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Local news organizations are striving to improve news apps and get readers to download them, touting them as a superior customer experience that boosts engagement and loyalty.

While they see mobile apps as a win-win for their customers and themselves, the apps remain a niche product, with a small minority of visitors consuming their news that way.

The Medill Local News Initiative recently interviewed executives from McClatchy, Tribune Publishing and the San Francisco Chronicle about the advantage of apps for smartphone and tablet to create a direct line to the readers, not a multi-stop journey.

“You want to have a firsthand relationship with your customers,” said Grant Belaire, head of consumer revenue for McClatchy, whose dozens of news outlets include the Miami Herald and the Kansas City Star. “You can hope they continue to find your content on Facebook, or you hope they find it in Google News or all those other aggregators who are taking our stuff. The app allows you to have a firsthand relationship … without having to go through third parties.”

Key metrics show how apps promote engagement. “Pages per session are much higher historically for people on the app,” said Kurt Gessler, director of editorial operations for Tribune Publishing, whose news outlets include the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and Baltimore Sun.

The news organizations interviewed by Medill open their mobile apps to both subscribers and non-subscribers, though non-subscribers will hit a paywall just as they do on regular website visits.

At a time when reader revenue is the top goal for many news outlets, the name of the game is engagement.

The app isn’t just an advantage to newsrooms. News execs say it’s simply a better experience for the readers in a number of significant ways.

“Inside the app is a smaller ad footprint,” said Belaire. “The pages load faster. Your ability to paginate from article to article is much easier.”

“Less JavaScript, fewer third-party integrations,” said Tribune Publishing’s Gessler. “It’s just going to move faster and load faster.”

todd smith

TODD SMITH

And the app offers push alerts. Plus, subscribers who use the app are less frequently annoyed by demands that they re-sign in before reading the article that they’ve clicked. 

 

Life Back to Quasi Normal as Virus Fears Subside

Now that the majority of Americans aged 18 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and restrictions meant to curb the spread of the disease are increasingly being rolled back, two-thirds of U.S. adults (66%) say their lives are either "somewhat" or "completely" back to normal.

While this marks a sharp reversal from October when a majority said their lives were not yet back to normal, few Americans – 9% – say life is completely back to normal, while 57% describe it as somewhat normal. The remaining 34% say normalcy has not yet returned.

The latest findings are from Gallup's May 18-23 COVID-19 probability-based web panel survey.

Almost all demographic subgroups of the population show large shifts since last fall in reports that their lives are back to normal. Additionally, similar proportions of major subgroups now say their lives are completely or somewhat back to normal, including by gender, age, region, household income, parental status and employment status.

As a sense of normalcy returns, Americans have become less likely to believe that the best advice for healthy people during the pandemic is to stay home to help prevent the spread of the virus, dropping from 91% in March 2020 to 67% at the start of this year to 44% now. In fact, for the first time in Gallup's COVID tracking, a majority (56%) say the better advice is for people to live their normal lives as much as possible.

An increasingly larger share of U.S. adults (84%) think the coronavirus situation is getting better, a 15-percentage-point increase since April.

February was the first time that a majority said the situation was improving, after majorities said it was worsening for much of last summer through the end of 2020.

Equal percentages now say the situation is getting "a lot better" as say "a little better," whereas the previous month twice as many said, "a little better" as said "a lot better."

Currently, 11% in the U.S. say the situation is staying the same and 5% say it is getting "a lot" or "a little" worse.

Americans are more pleased with the vaccine rollout now than at any point since it began, as 78% say they are "very" or "somewhat" satisfied. Satisfaction has steadily grown from 34% since late January.

Americans' concern about the coronavirus has greatly diminished as the majority are now at least partially vaccinated, cases have been dropping, and state and local restrictions on public activity have been cut back significantly or removed completely. As such, Americans for the first time endorse healthy people living their lives as normally as possible, and many more say their lives are personally getting back to normal, if not completely so.

Still, the public does not believe the U.S. is completely past the pandemic, with the majority saying they are experiencing COVID-related disruption in their lives and close to six in 10 expecting such disruption to persist in the U.S. through the end of the year or longer.

 

Fowl Mic: Burger King Clucks into Chicken Sandwich Wars

Burger King has flown into the chicken sandwich wars – and has enlisted Actor Paul Giamatti as the voice of the chain’s new Ch’King sandwich.

A new ad called “Nightmare” depicts the burger chain’s King character scrolling through social media and noticing real comments suggesting the Ch’King might be the chain’s best sandwich yet. The King’s nightmare ensues as the ad progresses in a dreamlike Burger King restaurant featuring patrons, staff and Easter eggs for fans such as a nod to Subservient Chicken, a character used in Burger King ads of the past, and twins who starred in a previous Burger King ad.

“We feel like it’s giving the Whopper a run for its money, so we had a little fun with that for this campaign,” Ellie Doty, chief marketing officer, Burger King North America, told AdAge.

The campaign, from David Miami, comes weeks after Burger King announced the sandwich would be called Ch’King and would have a June 3 national debut. “People are going chicken crazy,” the voice of Paul Giamatti says in the tense yet humor-filled scene.

The unusual name Ch’King was chosen to help the sandwich “stand out in a sea of sameness,” said Doty, who joined Burger King in 2020 after serving as CMO of Chili’s.

Burger King’s Ch’King launch comes after other chicken sandwiches have shaken up the category, most notably the one launched by Popeyes, its Restaurant Brands International sibling, in 2019.

Rather than comparing its chicken sandwich to rivals, Burger King is pitting the new sandwich against the Whopper.

“Nightmare,” which also has shorter versions, is set to be followed by three additional TV commercials and a radio spot. Future ads will focus on the food itself, including the hand-breading of the sandwich, which Doty sees as a differentiator among chicken sandwiches offered by fast-food burger chains.

Now that’s something to cluck about!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

 

» TODD SMITH is co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Deane | Smith, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm – based in Nashville, Tenn. – is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, follow him @spinsurgeon on Twitter and like the ageny on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/deanesmithpartners, and join us on LinkedIn  http://www.linkedin.com/company/deane-smith-&-partners. 

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