Shortly after we purchased CultureMap the calls for a mobile app became louder and louder. Given our background building mobile apps it made sense that everyone at CultureMap assumed we had a mobile plan in the works, but to be honest, it wasn’t obvious to me that a mobile app made sense. To put the enormity of the challenge into perspective, by June of 2015 there were more than 4 million mobile apps available for download from the various app stores. Building a mobile app is easy, but finding an audience is more than daunting – it is all but impossible today. It occurred to us that to find a reason to build a mobile app we needed to reduce CultureMap to its constituent parts:
EDITORS (Creating Compelling Content)
READERS (25-35 Tastemakers and Trendsetters)
Building a mobile app that simply recreated the experience our readers get when reading CultureMap.com seemed like a dumb idea. Why bother recreating the wheel? But quickly it occurred to us that we might be able to take what was great about our team and our readers and create something compelling and unique. Each week our editors uncover interesting and compelling stories about the places our readers go to eat and drink. What if we could have our editors create a highly curated list of the top places in each of the cities we cover (Houston, Dallas, Austin and soon Fort Worth and San Antonio) and then let our readers vote on their favorites? You’d end up with a very highly curated list of THE places you needed to visit in each city. Of course voting requires interaction and engagement, something I wasn’t entirely sure we could count on. Getting mobile users to download your app, much less actually use it is beyond daunting. We needed a solution that would allow our readers/users to help us curate content without changing their behavior. The solution was obvious, iBeacons.
If we placed iBeacons (tiny bluetooth transmitters) in each of the restaurants/bars that our editors selected (we them HOTSPOTS) we could let our readers/users help us create a highly curated list of great restaurants and bars (and eventually shops, spas and salons) by simply visiting each location. We could let their behavior replace their ‘vote’. Our readers ARE the trendsetters and stylemakers in their cities – they define what is hot and what is not. By letting our editors and readers team up (leveraging technology), we can create the ultimate city guide. By leveraging the expertise of our talented editors and the behavior of our trendsetting readers we can reveal to everyone the coolest and best places to eat and drink in the State of Texas. We’ve begun the process of deploying iBeacons all over Houston, Dallas and Austin.
Will we get millions of downloads? I have no idea, but do we need millions to make our mobile application effort a success? I argue we don’t. For example, Nielsen (the folks that do television ratings) rely on around 1,300 families in Dallas to reveal the television watching behavior of millions. If we could get at least 1,000 of our most loyal readers to download our app in each city we’d have a VERY statistically relevant sample size – these 1,000 readers/users would easily be able to partner with our editors to reveal the hottest and best places to eat and drink in their respective cities. We could then take this data and use it on our website to help organize our existing City Guides as well as use the data in our soon to be launched retail stores in airports around the state. More than 2.5 million people look to CultureMap each month to help them determine where to eat, drink and shop and the data generated by our mobile app will make our content just that much better. Hopefully MILLIONS of people will use our app, but we can achieve success with hundreds of users.
The CultureMap mobile app we’re building today will do FAR less than what you’d expect from a restaurant/bar recommendation app. Just open Yelp. It will tell you EVERYWHERE you can eat. Open OpenTable and it will tell you EVERYWHERE you can get a reservation. We’re only going to tell you WHERE the top places are to eat/drink today. We won’t bother to tell you that there is a pizza place next door or a McDonalds across the street (we figure you already have Yelp to tell you that). We’re not going to give you the address, phone number, menu, hours – instead we’re going to tell you who the owner/chef is, we’re going to reveal to you one single secret about the venue (i.e. ask for table number 33 or congratulate Mark on his new baby or ask Jeff to pair the perfect bottle of white Burgundy to go with your sole). We’ll have a link to the restaurant’s City Guide listing on CultureMap if you need the normal stuff like maps, hours and phone numbers. The point of the app is to help you know where to go and what to do when you get there. We want you to feel like an insider. The app will be sleek, visually stunning and terribly straight forward. By doing less we hope to make the app more compelling and engaging for the user.
We’re getting closer and closer to release. Our plan is to have the front and backend completed by the end of August and submit to the app store the first week in September. Of course, I’ll keep you posted. Cheers!
If you’re a restaurant owner and you want an iBeacon in your location, please feel free to signup here. We’re being very selective, but just because you haven’t heard from us yet doesn’t mean we don’t want to make your venue a HOTSPOT.