Udi Lumnitz

VP Marketplace

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How to Choose a SaaS Media App Development Platform

February 17, 2019


There’s no room for error in today's dynamic media marketplace. Your viewers, readers, and fans aren’t the least concerned with the complexity of app management  – all they know is that it works or that it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t work, users can be quick to move on.

The best way to rapidly launch an app, to minimize your technology risk and to maximize your flexibility for future innovations and changes is by finding the right app development platform — but until now, there’s been no guide to show you how. Understanding the different development strategies available and keeping an eye out for the right features can make all the difference.

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Media apps should take the platform approach


There’s give and take with each approach to app development and launch.

Custom solutions demand extensive capital investment and a great deal of time. Templated approaches significantly restrict your freedom to experiment and innovate.

Platform-based approaches offer the best of both worlds, offering solutions to the inherent problems of both custom and templated methods.

Here's a side-by-side comparison of each option:

- Custom: Whether a custom solution is designed and implemented in-house or outsourced to a 3rd party, it requires a heavy upfront investment and takes a lot of time to develop. Once the system is deployed, it is inflexible. Any small change will require an entirely new code and roadmap, adding to your already significant investment of time and money. Even routine changes must be managed, making ordinary tasks, like keeping up with operating system updates, burdensome. Moreover, with such a heavy development burden, it’s entirely possible that the app will be outdated before it ever reaches the market. 

- Templated: The problems presented by custom solutions can be avoided with a templated approach, which places the management of a pre-developed system in the hands of a third party. However, templated approaches typically offer no freedom or flexibility — it’s a virtual death sentence in an industry driven by innovation, creativity, and experimental features.

- Platform: The platform approach addresses both the cumbersome and costly issues presented by a custom model, as well as the restrictive nature of a templated model. It takes the burden and expense of ground-up development off your plate by outsourcing management and updates to an already-coded platform, but it also allows you to make on-the-fly changes, including adding new features and content. Unlike the templated model, the platform approach gives you all the benefits of shared code and a developed product while still retaining creative freedom.

Clearly, partnering with a platform provider is the best choice for developing and deploying a flexible, innovative media app, but not all platforms are created equal. Selecting a platform that delivers on these promises is all about understanding what to look for when making your buying decision.

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What is critical in your platform search?

Understanding how to best differentiate between platform providers is key to choosing the right partner for your business. The checklist, below, identifies the most critical functions an app development platform should fulfill in the interest of launching an effective, user-friendly, and flexible media app.  

- Updates to the app and the app’s SDKs: Regular updates to both application features and software development kits (SDKs) are essential. Your platform partner should handle all routine updates on the backend, while also frequently updating the SDK to ensure that your app runs smoothly without the need for your intervention. Consider that every time Apple release a new OS update, this can throw off everything in your app unless OS changes are addressed immediately. Make sure you ask how often your app platform provider’s updates are released.

- No vendor lock-in: When it comes to your media app, you should be able to easily migrate services from one vendor to another to secure the best-in-class experience for your customers. Being locked into a vendor prevents you from making changes with ease, making it significantly more difficult to make the adjustments your customers want or your internal stakeholders demand. You must retain full control over business decisions, which means being able to turn 3rd party services on or off without an entirely new set of code, a new roadmap, or losing months of valuable time. Consider the breadth of 3rd party services your app platform provider offers and how regularly they grow their ‘menu’ of integrations.

- Centralization: A centralized management tool provides ease of use, organization, and transparency. Your media app will run on multiple platforms, so the ability to monitor activity and make changes from one place is critical.

- Immediate results: In a dynamic marketplace, you need to be able to act on the fly. That means your provider’s platform needs to be able to quickly iterate and deploy changes to your media app. This includes event-based updates, such as around season finales, sports events or breaking news, as well as new features you want to test and refine. 

- Customer-driven roadmap: A platform partner is most valuable when they have a deep, intimate understanding of your needs. A customer-driven roadmap means your platform provider is responsive to both your needs and your audience's feedback. They should be proactive in offering customers the features most useful or desirable to them, keeping your media app ahead of the competition. And this is a result of ongoing work with brands like yours that drives the platform’s innovation roadmap. If a platform provider specializes in your industry, they have a much deeper understanding of your challenges and opportunities and can offer you a more relevant, valuable product. 

- Monetization: Ultimately, all your effort is designed to generate revenue. With the help of your platform partner, you should be able to create advertising functions that leverage your audience to derive the most value from your advertisers. These functions must be flexible because there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every audience's demographics and advertiser's requirements warrant different setups, and your platform partner needs to be able to respond accordingly. Moreover, you need to be able to integrate new monetization opportunities at a moment's notice if it's going to add value to your brand or your customers. And in an event-driven industry like media and entertainment, a moment’s notice is the norm! Your platform partner must be set up for you to quickly activate new monetization tech or advertising partners.

- Low-code environment: Finally, a low-code environment ensures that development and changes can be easily implemented. What does ‘low-code’ mean in this context? The base infrastructure should already be in place on the platform; all you must do is customize that platform for the purposes of your brand. Any platform you partner with should be able to demonstrate that the bulk of the coding has been done, allowing you to be nimble and focused on delivering the valuable features your audience needs.

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Applying these platform criteria to your operational criteria


Each criterion described here feeds directly into your operational needs. Your chosen development platform needs to be instrumental in getting your app on every major platform, deploying changes and new features quickly, making money, and updating your tech so that it’s always relevant and optimized. The features it offers must contribute directly to those objectives.

- Multi-platform access: Centralization and the ease of use which comes from a low-code environment make managing apps across multiple platforms an easy experience that doesn't waste time.

- Quick time to market: The low-code environment and immediate results support rapid deployment and updates, allowing you to create new features quickly and test different versions to determine the optimal configuration.

- Relevant, up-to-date tech: Your platform provider handles all the necessary maintenance with regular updates to both the app and the SDKs, using its customer-driven roadmap to respond proactively to the needs of your brand and your audience.

- Monetization: You're not restricted by your platform provider from exploring any and all monetization opportunities that your brand's leadership is interested in pursuing.

Only Zapp from Applicaster checks all these boxes. With Zapp, you benefit from a full suite of capabilities that are pre-developed and ready to go, built from Applicaster’s specialized experience in the media and entertainment industry. And Zapp’s ‘pluggable infrastructure’ means there are no limits to the capabilities you want to bring into the app – whether you want to use your existing partners, new plugins from Applicaster, or create something new yourself. It’s all the benefits of customization but without the significant development, financial or time investment.

Zapp combines all the functionality into one centralized, pluggable platform, updated by Applicaster every three weeks, and offers a consistent stream of new features across all platforms, so you can build and manage apps on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Android TV, Roku, Samsung Smart TV, and Amazon Fire.

See Zapp in action for yourself! Request a demo of the platform at www.applicaster.com/demo.

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