Business Journals begins mobile app rollout

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In October, Business Journals, a division of American City Business Journals, simultaneously relaunched the 40 websites associated with its city business newsweeklies. Last month, Business Journals started rolling out its mobile application strategy for its city books. That strategy debuted in the St. Louis market. The Business Journals partnered with Handmark, a full-service mobile publishing solution, to launch the mobile apps.

Jason Silverstein, senior VP-product development at ACBJ's online division, explained that the implementation of the mobile applications strategy was purposely timed to follow shortly after the website relaunches. By the end of the first quarter of 2011, ACBJ expects to have applications available for all the Business Journal websites.

Digital Directions: How is ACBJ structured in digital media?

Jason Silverstein: At the core, each of the [city business journals] runs its own business; but there are certain functions that are centralized. One of these is my group, product development. My teams are responsible for the systems and [online] operations, data center, [software] development, product management, project management and digital customer service. Each of the business journals has its own site. They are built off the same content management system and they have a similar look and feel, but they also have unique [characteristics tailored to] each market.

DD: What content management system do you use?

Silverstein: It's a modified version of an open-source system called Krang. When the CMS was first set up on Krang several years ago, we had help from an outside company. When we went through the process of upgrading the system for the recent relaunch, we did all the development, so I consider the current system completely ours.

It's important to note that this division focuses on other distribution strategies besides the Web browser. We have a syndication platform we use to push content to trusted providers and a mobile platform that can result in both websites and mobile applications.

DD: That is separate from the mobile apps you are developing with Handmark, right?

Silverstein: When a user is [accessing our sites] from the Web on a mobile device, we have written code to handle that. We have asked Handmark to help us with applications consumers will download from an app store like Apple's App Store, Android Market and BlackBerry App World.

DD: Why use an outside company for that? Why Handmark?

Silverstein: While we are very good at being a media company, we have not traditionally been as good at keeping up with mobile technologies because that world changes so drastically and so quickly. With Handmark providing that expertise, we can focus on delivering on the parts of the business we're good at.

Handmark has 10 years of experience in mobile solutions, which is an eternity for that space. I was impressed by that, but the key differentiator was their willingness to work with us to develop applications for 40 unique markets. I did not want a cookie-cutter application. Then, we need to do that across six platforms—iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Palm and Android. This scales up to 240 unique applications.

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