Hybrid Vs. Native: Viggle, New York Times Talk Mobile App Strategy

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movie tickets based on the TV shows they watch. “That all requires native functionality to make that piece happen, but we’re really focused on what happens after users have checked in to the TV show,” Sommers said.

Viggle was founded in 2010 under the name Function(x). The company released its app in January. Viggle’s platform presents its users with content, e-commerce offers, and social connections relevant to the shows they watch. That personalization requires some specialized software under the hood. Sommers said his company plans to release a new version of its platform in the coming weeks for third parties such as television networks, TV production companies, and independent developers to build apps that would live within the Viggle app.

Introducing third-party software can add more features to Viggle’s platform but it also means finding ways to keep the technology streamlined. “If we wanted to do that with a pure native app,” Sommers said, “we’d have to release an update every time a new app was integrated into our app.”

To avoid such a headache for users and developers, he said his company needed to create a hybrid app that allows the platform to adapt and grow.

The New York Times’ Finkel said companies want the best of both worlds via hybrid apps, but so far the ideal technology remains elusive. “You are aiming for this mythical single platform on which your developers can write code in one language and—as much as possible— is usable across multiple platforms,” he said.

In spite of such prospects for apps built with HTML5 technology, apps designed for specific operating systems and devices maintain a few edges on functions. Media companies in particular need apps that fit their digital advertising needs. “There just isn’t an industry standard way to deliver ads into HTML 5 apps,” Finkel said. “That’s pretty important for us.” He also said it was difficult to place ads via HTML5 on users’ devices when they are offline.

Thus far the New York Times’ Election 2012 app, which offers users news, polls, and live results from elections, is its only hybrid app, he said. All others from the media company are native. That could change in the future as the technology evolves to meet the demands of media publishers. “Taking a hybrid approach is worth exploring,” Finkel said. “A lot of what you’re pushing is content for user consumption.”

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