By Jeff McKay
Special Features Correspondent
NEW YORK — In a digital world, an app that does what you need it to do and more isn’t merely a consideration, it’s a must-have to increase your overall presence, reach younger demos, and if done right, expand sales, marketing, and create a valuable revenue stream. Multi-billion dollar broadcast companies (although in debt) can usually afford what they need along these lines. However, smaller radio groups, small- and regional-market owners, and those working on the digital frontier may not have the resources of the larger competitors.
In the case of Jack of Trade Apps, the company has devised custom-created apps that provide technological solutions enabling businesses to communicate and interact with their clients. The firm has been successfully marketing apps to non-radio businesses, but has also proven it can create the digital connection with radio listeners, and help establish a much-needed revenue stream.
You can call it “a radio insider’s radio app.”
From Morning Drive to Digital Domain
Jack of Trade Apps has deep roots in radio. Paul Varga, the national radio accounts consultant for Jack of Trade Apps got his start in the industry while in high school in Albany. When he graduated college in 2009 during the recession, he managed to find work at WSLP – a small station in Lake Placid, New York.
Varga was morning host at WSLP. He and fellow staffer Andrew Davis (now president of Jack of Trade Apps) realized the station needed a quality app for both its business and listeners. But what was available was either too expensive or too generic for the station’s needs.
“I spent four-plus years doing mornings through the lens of the community. I was part of a three-and-a-half-man operation and we accomplished amazing things that stations 10 times the size would only begin to dream about,” says Varga, who left the station in 2014 for a PD gig in Maryland. “Andy Davis, with whom I worked at WSLP, asked me to come aboard to connect the stations and their personalities with a technology that is easy, fun and a great tool for any that possess it.”
It was Davis who started Jack of Trade Apps, but it was the addition of Varga that gave the company a focus on radio.
Despite working in a small broadcast market, Varga says he always thought big.
“At WSLP we wanted to be on the forefront of the digital revolution. We wanted to have a big sound because there are over two million visitors in the region annually. We were not just a community station, but a radio station that connected with the experience of the Adirondacks,” says Varga. “We realized we needed an app, and connected with Jack of Trade Apps. We worked hand-in-hand with Andy to develop an app with the broadcaster in mind. It was that relationship we forged that allowed us to start this national project.”
Customizing the Custom App
When one radio station in Upstate New York decided that the digital presence was a must-have, WSLP’s VP/GSM Jim Williams turned to his former morning show host – a decision that has turned an app into a cash-generating machine.
“Probably the most noticeable difference is the app has allowed us to interact with our listening audience in a host of new ways. They can send us pictures, audio (request a song, wish someone ‘Happy Birthday’ etc.) We also use it for special call-in contests by sending a push notification,” says Williams.
Both Varga and Williams agree the app has helped WSLP generate a revenue stream that far surpasses the average monthly app fee, not only creating a welcome revenue stream for the radio station needs, but also giving the listener a very special connection to it.
“The benefit to WSLP has been tremendous – we’ve been able to sell various ‘features’ included in the app to the extent that we’ve made a profit above and beyond the monthly fee. I’d strongly recommend Jack of Trade Apps to any radio station that is looking for a creative and affordable method of utilizing the latest digital technologies to reach their listeners in new ways AND add to the bottom line at the same time,” says Williams.
The app has also allowed the station to not just take the “10th caller,” but personalities can also tip listeners to the push notification on their phones, allowing them to engage people in a way they never could before.
As far as getting a custom app up and running for a client, Davis says it takes about four to six weeks to get published, and another two weeks for Apple verification – that’s about one- to two-month time frame from drawing board to working app.
“Our app is developed for the traditional radio station cluster or stand-alone. With every app there’s a content management system, and it is an extension of the unique brand you are building. We’ve priced it for the independent owner or cluster or regional owner to make it affordable. We know budgets are tight and the importance of return on investment is paramount,” says Varga.
Creating a Business and a Brand
It’s easy to say “an app is an app.” However, in the case of the Jack of Trade app, and their business model, it’s about creating profits for their clients.
“Jack of Trade Apps is different from other app companies in that we have found the balance between an engaging experience for the end user and profit making opportunities for the radio station. We don’t believe in profit sharing and will not impose our advertising in the radio station’s stream, which causes the end user to stop listening. We don’t provide internet streaming, e-mail campaigns, or anything else other than focusing on integrating your brand into an app that will be loved by your audience,” says Andrew Davis.
Davis, whose background is in engineering, started Jack of Trade Apps in 2012. Since then, a number of companies outside of broadcasting signed on for their services, but it was two people who joined the company, including Varga, who showed the business works very well for radio stations.
“Jack of Trade Apps can really benefit any radio station or ownership group, because we don’t just sell you an app, we come aboard as a team. We have two things in mind. First, is helping you protect and grow your brand, by giving you an app that is uniquely yours from custom graphics, to phrasing, to buttons and everywhere in between all while creating a new level of interaction between the listener and station,” says Varga. “Second, is creating a tool that can give you an instant ROI. I’m talking an app built with any budget in mind. So many conversations in radio are ‘How can we monetize this? How can this be effective?’ We have the same conversations but instead just asking questions, we give answers.”
The connection between company and client doesn’t end there. Davis believes what you get with the app behind-the-scenes is as important as the app itself, the freedom of worrying about “how the technology landscape changes.”
“We provide consulting services at no extra charge to help our clients get the most of the mobile landscape; from graphic design, to marketing ideas, and also radio commercial/app pre-made promotional packages,” adds Davis.
Budget Friendly – Not a Budget Buster
In a time of budget micromanagement, a station app that doesn’t bring back revenue is a deal breaker. One thing the Jack of Trade App seems to do is afford their clients a return on investment, potentially far beyond the cost of the app and maintenance. Varga says in the case of WSLP, that return can be four-fold.
“They use it as a profit stream, they sell sponsorships on this app and got an instant return on their investment. Even though they’re paying a monthly subscription fee they’ve been able to double and even quadruple their investment each month. That’s an excellent return on investment that also allows them to connect with their listeners in a very special and unique way,” says Varga. “The most important thing is interaction, making the most of your budget. The big question for small stations is ‘with all of the social media, how are we going to compete?’ Being able to go and say to them it’s been successful with small stations and it’s a tool you can use to interact with listeners. You can make the app custom to your community, and that’s very attractive to any radio station. This app allows them to go right into the home and be a part of that listener’s experience.”
Davis says Jack of Trade Apps has found the balance between an engaging experience for the end user and profit making opportunities for the radio station.
“With our services, a radio station is free to change streaming companies as their needs change without losing downloads,” says Davis.
A Frontier-Friendly App
An important facet of a Jack of Trade App is that it can be adapted to companies large and small, including in radio, which can include large regional broadcasters to those who have set up radio stations in their homes. The bottom line is profitability, and it seems as if the Jack of Trade Apps can fit any budget.
“I’m a millennial broadcaster. You can have your own radio station out of your house these days using the technology they know can be successful. (Our) app can help them because it’s a time saver. It allows you to connect. Also, you’re not just on your own – you have an app team that comes with our product to make sure your product can be easily consumed,” says Varga. “For those who want to both podcast and live stream in an all-in-one app, this is it. There’s not a lot that cross mingle, but with our technology we’re able to do that. Unfortunately there’s not always enough support for these young broadcasters who are just starting out or re-creating their career, but there is a worldwide audience who may want to consume their product. Our app allows them to be in the mobile sphere and internet sphere all in one place and allows that connection to continue.”
Much like an internet broadcaster, Jack of Trade App is also a startup.
“It’s important to keep both the brand and user in mind to make it a tool for a radio station in a community that is growing. This is a wonderful tool on the digital front. With our features an online station can drive targeted traffic back to their website with a simple push notification. On top of that, they can upload podcasts AND have a live stream,” says Varga, who makes certain the commitment doesn’t end once the app is bought.
He sums it up, “We worry about your app, allowing the online station to worry about its sound. One-on-one connections are why I got into radio. It’s why I love radio. Being able to connect with a station or a program, and then implement something that will help them to grow and mature into this new digital age is something that makes me proud. I know how tough it is to work with a small budget. Some say radio is dead. It isn’t dead. It’s changing, it’s growing one way and contracting another. I love being able to be on the crest of a new wave of technology and helping others get onboard!”
For more information about Jack of Trade Apps, please click here.
Jeff McKay, a veteran New York-based operations manager, newsman and traffic reporter, is a special features correspondent for RadioInfo. He can be emailed at McKayway@aol.com. Meet Jeff McKay at Talkers New York 2015. For registration information call 413-565-5413.