Glad Works Makes Marketing Moves Through iPhone Apps
Jun 15, 2009 4:00 AM PT
What do you do when you're a newly independent public radio station and your signal is only reaching 75 percent of your home state? For WRNI, Rhode Island's only public radio station, the answer was to turn to its advertising agency. The agency, Providence-based Glad Works, is glad the station did, because it opened up a whole new world of opportunity for the firm.
"We were aware that NPR [National Public Radio] and its member stations were trying to figure out how to deliver local and national headlines on a cellphone," WRNI Station Manager Joe O'Connor told MacNewsWorld. "I just felt we needed to find a way to be able to get our product on a cellphone."
O'Connor contacted Glad Works, who enlisted Brian Stormont, a local iPhone app developer, to work on the project, which streams WRNI's programming through an iPhone or iPod touch.
From inception to market, the free app was completed quickly.
"I had the idea on a Thursday, talked about it on a Friday and we had it done by Monday," Glad Works Technology Director and Principal Adam Harvey told MacNewsWorld.
With the app, WRNI went from struggling to reach its audience in the nation's smallest state to snatching eardrums globally.
"It's been terrific," O'Connor declared. "People love it around the world. During a pledge drive, we've gotten donations from Japan and Germany."
New Business Catapult
The app also appears to be terrific for Glad Works, too.
"That application helped catapult our iPhone business, because now every NPR station wanted that application," Harvey noted.
Since the introduction of the WRNI app, the firm has produced some 80 radio apps, for both commercial and public radio stations.
"It's really opened up a whole new stream of revenue for us," Harvey said.
One of the early revenue generators for the 16-person agency was a streaming project for the Whale Song Project in Hawaii. Using an underwater microphone, the nonprofit group airs live "songs" of humpback whales off the coast of Maui from November to June each year.
Although the organization had limited financial resources, Glad Works offered to create an app for streaming the whale songs over an iPhone. The agency sells the app for US$2.99 through the App Store and returns 25 percent of the proceeds to the project.
"That iPhone app is selling pretty well," Harvey noted. It's doing so well, in fact, that Glad Works has ported the program over to the BlackBerry platform.
Dearth of Developers
Getting into the app business was initially challenging for the agency. "I was looking at bringing a developer in-house," Harvey explained. "At that time it was very new and it was hard to find people doing it. And the people who were doing it were just swamped with work."
Although Harvey had to go outside the agency to develop its early apps, he now has three app developers in-house -- all of them home-grown from existing staff.
"That's great because the model of Glad Works is not to outsource anything," he observed. "We like to be a one-stop shop, everything under one roof."
"Now when the applications come in," he continued, "we handle them internally, just as if they were a Web site or a branding campaign."
New Version in the Wings
The original radio app was simple in its execution. It contained WRNI's logo and a slider bar for adjusting the volume of the stream.
Over time, however, the agency has been adding features to various custom versions of the app -- features such as podcast support, screen swapping for promotions, an alarm clock and display of music metadata with a link to buy.
Within a month or so, Harvey said, a new version of the radio app will be released incorporating some of the features.
Meanwhile, the potential of the iPhone market has the tech director's creative side working 24/7.
"There's so many different things you can do," he said, "What keeps me up at night is trying to think of the next great idea, the next application that will have mass appeal."
"What we've seen with the Whale Song Project," he continued, "is that we don't have to just do applications for our clients. We can do applications and sell them, and it's another revenue stream for us."