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Which Digital Version is Which?

Understand the definition of the various application offerings is the first step in deciding which iteration is right for your business. It may well turn out that one or the other or even both is the right model for your particular digital vision.

The basic difference between native and hybrid apps and web apps are as follows:

Native apps are installed through an app store, where they are purchased (or downloaded free of charge) to a digital device. They are developed specifically for one platform, and can take full advantage of all the device features and they can work offline.

Web apps are mobile-optimized webpages that look like an app. Web apps are not true applications; they are really websites that look and feel like native applications. They are run by a browser and typically written in HTML5. Users first access them as they would access any web page, by navigating  to a specific URL and then have the option of “installing” them on their home screen by creating a bookmark to that page.

The conundrum confronting many publishers who offer digital versions of their content is which way to go. Offering both options is not always possible or even desirable due to factors such as cost and implementation time. Within the publishing industry, there are just as many advocates for native-only solutions as there are of non-native solutions.  To help make an informed decision, publishers should look beyond the inherent advantages/disadvantages of each platform and focus their efforts on developing a digital strategy that takes into account their customers’ content use and expectations.

On the mobile journey, a consumer’s content consumption often begins on one device and ends on another. Readers often start their research on smartphones to browse and sample content.  Laptops and desktops are often used to engage more fully with content while in an office setting, and tablets and print are accessed while traveling and to be mobile within the home, office or vehicle. Many devices and platforms typically play a role in the overall consumption of content.

Native apps offer some unique advantages over non-native alternatives.  They provide marketing value through an app store, the option of viewing offline content, and the ability to push notifications to readers.   However, publishers might find that if they focus on only one format they will fail to reach and engage at least half of their potential audience. At this time it is estimated that just over half of consumers still access digital titles via non-native, web-based platforms. Non-native platforms are in some ways easier to access, as there are no apps to download, no issues to download, and no storage space to consider.  A reader need only click on a link to start consuming content.

A publisher’s goal should be to reach as many platforms and as large an audience as possible while minimizing effort and cost. Let us help you decide what is right for your business.