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How Not to Introduce Ads into Your App
By: Elaine Reed
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Full disclosure: I love the weather. I love checking the weather, looking at the maps, and taking my guess at what the weather will be for the next few days. Naturally, when I got a smartphone, the first app I downloaded was from The Weather Channel. (Jim Cantore was my big college crush.)

What I love about the app is that it takes the best features of the TWC website and puts them at my fingertips: current weather, hourly projections, a ten-day forecast, maps, and even a pollen report. Recent app upgrades have included a special page for severe weather alerts, videos, and updates from Twitter. At first I found the Twitter updates to be silly, but over time I've become amused by them. The TWC app doesn’t pull tweets from a trending tag; they use an algorithm that searches for words like “weather,” “sunny,” “temp,” and so on. As a result, most of the tweets they show are about the weather, but then they also get tweets about the Miami Heat basketball team, or people who confuse weather and whether. In moments of boredom, reading these tweets is actually fun.

When my phone told me it had downloaded a new update for my TWC app, I was excited. Would the maps in motion move better? Did they clean up that Twitter algorithm? It doesn’t look like any of that happened. Instead, they added a Foursquare-esque feature. Every time you do random things in the app you get “mPOINTS.” The integration bothered me. As soon as I opened the app, this “you’ve reached a new achievement worth 10 mPOINTS” was at the bottom of the screen, blocking my weather. I clicked the giant button that said “collect points” and was immediately taken to… an ad. Huh?

No explanation of what the program was, or why I should collect these points and achievements. Just an ad. So I clicked the “no thanks” button. And I got what appeared to be more ads. There was a heading that said “turn points into great rewards” and below the heading was a list of logos for other companies and small notes about how many points you needed. There was also a sub-menu with options to look at rewards, your achievements, and discover and view your profile. Clicking on your profile takes you to a log-in/sign-up page.

I’d love to tell you more about this points program, but the whole feature is kind of random. You don’t get achievements or points for everything you do, and the only way to get into the mpoints area is by “collecting” an achievement. Frankly, the whole thing has me a little annoyed. Can I turn off the mPOINTS thingy and just go back to all of the lovely weather info? I don’t know. Can I check my mPOINTS status whenever I want to? I don’t know. I’m already seeing ads in the header area of the app on every page I go to. Why do I have to see more with this program? Again, I don’t know.

I get that everyone wants to make money and points program like this is a great way for TWC to monetize an already popular program. But I don’t like the way they rolled it out. The first time I opened the app, BAM, there it was. And then it threw all kinds of ads at me. And I don’t know how to get back to it, or manage it. And why do I have to sign up and create a profile? Can I use it in conjunction with other things that I do? I have no idea.

It’s entirely possible that this mPOINTS thing is cool, but the way TWC rolled it out, I may never know. When your building your apps, or adding enhancements, think about a few things:
  • Why do people use this app?
  • How can this app can be monetized in a way that isn’t jarring?
  • What is the easiest way to educate users about new features and programs?
These are all questions that you have to consider when building any other marketing campaign. It shouldn’t be any different for apps.

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About the Author
Elaine Reed is a marketing professional with heavy emphasis on e-commerce and Internet marketing. She blogs regularly on her website and tweets often.
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