriel Troiano
April 4, 2022

In our technologically driven world, we are surrounded by digital information at all times. Many of us even find that from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed, we consume news and media unless we intentionally shut it out. News and media apps are created to keep readers informed on current events. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to gain a reader’s loyalty simply because of the ease of locating local news stories through social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

So is there a demand for news apps?

Despite the heavy competition for your reader’s attention, there remains an opportunity for news and media companies: most Americans consider social media to be a poor source of information, with 88% believing social media companies have some control over the news they see

With trustworthiness being a major consideration for app users today, news companies should strive to deliver information through a platform that they have complete control over. Websites will forever have a place in the media industry, but phone apps should also be a priority—after all, 57% of U.S. adults use mobile devices to stay informed.

But having a news app alone isn’t enough.

What sets exceptional news apps apart?

A successful phone app isn't only downloaded—it's also used. And with the average smartphone user spending almost 3 hours a day on mobile applications, there’s a limited window of time with which to hook your readers. 

Most news outlets use a variety of outreach and engagement methods to engross readers. Almost all (93%) news companies have newsletters to deliver a rundown of local news articles. In addition to that, many maintain presences on Flipboard, Apple News, Google News, and podcast hosting platforms. 

Aside from increasing the channels through which they reach readers, there’s one other thing that an exceptional news application does: deepen the connection with social features.

Why news and media apps need social features

Media consumption has traditionally been a passive activity, but today, people gravitate towards connection. Using social features, news apps can create spaces for the exchange of opinions, boosting participation and driving brand loyalty. 

Here are some other benefits of integrating social features into news apps:

It gives them a competitive advantage

Improved retention rate

Social features like comments and community groups engross readers and encourage participation. Since it’s significantly cheaper than new customer acquisition, improved retention could allow you to divert funds to other areas of your business, giving you an edge over your competitors.

A better understanding of users

Community features give you special insight into your app’s users. In the news industry, in particular, reader posts and comments display sentiment data that you can then use to understand what other types of stories are suitable for them.

First-hand user feedback

Aside from understanding news-related sentiments, in-app social data gives you insight into what you could be doing better. Upon every update and piece of content released, your users will be the ones voicing their thoughts and highlighting areas of improvement.

After all, the best people from which to gather app feedback are those who use it. 

It gives like-minded readers a place to connect

People search for connections with those who share similar thoughts and values. News platforms can be an excellent place to discover like-minded individuals because they reveal what people care about most.

It can become a space for discussion

Many people find news to be emotionally charged, and it isn’t uncommon to feel that these platforms see more division than unity. With careful moderation, however, your app can become a safe space for users to talk about local news, exchange thoughts, and broaden their worldviews. 

Why news and media apps needs social features

How to engage readers on your news app

Engagement and retention are key to achieving measurable mobile app success, so it’s crucial to immerse readers from the get-go. There are several strategies you can use to do this, including:

1 - Personalize the experience

The more data you gather from your app users, the more they expect an individualized experience. Fortunately, there are several ways you can deliver personalized content such as by customizing each reader’s news feed, push notifications, and in-app messages.

Personal timelines are another way to personalize the user experience by letting readers create posts and share thoughts that align with their identity and personal views. With a customized space of their own on your app, users will be much more inclined to stay.

Adding context to each reader’s experience and personalizing what they encounter can improve your conversion rate and boost app engagement.

2 - Be receptive to feedback

Every media app should aim to deliver breaking news in the most seamless way possible. To do so, they need to receive and act on reader feedback. Your community of readers—whether they use your platform for free or pay for a subscription—have the most insight into the user experience and will pass on that information if properly incentivized.

Social features can open up an avenue of communication between you and your users, ensuring you are never short of valuable feedback.

3 - Enable user-to-user connection features

Your community members need to be able to connect with each other and share thoughts. There are several ways you can make this possible, including but not limited to:

Enabling a variety of user-to-user connection features can enhance engagement and create a more interactive reading experience.

4 - Diversify your content types

Written articles often make up the bulk of news, but you can diversify your content types to engage readers for longer. Articles aren’t the only way to deliver breaking news—you can add color with photos, live videos, infographics, polls, and even professional broadcasts

Varied content appeals to a larger audience and makes for a more immersive news-reading experience. Your team can use user data to understand what type of content people enjoy so you can offer more of what they find valuable.

5 - Give readers space to speak

Digital publishing shouldn’t be a one-way conversation—your users need room to be heard, too. Creating a news app community for thoughtful conversations is something numerous publications have done, albeit in different ways.

How real publications pass the mic to their readers

Medium is a well-known media site that answers the reader’s need to be heard. Unlike traditional news outlets, their spotlight is primarily on independent writers sharing thoughts on any topic. 

The New York Times is a different type of news outlet and, therefore, takes a different approach to pass the mic. Readers can submit letters to the editor, which allows them to participate in public discussions from all shades of opinion.

The way you highlight your users will ultimately depend on your approach to digital publishing. Nonetheless, news outlets should use social features to encourage discussion and collaboration between readers of all types.

6 - Moderate closely

Readers want to stay informed, but they don't necessarily want to argue in the comments section of a community news piece. Since a news story can be so emotionally charged, ensuring readers stay civil is of prime importance.

Being a safe space for intelligent discussion can give you an edge over your competitors simply because users want to participate without unproductive discourse. Careful moderation of user-to-user social interactions ensures your readers keep participating because they trust that you will maintain a civil environment throughout their discussions.

7 - Use push notifications to keep readers updated on what matters to them

The stickiest apps are part of their users’ daily routine, but to get to that point, you’ll need to employ a few timely reminders. App push notifications prompt readers to take action and remind them when there’s something new that’s relevant to their interests. 

Since push notifications have a relatively high click-through rate, they’re a crucial part of engagement, especially for new users who have yet to use your app on a regular basis.

App push notifications

Turn media consumption into a social experience

Staying up to date on current events doesn’t have to be a passive experience. Using social SDKs, you can create an interactive news experience that drives engagement and increases brand loyalty

Readers crave personalized app experiences where they can enjoy content curated specifically for them. At the same time, they want to be able to engage in conversations with other people. 

Amity Social SDKs can bring these features and more to your news and media app—and in a fraction of the time that it would take to build from scratch. 

To learn more about our products and how to build an in-app community

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