We join the ranks of many a great startup having run out of money with the future pipeline of app publishers, advertisers, and other partners not strong enough to continue.

What we did

We enhanced mobile apps by playing spoken audio.  We experimented with different business models before settling on advertising.  The majority of apps are free to download with the developers making their money via in-app purchases and advertising.  With our audio we ran A/B tests to help discover what was most effective, including factors like the voice (eg deep male voice versus neutral female voice), emotion (laid back versus hyper), background music, repetitions and timing etc.  We always used human voice actors for authenticity, never computer generated speech.

An example of other business models we tried was augmenting in-game tutorials to smooth the first-time user experience.

What we learned

Audio works.  We usually got double digit percentage improvements (10-50%), just by adding voice, in active measurements like click through rates.  A/B testing showed that effectiveness of factors (eg gender and emotion of voice) varied by the kind of application – there is no one size fits all, although it did tend to fit apps of the same category.

The financial side is hard.  App developers prefer getting checks than writing them.

The technical side is challenging, but we were praised by our partners for SDK size (very small compared to others) and ease of integration.  It was sufficiently flexible to help gather needed data, and tweak the user experience.

Analysis is fun, requiring careful use of statistics to ensure noise isn’t confused with signal.  Various hypotheses and correlations can be tested, even if they seem strange.


Advertising campaigns have been ended according to contractual terms, with app publishers getting their outstanding balances.  There will be no user impact, except ads provided by Appington will be unavailable.   Even after a complete decommissioning, the SDK will patiently periodically check for updates and fail-safe if none are found.  However we do recommend removing the Appington SDK at the next app update.  The init() method call can also just be commented out for a super quick ‘turn off’.


Perhaps the best part of Appington was working with our colleagues.  We are open to new opportunities, please contact if you think we can change the world together:

Risto Haukioja


Risto founded Appington and was the CEO.  This involved hands on techie work at the beginning, together with the usual startup duties of building the team, getting investment, staffing a board and advisors, helping with sales, business development etc.

Roger Binns


Roger helped out technically in the very early days, before coming on full time.  He wrote the majority of the code behind Appington including SDKs for Android and iOS, server side pieces for AppEngine, and numerous bits of internal data processing and plumbing.

Alison Kline


Alison joined Appington to help manage our customers and partners.  That ranged all the way from handling support requests and integration training through to juggling the numerous aspects of audio and ad production, voice talents, music sourcing, editing and mixing to name a few.  She also helped out with coding, with an emphasis on reporting and data analysis.

David Smith


David helped out part time with a focus on things that involved HTML, CSS and Javascript in any way.  For humans he improved our communication, sites, user interfaces and documentation.

How Rich Audio Ads are Created?

Republished from my original post at medium.com

Rich audio ads are a new, high-impact ad format that engages audiences through a multimodal user experience. They are great for increasing brand recall and telling stories to your audience. Working with advertisers to create new rich audio ad campaigns is our business and here are a few hints at what we do to create campaigns that sound great. Perhaps some of these might resonate.

Set Your Goals

Looking to reach an audience of 200,000 women between the ages of 25–40 and have them remember the brand in a positive light the next time they visit the store? Build your brand about the new bike line among a highly enthusiastic sub culture of engaged male audience between ages of 18–34?

Define goals like these clearly in the beginning and everything else will become a lot easier later in the process.

Your Story

Encounter with an old friend? Challenged by a HipHop star? Getting ready for an epic battle?

What is the story that really resonates with your target audience? How does that story drive the primary goal of the campaign? Do you want to just tell a single story with one version, or would you like to take your audience through a journey continuing the story each time from where they left off?

Come up with several versions for the stories and the winning lines will surface. In our creative process we use a spreadsheet and typically end up with at least a dozen different storyline alternatives.

How to Tell That Story?

Excited female voice with a little bit of Lara Croft, perhaps a hint of Oprah? Maybe it is better to rely on your familiar movie announcer with a deep male voice to build the trust that you want with our audience.

Is the story audio led, or visually led? Rich Audio Ad placements between songs, heard when listening to music should have a strong start and an audio message that drives people to look at the device and follow through on the visual portion of the ad. On the other hand, for large interstitial visuals, you want to make sure the initial visual and audio are supporting the story.


After choosing the type of persona, our AdStudio starts the talent sourcing and records and mixes the content to tell the story pitch perfect.

What music and sound FX are adding more impact to drive the story home with the audience? Pick music from our library or compose some on request, match existing campaigns or strike out in a new direction? Those are some of the decisions that our AdStudio professionals worry about when composing, mixing and editing the audio content to the final product.

This phase also pulls together the audio and visual assets in formats and sizes optimized for our mobile audience and prepares all the content and campaigns for launch.

Run and Measure Results

Now you are running you first Rich Audio Ad campaign — Congratulations! A wide audience listens to their favorite music, every now and then your story plays and users take action, clicking the ad or remembering your brand.

After launching the campaign we measure how the ad campaign is working. You can see the results delivered by your Rich Audio Ads; see which stories drive the most action with the audience; and which versions entice users to your site most effectively.

This is how our AdStudio team takes an idea of an ad campaign from concept to creation. If you have questions or comments about the process or would like a free evaluation for a makeover of your ad campaigns to run some Rich Audio Ad campaigns, get in touch!

Rich Audio Ads

Next Wave of Brand Ads for Mobile

Republished from my original post at medium.com.

The mobile ad market delivers billions and billions of ad impressions to users every day. Today more than 97 percentage of those impressions are pure display ads: banners, full screen interstitial ads. These ads are shown to users during their app usage experience and in most cases users cannot get past the ads quickly enough.

A growing part of the ad inventory is going to video ads and more recently playable ad units. Video ads are high engagement, high impact units, driven by their multimodal appeal and full attention-grabbing nature. Out of all the billions of daily impression opportunities, there’s an upper limit, around 10 percent, where video ads can be shown. Beyond that video ads just become too disruptive for the user experience.

The dilemma, with the above for brand advertisers: video is great for brand recall, but it has only limited number of placements while pure display has plenty of impression opportunities, but has a low brand recall value.

At my company, Appington, we are bringing this happy medium to the market: rich audio ads. Initially introduced by Pandora to the mass audience in their own music app, audio enabled ads are rapidly gaining market share and showing their value to both local and brand advertisers. Inspired by the success of audio, we designed Rich Audio Ads to fit nicely between video and display ads — highly impactful, yet less disruptive than video.

Initially we are seeing a great fit in music, news, sports and listening-centric mobile apps. Beyond those, we see rich audio ads opening up to 50% of all the available mobile ad inventory for high brand recall and high impact ads. While today a very large portion of high paying mobile ads are all about app installs, the wide adoption of rich audio ads can open a large portion of the mobile ad inventory as prime real estate for brand advertisement without the disruptiveness of video.

Most of us who love music, have heard and seen the ads through Pandora, Spotify and iTunesRadio.    Over the last few months here at Appington we have been working to enable the next wave of interactive ads that let brands tell their stories: Rich Audio Ads.   Here an example:

Instead of seeing these ads in just Pandora, Appington makes interactive ads with engaging, rich audio track available to advertisers in a range of different apps and demographics.

Anatomy of a Rich Audio Ad

Anatomy of a Rich Audio Ad

Rich Audio Ads help advertisers engage their audiences with a captivating multi-modal experience that are programmatically optimized to ensure brand awareness and retention.  For publishers, Rich Audio Ads open up a new massively monetizable inventory through a ads that users can both hear and see.  Think of Rich Audio Ads in between visually compelling rich HTML5 ads and video.  Less intrusive than video, yet highly impactful.



Our team here at Appington has been looking over the different monetization methods that apps use to monetize their audio and music players.

Here’s a brief summary of our findings that I wanted to share:

Preroll Audio Ad Audio Interstitial Ads Leave behind Banners Small Banners Large Banners Load Screen Interstitial Video Ads Subscription Upsell Songs
Pandora no yes (audio + visual) yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
TuneIn yes yes (audio only) no yes no no no yes yes
Spotify no yes no no no no no yes no
iHeartRadio yes no no yes no no yes no yes
Amazon MP3 no no no no no no no no yes
Music Player Pro no no no yes no no no no no
Slacker Radio no no no yes no no no yes yes
My Mixtapez Music & MP3 no no no yes no no no yes no
iTunes Radio no yes no no no no no no yes

For those who want slightly more detail, you can find a bit more information below.

Unique Problems with Audio App Monetization:

  • Users spend a long time listening, not looking
  • Visual only ads are ineffective because people can’t see them while phone is in pocket etc.
  • When users do happen to look at the screen occasionally, how to make sure that visual ads catch their attention at that moment

Proposed Solutions for the Additional Issues:

  • Use Audio Ads that let’s users hear the ad, even if they’re not looking at the screen
  • Add a “leave behind” component to the ads that leaves users something click when they do come back to the app from “listen only” mode
  • Maximize “screen time” utilization, by showing ads when we know users are looking (when they click buttons). Pandora does this very efficiently by triggering different ads when user clicks elements on screen.

Different Ad Monetization Methods:

  • Small banners 320×50 or 300×50 that users can click
  • Tiles or banners (500×500 or 300×250) that resemble the “Album Art” that many of the music apps have
  • Load Screen Interstitials (Pandora does this)
  • Audio Ads (pre-roll audio ads that get played in the beginning of the listening session before an audio stream from radio etc. gets started)
  • Interstitial Audio Ads (upto 4 times an hour, 15 or 30 second audio ads, users sees banner & hear audio)
  • Sponsored Audio Channels(Pandora)
  • iTunes / Google Play / Amazon links to buy music
  • Increase subscription ratio by house ads that promote a paid option, via visual or audio ads.

How to make your users more valuable for advertisers:

  • Personal information: gender, age, email, zip code
  • Targeting information about the music genre etc. that the user is listening
  • Ad units that target on collecting different user information that’s relevant to an offer (email directly from an ad unit etc.)

Ways to encourage your users to use house ads:

  •  Introduce channels & artists (Slacker does a great job on this, narration on Radio style)

Facebook Paper App

I was excited to hear about the new Facebook Paper app.  I like the app – it’s very well done. You may know that my company, Appington, is the innovator of in-app voice. Unfortunately the Facebook guys didn’t contact us while they were developing Paper, as we’d have offered many suggestions for improving their voice tutorial :-) 

We’ve worked with several mobile app and game companies to introduce audio tutorials and in-app promotions to their apps. Check out a few recent ones:

We’ve tested thousands of prompts against millions of users to measure their impact and correlate with other factors. As a consequence we’ve driven 30-60% improvement in revenue, and even increased Facebook sign-in by over 150%. In other words, we’ve done voice tutorials a bunch of times so we know what works and what doesn’t.

The Paper voice tutorial closely resembles some of the tutorials we’ve worked on. It’s pretty cool – and flattering – to see one of the biggest companies and apps out there validate your concept, and try to imitate you inside their product.

But they could do better. Here are a few suggestions we have for Facebook Paper:

  1. Add more character to the voice: The current voice in Facebook Paper resembles Siri – it’s emotionless, almost as if generated by a text-to-speech system. The true power of voice comes from its ability to raise real emotions in people. Facebook Paper went for the “safe choice” which uses voice to communicate information but isn’t really exciting and doesn’t build strong emotions with anyone.
  2. Use variety in tone and copy: Mix it up with different confirmation and action words. Voice and audio are powerful when they come in a variety of forms. Instead of a flat “great”, use a range of alternate messages to keep up users’ interest.
  3. A/B test: I don’t know whether Facebook Paper has a single hardcoded version of its tutorial with one actor and one set of copy. But they should be testing real voices and different lines with users. In our experiments we’ve seen that sometimes the same words spoken in a different tone of voice, or by a different actor, can drive tens of percentage difference in users using features. You might believe your actor “sounds great” but voice has a dramatic impact to real life usage of the app. Without trying a few different actors or lines, it’s impossible to know. Hunches aren’t data.
  4. Use voice notifications: Give users relevant and timely information, like “You have a new post from one of your friends – check it out,” or “You have a pending friend request.”
  5. Localization: Deliver voice guidance in the user’s own language. Voice localization is an easy way to drive more engagement across a global audience and it’s easy to do without requiring expensive graphical UI changes.

Those are just a few ideas for better voice tutorials. We’ll continue to work with cool game and app developers to drive new audio concepts for driving engagement. It’s exciting to see Facebook starting to venture in this direction!

We’d like to welcome many other apps to try out voice tutorials and audio for engagement in mobile apps, and we’d love to hear from you! Message me at twitter or email if you’d like to find out more.

With over 8,000 attendees to Apps World Europe it’s evident that the Mobile Community is continuing to grow and thrive!  Over the course of two days Appington was, especially, proud to be able to demo our technology to several hundred of these attendees.  If you walked around long enough you noticed our table in the Startup Village and possibly had the opportunity to speak with Matthew our Director of Developer Relations all about how adding voice prompts to your mobile apps can increase retention and revenue.

Several of the top attended talks were focused on how to continue to grow your user base and keep the users coming back!  We at Appington are excited to work with mobile publishers and help them make their dreams of being a top publisher a reality. Keep an eye out for team Appington at other mobile related events and don’t be shy, come and say hi!  Keep up to date with our whereabout by following us on twitter: @appington – See you again next year at Apps World Europe!


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