TOI (Times of India) Mobile App: Carrots and Sticks

Have you ever seen an ad incentivising the download of WhatsApp? Or Facebook app? Of course you haven’t. The app provides enough carrots as it is. The product is the promotion itself. But when I spotted the following ad in today’s Economic Times (a TOI group publication) I felt sorry for the app designers, developers, the marketing advisors and the advertising agency all at once. Er… lets add the client to the list as well.

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The logic here is that if a user has chanced upon the TOI app (which is a newspaper app) and decided not to download it, a ₹50 mobile recharge would change her mind. Another version of the logic is that If the user has not heard about the TOI app yet, here is the bloody ad, now go download it!

If you haven’t noticed, Paytm also gets to see your valid Facebook credentials in the process. Hmm. No free lunch after all!

I have a few questions here. If I, as a user, did not hear about the app until now (years after its launch) was I living under a rock? or did nobody see it fit to recommend it to me yet? Was the app providing no special experience to its users so that they talk about it? And more importantly would people, who want ₹50 mobile recharge to download the app, actually use it?

Ok, let’s be fair and say that the small carrot will at least make the user download and open the app once. The number of downloads would go up momentarily and the marketing advisor and the ad agency would throw a small party in the cafeteria. But would the app deliver an experience that would turn the users into proponents? Would the experience make people talk about the good things designed inside the app? Its future-readiness? Its advantages over the printed version?

Agreed that TOI was the first Indian publication to have a mobile app (historians, please correct me if I am wrong). But to maintain the edge, they need to use sticks upon their UX designers and not such carrots. Build a great user experience that will make people use nothing else as their primary source of news.

Note: Frankly speaking, the author had downloaded the TOI app long back and is currently carrying out a frantic search for it on his handset. Perhaps it was the old phone.

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