Megan Gebhart | Social Media + Communications Manager
August 21, 2014

Creating Bottom Line Growth by Aligning APIs and Market Trends

 

This post was inspried by a webinar How APIs Deliver Exceptional User Experience featuring News Corp. For the full webinar click here.  

When you are one of the largest media corporations in the world, paying attention to how people consume information is key to your bottom line. News Corp, the multinational giant with major brands across the globe and over 100 media brands in Australia alone, has discovered some new, innovative ways to share their content across platforms, and it’s yielding tremendous results.

“Like many media companies, we are facing changing consumer habits,” says Myles Lagolago-Craig, Delivery Manager for News Corp Australia. “Consumers are consuming news content more and more via mobile devices.”

Consumer focus on mobile apps has caused businesses to shift application programming. With a dramatic increase in mobile app usage, consumer expectations and behaviors are predicted to evolve. News Corp noticed the trend away from print and traditional media to digital and, most recently, to mobile. Other groups have noticed this tendency as well, and the trend isn't limited to news content. Yankee Group, the preeminent mobile research and advisory firm has declared a “New Mobility Era.”

“All of these changes are already taking place. For enterprise companies, the pressure for adaptation is already very high and growing stronger,” explains Raul Castanon-Martinez, Yankee Group’s Senior Analyst for Cloud and Mobile Apps.

Examining the Market Trends

According to Raul’s figures, over the last few years, the global market for mobile devices switched to smartphones. About 57% of the mobile phone users today buy smartphones. With this switch came an upturn in active mobile application users. About 23% of the world population owns smartphones and download applications at least once a month. Yankee Group estimates that by 2018, that number will rise to 38%.

In the US mobile market, more than half the population (56%) are mobile app users, and nearly 90% of mobile phone users own smartphones. Similar to the US market, Australia’s mobile device market has high smartphone penetration with 57% of the population being active mobile apps users. Yankee Group estimates that by 2017, seven out ten consumers in Australia alone will be using mobile applications.

These numbers indicate mobile users’ expectations are constantly shifting towards information available anytime and from anywhere. It is not surprising that search engine companies are making the transition to a more mobile-based strategy. In a year, or less, search results will increasingly reflect results from mobile applications, including the content. As users gain skills and habits regarding the interface with mobile app on smartphones, user experience regarding how they are accessing their information, and what data they are accessing, needs to be examined by business enterprises.

According to Raul, businesses are taking note. “Enterprises are thinking about mobile applications for their business partners, their customers, and their employees. Mobile app priorities are being developed for field and sales force business processes, general internal business processes, and customer-facing applications, such as sales and marketing.” App-based enterprise solutions provide for easier synergy in the workforce, streamlined workflow and, a bridge between customer facing and internal facing information.

Unfortunately, there is a disconnect, or technology gap, between consumer and enterprise applications for mobile apps. The way that business infrastructure has traditionally been developed is different than the infrastructure required for a mobile app. This fact, mixed with changing habits and information interfaces that both workers and consumers are comfortable with, can be a hurdle for enterprises. Employees now expect a similar user experience for their business applications as they do from their personal ones.

As Raul explains, “...the increasing adoption of devices, services, and service as sales applications are changing the world we live in, they are changing the way we work and the way we behave as consumers...what we are learning is that it is increasingly dependent on the connectivity.”

The Right Tool To Reach Your Customer

In a recent webinar, hosted by Mobile Enterprise, Myles and Raul spoke about their experiences, findings, and how a company like News Corp stayed ahead of the curve—evolving their business imperatives in the process.

“Consumer expectations are changing and they are changing very fast. Expectations are based on their experience interacting with mobile devices.” According to Raul, these expectations will be based primarily on the user’s data, immediacy and accessibility of the data, and the need to wrap it all up in a very interactive user experience.

Recognizing their customer’s changing needs, News Corp needed to adapt to the changing market. The sheer volume of their holdings and the desire for a connected effort made developing applications for each brand a challenge. For the solution, they look toward APIs to shift their product delivery structure in a way that smoothly shares across platforms and jumps ahead of the growing mobile application trend.

As Myles explained, “We are a business that has its core assets locked up as content in our print and broadcast channels. The key problem for us is making the transition to digital and keeping the value of those assets... The API process makes the transition as frictionless as possible.”

The Need for APIs 

On the consumer side, News Corp products can be categorized into the articles, editorial content, images, and videos they produce. Because of the changing habits of consumers, each of these products must be available on a range of devices and delivery methods. On the advertiser side, News Corp was challenged by trying to collect the audience and segmentation data of their customers across all these platforms.

News Corp sought a technology that could seamlessly connect brand presence across devices and still engage the user as one consistent experience. There was also a desire to track customer demographics and behaviors across brands. News Corp found that APIs were an agile delivery layer for cross-platform content that continued their reach beyond their normal channels.

News Corp found that APIs improved not only their customer's experience but also the experience of their advertisers. The functionality of APIs can be hyper-contextualized and personalized yet still united from a single control center. This center allows for content to be spread and specialized for a personal user experience controlled by the customers themselves. The API also solves the issues of tracking fragmented users across multiple brands, channels and devices while the segmentation of those users are easily tracked and analyzed for personalized advertising. 

The choice of mobile API management for their brands also arose from the need for fast delivery time for new and improved products and lower downtime to improve user experience. Mobile applications for each of News Corp’s holdings did not make sense for global deployment. By using a flexible and adaptable API model, Myles’ team found exactly the solution they needed. The users win, the advertisers win, and most of all, News Corp wins.

Raul Castanon-Martinez identifies News Corp’s success a case study and calls API strategy crucial, adding, “just think of all the companies that have opened their APIs.” The New York Times, The Guardian, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, and even the government search site, USA.gov, have open APIs that allow the increasingly interconnected world of data to be more fluid and user-friendly.

"Modern mobile applications need to connect to multiple rather than single or a few data sources,” Raul elaborates, “the challenge will be how exposed they will be and how well connected they can be.”

An API Success Story

As Myles Lagolago-Craig explains, the API program has been a huge success. Through innovative and proactive measures, News Corp was able to engage the developer community and provide almost instant return on investment. The mobile apps team, treated as an internal “start-up,” created “hack days” that empowered various teams to bring value to the digital channels through the power of APIs. Through their work they returned about 233.5M+ API calls per month, averaged 698.6% month over month growth in call volume, and about 750 transactions per second through their APIs. On average, there were 38.6+ gigabytes of data a day running through News Corp’s APIs. Needless to say, the decision to go the API route marked a lot of catalog investment and huge growth.

Thanks to a well-managed API program, News Corp Australia will soon be able to equip more of its brands with APIs for seamless cross-platform experiences. They will extend API access to other business affiliates (like their UK or US News Corp branches) and expand the API program globally across other News Corp properties. Furthermore, there are plans to expose News Corp’s APIs to public developers stimulating even further innovation and adoption.

What’s more, the adoption of an API strategy by Myles’ team also had deep-reaching effects on the business itself. The gains in call volume and revenue that News Corp Australia has seen in less than one year has reformed the company’s traditional metrics of success.

“Our APIs managed under the Intel Mashery API layer,” Myles explains “has really allowed News Corp Australia to rethink its [key performance indicators] as a business and have some stretch goals.” One key factor in the program's success is the way the company interacts with developers. Myles reports that News Corp leverages API management for optimal application performance and improved developer engagement. These changing indicators are escalating at the same time the core KPIs, like engagement, frequency and advocacy, have risen as well.

Bottom line results speak for themselves, says Myles. News Corp’s API strategy has had a direct benefit on revenue. Along with the indirect benefits of expanding programs, platforms and markets Raul has found that the more interrelated platforms are as a delivery service, the more attractive interactive campaigning is for advertisers. The big takeaway, according to Raul, is when project managers and business managers take more ownership of their company’s mobile initiatives, with IT and business on the same page, it creates better and faster results benefitting both customers and advertisers.