Cox Media Group's local news outlet, Austin American-Statesman, released a mobile entertainment app Friday at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi). The Austin360 app aims to provide
residents and visitors with an interactive experience they can customize to find local events, venues, restaurants and nightlife.
The free mobile app relies on Janrain's customer management platform to simplify the experience for consumers across devices, media properties and more. It will give Cox and the Statesman insight into creating better content for mobile app users.
Austin360 has its own identity aside from the American-Statesman, per Steve Dorsey, VP of innovation and planning for the Austin American-Statesman. "We've tried to take the print and make it an interactive experience and make them actionable," he said. "Rather than just identifying a concert, the app will match up your availability in your schedule and invite some friends."
The app uses traditional newspaper content and makes it interactive. The lists of events can change daily. Users sign up, download the iOS or Android app or the desktop, and create a profile with likes and dislikes. The app will offer categorized listings, as well as customize a list of the top 20 restaurants since the last time the user attended SXSW, for example. There is also a button capitalizing on the local slogan "Get Weird!" button for Austin's more adventurous crowd.
The app will run category sponsorships and sponsored listings that float to the top of the category, similar to Google or Bing text ads, Dorsey explains.
"We don't want to burn out the audience by over-advertising to them," said Rebekah King, director of customer engagement, Cox Media Group. "We don't want to creep out our customers. We want to take soft, thoughtful steps."
Today, the app doesn't capture that an app user Likes dogs on Facebook. The app doesn't target blue-eyed, brown-haired men. Not yet, anyway, King said. The newspaper relies on the Janrain partnership to capture data with user permission, but as the app matures the targeting options will change.