From Flip Phones to the Future: A Look at Capitol Broadcasting Company’s Mobile Success

Like many leading news television and radio organizations, Capitol Broadcasting Company (CBC), turned to mobile as a key engine for audience engagement and growth. Unlike others, they started the move during the flip-phone era. In fact, CBC has been squarely focused on emerging platforms—from radio to television to web to mobile—since its founding in 1937 and has continually ventured into new areas to expand its sense of community and commercial market share over the past eight decades.

As mobile emerged, it quickly became a key focus for CBC, which owns, Raleigh, North Carolina’s most popular online local news outlet, boasting 53 percent market penetration. The company’s mobile initiatives began with the help of a third-party development shop responsible for the creation and maintenance of three CBC apps. But when the outsourcer chose a new line of business, CBC was left to make a critical decision—form a relationship with a new agency OR bring the work in-house.

The Decision to Insource

With the rising importance of mobile to their business, CBC hoped to take their mobile future into their own hands, but were unsure if they had the skills and expertise needed. They began testing the waters by getting the in-house team to develop the “Out and About” app, a music and movie calendar featuring local events. With their sights set on a truly native app experience for its users and a desire to utilize their existing JavaScript expertise, CBC piloted the Appcelerator Platform for the app development.

The insight gained from creating “Out and About” gave CBC the confidence that they could successfully take on the entire mobile portfolio without having to rely on a third-party. With this knowledge, the company elected to bring all app development in-house for two fundamental reasons. First, outsourcing app development was proving to be a costly endeavor whose costs multiplied for each platform they chose to support. Second, building apps in-house gave CBC the ability to maintain better control over both the frontend experience and the backend content—both of which are strategic for a media company.

Improving and Redefining App Features

In less than six months since CBC began tackling their own mobile development, the company rebuilt three business-critical apps—including CBC’s flagship WRAL app for iOS and Android—and created a library of reusable code assets. With this library and the cross-platform capabilities, CBC believes they could now do a complete app overhaul in less than four weeks. CBC’s Jason Priebe estimates that their approach has resulted in 90 percent code reuse and a 40 percent savings in development time compared to native development for iOS and Android.

CBC’s mobile footprint has now expanded to include a wide variety of services—from an entertainment event calendar to a high school sports app to their leading news app—to serve the local community's diverse interests and to increase its market share. For greater engagement, CBC also uses push notifications to alert the community to breaking news, alerts and traffic updates.

Next on the horizon? CBC will continue to add features to their apps including enhanced geolocation services to tailor the information for its users. Delivering targeted information based on location is appealing to both to CBC’s advertisers and users, who will get more relevant and meaningful mobile experiences based on their context.

CBC also plans to optimize the apps’ user interface for tablet, add support for set-top boxes via AirPlay and Chromecast, improve support for embedded rich content, and add search capabilities to the apps. Wherever the technology shifts and user preferences lead, CBC’s strategy of constant assessment and refinement means they will be there for their audience.