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The BRAG Blog: Start Spreading the News (Apps)

Posted Jun 7, 2022

The BRAG Index, or Brand Relative App Growth Index, is a first of its kind report released by Digital Turbine and Apptopia in May 2022. The BRAG Index measures a brand’s app installs against its brand funnel (defined as consumer awareness and install intent) to find brands that had app growth that transcended its market presence. 

The BRAG Blog gives you deeper insight into our findings. Read the full report here.

Breaking The News

One of the assumptions of our BRAG report is that well known and popular brands will garner more installs due to its brand strength compared to other brands… all things being equal. Of course, our BRAG blog has shown that all things are NOT equal. Lesser known brands will do something out of the ordinary that causes them to TRANSCEND their brand and reap way more installs than expected. And in other cases, industry leaders fell short of goals due to poor campaigns, bad press, or simply through natural attrition. 

The News category tested this theory since at first glance the results seemed upside down: not only did lesser known brands greatly outperform better known brands on our BRAG index, but they outperformed them in total installs as well. In fact, the top 5 apps for total installs according to Apptopia’s Performance Data ALL had an awareness of under 10%. Meanwhile, the top 4 apps for growth potential (CBS, Fox News, CNN, and Yahoo) all had awareness of over 50% but even COMBINED had less total installs than our category leader (Newsbreak). The key reason for this is the growth of news aggregators. 

What’s in the Box? 

Sure enough, the 5 highest brag scores belonged to 4 news aggregators in Newsbreak, Local News, Opera News, and SmartNews and 1 user-generated content app in Citizen. Of the leaders in growth potential, only Fox News and AOL managed to over deliver on expectations, albeit just barely. 

The split confirms that people are gravitating towards aggregation services rather than looking to one particular source of news that they could view as biased.

The Apple News and Flipboard Effect

Apple and Android have preloaded their phones with news aggregators. Apple News and Flipboard work similarly in that they deliver customized headlines via notifications or placing them around the device (like swiping off the home screen) for easy discovery. This conditioning is what has likely led to people’s preference to news aggregation services (or news magazines) that sort through thousands of headlines from dozens of sources to surface the ones the consumer is more likely to read. 

Newsbreak, our top BRAG scorer and a news aggregator, garnered well over 7M installs during our research period despite having awareness of 9% and intent to install of 1.3%. Compare this to Fox News which had 62% awareness and 8% install intent yet only managed 1.25M installs. 

The Power of Front-Page News

So how did Newsbreak and other aggregators like SmartNews manage to outperform better known apps? Aside from a simple interface and personalization, they also emulated the strategy of Apple News and Flipboard and came pre-installed on phones. By partnering with Digital Turbine, both were able to be placed directly on the devices of leading carriers and OEMs to help them to the top of our BRAG rankings. 

I’ve Got News For You

Meanwhile, well known brands all fell short of growth expectations, but that might be partly by design. CBS, Fox News, and CNN all have a website and TV channels that distribute news out that they may prioritize. When it comes to mobile, you’ll see their headlines on Apple News, Flipboard, and even Newsbreak and SmartNews. With news aggregators providing the distribution, these apps’ mobile strategy might be to simply spread their content through other channels rather than focusing on their own mobile property.  

What’s Next?

Despite the rise of News Aggregation apps, people still probably recognize the brand of the content they are reading over the app itself. So while I do anticipate we’ll see some spikes from those apps that performed well this quarter, it’s unlikely they’ll catch up to the well known brands in terms of awareness and intent. By the same token, since leading apps aren’t overly active in promoting their mobile properties, people may become less aware that their stand-alone app exists. So I would expect incremental changes in growth potential for both our leaders and Transcenders — but it may not change the makeup of the category too much in our next BRAG report. 

Stay tuned to our Brag Blog for Music and Audio coming later this week.

Previous BRAG Blogs:

Product Innovation & Fitness App Growth

The BRAG Blog: A Streaming War Full of Surprises

How Shopping Apps Keep Up With Amazon

How CashApp Ruled Finance

Food & Drink Apps

Which Apps Got UA BRAG-ging Rights. . . and How Did They Get Them?

Learn More From Digital Turbine
For the latest mobile news and updates, visit Digital Turbine’s blog. You can also catch the latest news from the DT family by following @AdColony@Fyber, and @DigitalTurbine on Twitter.


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