This week a number of marketers aimed to bolster and possibly even transform their brands with the premier of creative technologies and new ideas at SXSW Interactive in Austin. One festival participant eager to use technology to market a more modern image is Austin American-Statesman, a 143-year-old, daily newspaper in the capital city. “We’re looking to extend the brand beyond print, dot-com, or a mobile site,” says Steve Dorsey, VP of innovation and planning for the paper. To make that happen, marketers at the paper helped launch Austin360, a free app that Dorsey says provides a personalized, curated list of the city’s nightlife events, music, and restaurants. The idea, he says, is that Austin360 will accomplish two things: the app will help readers recognize that Austin American-Statesman is not just a traditional paper and will serve as information source that’s with readers at all times. “The result, hopefully, is to expand the expectation on how and when to deliver information,” Dorsey says. “We’re not just a newspaper.”
The paper determined that a website, even a mobile-friendly site, wasn’t enough. Dorsey says readers need an app to find city events that are important to them and provides a unique experience for each user. App designers for Austin American-Statesman used technology from Janrain, a customer data management company, to craft an application that uses social login, profile data storage, traditional registration, and single sign-on for multiple devices—each a technology that pulls personal information about the reader and creates an individual experience. “We already had the data,” Dorsey says of Austin360.com, a news and lifestyle site that provides the paper with a robust online presence. “But we weren’t taking action on the data. So we spent a lot of time and resources gathering venues and events info, curated the list, and then used technology to personalize. ” He adds that Austin360 provides a great opportunity to connect with target, segmented audiences—including residents, visitors, and those who’ve just moved to Austin and need an updated city resource. “We’re trying to serve people the info they want, when and where they want it,” Dorsey says.
Austin360 is meant to be not just a personal marketing tool, but also a simple one, explains Rebekah King, Cox Media Group’s Director of Customer Engagement. “We don’t want to overcomplicate the experience, “King says. “The app allows our consumers to sign in from one platform then engage from different platforms.” The goal for the newspaper is to serve the audience where they live, work, and play—no matter which devices they use. Dorsey says Austin360 is the next logical step in marketers’ mobile strategy. “We’re taking what we’ve got and finding new ways to use it.”
In addition the goal is that users, too, will help market the paper’s new, modern image as they use Austin360 to share nightlife plans, communicate with others within the app, and attend events highlighted by daily updates. Dorsey says as the app gains momentum, similar applications in different cities will likely follow from Cox Media. “We’re just looking for a single technology solution that will feel different in each market.” Furthermore, Dorsey says that marketers at Austin American-Statesman will continue to look for even more opportunities to personalize the customer experience and surpass customer expectations. “We’re always seeking new ways to provide value and deliver more than just the news.”