This week, I've been treated to an aural experience I haven't witnessed in over a year. I heard sounds that I thought I had forgotten.
Slowly but surely, our mobile app company – jacapps – is stirring. Their workforce is beginning to return to our office space. And the result?
It's been awhile. Probably much like your operation, the jacapps team has been sequestered in spare bedrooms, basements, dens, and kitchen tables – far away from our offices. And in many ways, 2020 was a great year for a company we launched about 100 days after Apple opened its now-famous App Store in July of 2008.
Since then, our squad of Michiganders has designed and launched more than 1,300 apps on both the Apple (iOS) and later, Android platforms, many of which are custom apps. Over the past 13 years, jacapps – now led by the venerable and visionary Bob Kernen – has done great work for some of the biggest and best radio companies and shows across the landscape, expanding their services to website and smart speaker skills.
Paul Jacobs has watched over this venture from its inception, providing guidance and leadership during the good times and the not-so-good-times. I'm responsible for sticking the company with its often mispronounced name – a mashup of Jacobs and apps – JAKE-apps. And that's made for lots of snarky humor along the way, another byproduct this team generates so well.
During the pandemic, jacapps (led by its head of development, Kate Levy) launched its V5 platform (which we lovingly call “Wallaby”), the most customizable mobile apps for radio – and beyond. The research we've conducted in Techsurveys and for clients along the way have helped guide the company's decision-making from its inception. But now, of course, we no longer have to explain what an app is like we did in those early days.
The new platform arrives at an interesting time for the mobile app landscape. Somehow, smartphones and those little icons we've come to know and love have never been hotter.
This past week, the financial world has been treated to learning the first quarter numbers from the biggest tech companies on the planet.
As is always the case, Apple's announcement is always one of the most anticipated because it is the tech bellwether. And as we near the iPhone's 14th birthday this fall, analysts – and cynics – keep waiting for it to finally slow down.
Not this quarter. Overall, Apple had another “massive” performance, according to the financial community, reporting revenues just south of $90 billion.
But iPhone sales made up more than half of that blowout number – a 65% increase in sales over Q1 of last year. As diversified as the company has become, it starts and ends with iPhone, clearly one of the most iconic products of this – or any – generation.
And as we continue to learn in Techsurvey, broadcast radio listeners have developed deepening relationships with their smartphones – including their increasing role in cars.
Dashboard ecosystems like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have become increasingly popular dashboard features, enabling vehicles to mirror the smartphone experience.
When jacapps cracked the code to enable radio station apps to show up prominently on car touchscreens – right alongside Spotify, SiriusXM, and other players looking to capture TSL and cume while we're in our cars – it ushered in a new era for radio in the car.
But even in older vehicles that may not have all the bells and whistles, we learned this year that nearly eight of every ten (78%) drivers are now able to connect their smartphones to their cars, trucks, SUVs, and minivans. As you might have guessed, that runs even higher among Gen Z's and Millennials – many of whom don't know what a radio is.
For radio broadcasters, this has big-time implications. While 2020 was a year that will go down in modern history as one with a record low number of car miles traveled, a look at major freeways, thoroughfares, and main drags tells us traffic is returning to our cites, towns, and country sides. And that will only amp up as the weather improves, vaccines become more prevalent, and we return to our old ways.
For radio broadcasters, those signs of spring – and renewal – can only be interpreted as good omens. But it also means that the car dashboard will increasingly become a more competitive listening environment.
As more and more consumers turn to their smartphones for entertainment, information – yes, news, weather, traffic, and sports – a radio brand's smartphone presence takes on even greater importance in its ability to not only survive, but to thrive.
As I scan the new feature sets of the V5 platform, trying to pick out a favorite, I gravitate to audience engagement because that's something that radio has always done so well. It's just that now, we have new technology and tools in which to tighten up those relationships.
I continue to love Open Mic, the feature that allows users to record their own high quality audio to participate in on-air feedback features, as well as video and photos. For personalities and shows, it's easy, clean, and it allows you to screen, vet, and of course, edit those listener missives as they roll in.
The flip side of that, of course, is push notifications. And in the past few years, more and more radio stations have learned that smart, tactical calls to action are powerful – especially when we see them on our most prized possession – our smartphones.
And I love the fact these apps can be custom designed – by the radio station – to look and feel as good as any other app you have on your phone, while projecting each station's brand in a unique, non-cookie cutter way. Consumer standards have heightened over the past decade. We expect our smartphones to perform flawlessly, and our apps to behave as promised.
Another cool feature is circled on the app shown on the right – voice activation. That's right, the jacapps team has introduced the ability for listeners to simply say, “Siri, open The House FM” and the stream starts up – welcome to touchless apps.
As this year plays out, it's not a stretch to believe Apple and the other tech juggernauts will continue to enjoy record-breaking success. If 2020 taught us anything, it's that our devices and gadgets were the main conduits that kept us engaged, informed, connected, and at times, even sane.
How broadcast radio looks, feels, and sounds on these devices has never been more important.
For more information about mobile apps, contact jacapps here.
For more information about mobile, radio, and technology, register for our free webinar – Techsurvey 2021: Radio In The Year Of COVID – Thursday, May 6 at 2pm here. It is sponsored by Veritone. Info here.
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