PART TWO: The challenges and rewards of creating an outdoor adventure travel guide mobile app
BY NATALIE BARTLEY
This is the second article of a two part series about apps, with this article focusing on the creative process and challenges of creating an app. Part one by Risa Wyatt — discussing what they are, how the work and how they can make you money — appeared in the February/March issue of OU.
I was introduced to idea of creating travel guide mobile apps during Risa Wyatt’s presentation on Sutro Media mobile apps at the 2011 NOWA annual conference in Bellingham, Wash. The concept of a travel guide that moves quickly to the marketplace and is easily updated appealed to me.
When I got home, I surveyed the existing mobile app competition in my hometown of Boise and discovered three apps about Boise and Idaho. None of them offered the quality or detail of the Sutro apps. My original idea was a trail guide app. Instead, to broaden the content for a wider audience and to repurpose my existing written content and photography, I settled on an outdoor adventure guide for Boise. Next, I applied to Sutro Media, using their simple online application. Within about a week, I was contracted for my first mobile app.
Sutro provided me with the editing tool to create the app. Working with it was simple and enjoyable. I generated 130 potential activities and destinations. Then, I moved on to locating photographs for each topic. Sutro requires at least one photo, and up to ten photos, for each topic.
Short content is best for mobile apps, so I trimmed my previously published content to the essentials and generated brief descriptions on the remaining topics. Part of the process included completing ten topics and submitting them to Sutro for a test drive and review. The app “went live” on my iPad and I could see the layout and usability of my app. My husband commented, “Wow! You did this?” when he first saw the colorful, interactive app. I sent my final submission consisting of 110 separate topics and more than 600 photos.
The writing and photography layout was completed and launched in just four months. As a comparison, one of my guidebooks took a year to research and print through a big publisher, while another guidebook took even longer.
To help authors, Sutro provides an extensive list of marketing ideas. I sent press releases to my magazine and newspaper editors, and also posted announcements on local outdoor retailers’ websites. I offered promo codes provided by Sutro to encourage reviews of the app. After holding off way too long, I finally purchased a Go- Daddy business website and posted my app information. I special ordered a removable magnetic sign that rides on the back of my truck where ever I go.
Despite the search tool Sutro provided, locating photos for small, lesser-known destinations was time consuming. Obtaining courtesy photos and release forms from individual destinations eats time. I used a blend of my stock photos, new photos I shot during the writing of the app, Idaho Tourism courtesy photos, and open-source photos. I recommend selecting topics where supporting photos are quickly obtainable at no cost.
The app tool that Sutro provides is fun and easy to use, however, budget for time spent on searching for and embedding photos, Wikipedia, YouTube, website links, and map locations. Keep your production pace at a good clip.
Aside from potential earnings, creating a mobile app offered me a variety of rewards. The project was so entertaining, the time flew by. The flexible format was fun to use. I happily repurposed prior print content and photos. It was a personal challenge and I grew from the process. The mobile app broadened my portfolio of offerings. Another reward was being propelled deeper into current technology. There is pleasure in knowing the product is working 24/7 to produce income.
Determining the right topic for the right market is a big deal. Authors need a large audience since you make money by selling to a large volume of people. Select a famous location and a popular topic. Boise is a small destination, so to make my upcoming update of the app appeal to both timid and adventurous users, I’ll add entries about eateries, lodging, and low-skill pursuits.
Since creating the app, I shoot more pictures everywhere I go. You never know when they may come in handy for inclusion in an app!
The mobile app world is larger than what Sutro offers. If you are considering making an app, investigate opportunities with state and regional travel councils, chambers of commerce, ski resorts, and other tourism vendors. Consider developing educational content for school apps, or nature-related content such as birding apps or star gazing apps for particular agencies.
Another type of app is the advertisementdriven app like what is provided through www.TownWizard.com. The author provides content and hustles the advertisements that appear within the app. APP-ly yourself now! ◊
This series has been reprinted with permission of the Northwest Outdoor Writers Association, where it originally appeared in the September and October 2012 NOWA newsletters.
Natalie Bartley is a Boise based author of the mobile app travel guide “Boise’s Best Outdoor Adventures,” available at www.sutromedia. com/boise. Bartley is also the author of the trail guidebooks “Best Easy Day Hikes Boise” and “Best Rail Trails Pacific Northwest,” available at www. amazon.com or your local outdoor retailer or bookstore.