Clip's Appeal to Apple

 

Clip’s initial appeal to Apple related to their finding that we are in violation of Guideline 4.3

REQUEST FOR CONTINUATION WHILE THE APPEAL IS UNDER REVIEW:

Given that Clip has been operating on the iOS platform in good faith and with good intentions for more than four years, and given that we have hundreds of radio station customers that rely on our development services, I would request that Clip is granted a temporary waiver of this ruling - while the below appeal is in process - so that we can make critical app updates and provide the best service and user experience possible for our customers and end users.  Clip has several app updates pending, and several more in queue, and we’d like to get these reviewed and approved as soon as possible.  If Apple can provide such a continuation while the appeal is in process, please let us know.

 

APPEAL TO RECENT RULING

Clip Interactive is a mobile app developer for the broadcast radio industry, building mobile apps for individual radio stations and radio personalities that are owned and promoted by major radio companies in the U.S. (and a handful of international companies as well).  We recently received notification that we are in violation of Apple App Design Guideline 4.3 (Design - Spam) which states:

 

4.3 Spam

Don’t create multiple Bundle IDs of the same app. If your app has different versions for specific locations, sports teams, universities, etc., consider submitting a single app and provide the variations using in-app purchase. Also avoid piling on to a category that is already saturated; the App Store has enough fart, burp, flashlight, and Kama Sutra apps already. Spamming the store may lead to your removal from the Developer Program.

We believe Apple has misunderstood or misinterpreted the intent of our apps, so we are submitting this appeal for consideration and providing additional clarification in the hopes of moving past this ruling.

 

To provide some background, I will first point out that Clip has developed and deployed over 450 mobile apps, and is under contract to deliver hundreds more, always for other companies.  The apps are deployed under the Clip developer account, but in every case the actual “owner” of the app (by contract) is another party.  Clip operates as the single developer for these accounts because we are the rights holder for the delivery and distribution of licensed content (like lyrics).  It’s also easier for Clip to manage app updates through a centralized account.  The historical record should show that nearly every app we have under our account was transferred to our account from another party.

 

Below I have outlined six points for consideration in our appeal of this ruling by Apple.  These six points are driven by the unique nature of the radio industry that we serve, and the need for each radio station to have an individual, brand-specific solution for all their public-facing products, including their mobile apps.  Our sincere intent is to develop the very best mobile apps for the radio industry and their listeners, and absolutely NOT to deceive consumers (or Apple reviewers) by “spamming” them with apps.  I hope these points sufficiently explain the environment within which we are operating and allow us to move past the current ruling.

 

1.  The need for individual station brand fidelity in the radio industry.

Radio stations are, naturally, “brand” focused.  Stations use their own broadcast to promote their own brand.  Stations are loathe to use their valuable air time to promote anything other than their brand (unless they are getting paid for it, of course).  And the vast majority will not promote a mobile app with a neutral brand, never mind a neutral brand where their listeners can discover and access other (competing) radio stations.

When Clip started over five years ago, we launched with the intent to build a neutrally branded, single aggregation mobile app for all of radio.  This plan had to be abandoned almost immediately as we learned that stations require their own, branded app.  They want their own logo in the store (this is even more important with CarPlay enabled apps…  as stations want their app icon front and center on the dashboard).  They want an on-air message that says “Get the KINK FM mobile app in the App Store, today” --- and they are unwilling to say “Get the Generic Radio app today and listen to KINK FM on it”.  They want a mobile app that hosts their own content (audio and digital), and not the content of other radio stations. 

The need for individual station brand fidelity is foundational to the other five other reasons outlined below.  This is the primary reason why every major app developer in the space (not just Clip) provides a similar user experience on a common platform (see app developers JacApps, Airkast, Futuri, Cox Media Group, Triton Digital, Wide Orbit as examples of other major app developers in the U.S. radio market).

 

2.  The need for similarity across brands, within a radio company.

While each radio station requires their own branded mobile presence, the companies that own these stations need efficiency when operating them.  As such, while they seek to provide brand individuality, they also want a common framework - and a common user experience - so they can manage all their stations uniformly and efficiently.

For example, Entercom Communications is the #4 broadcasting company (by revenue) in the U.S. and a customer of Clip’s.  They own 130 radio stations, and they are merging with CBS Radio (the now #3 company, by revenue), and adding their 119 stations to their company, for a grand total of 249 stations, nationwide.  Entercom needs a common platform for their mobile apps; a common user experience; a common CMS back-end to manage content; and a common way to talk to their many station operators - or they suffer massive inefficiency.

Just imagine how difficult it would be for the corporate digital team at Entercom to inform their 130 (soon, 249) radio station teams about a change to their mobile app functionality if each of these stations had unique apps.  Operationally, this would be impossible (never mind the expense to upgrade, enhance and manage 130 different apps, as a developer).  Also imagine on-air messaging, where 130 stations are explaining to their millions of listeners how to perform certain functions on their app, if they are all different.

The examples of having different versions for different “…locations, sports teams, universities, etc.” make a lot of sense to aggregate in a single app, but the radio industry is totally unique in this regard because a single radio company can own hundreds of different stations (i.e., individual brands).  Universities, cities/towns and sports teams don’t have this problem.  No single company owns a hundred universities.  But if they did, you can be certain they’d want a common app framework for all the universities they had to manage.

So we are in an unusual industry where radio stations all want their own unique app brand (and app icon, position in the store, etc.) but their owners require a platform-like solution so they can be managed efficiently.

 

3.  The simplicity of the app and the difficulty of differentiation.

Adding to this challenge is the fact that any radio station mobile app is going to perform only a small handful of functions.  Our mobile apps, for example, do three basic things: 1) they stream the radio station; 2) they show the user what is “now playing”; and 3) they provide a history of what the station has played (their “feed”).  Creating 500+ mobile apps that each do these three basic things in different ways would be nearly impossible - and make it extremely difficult to promote and manage these apps efficiently, for a radio company.

This sounds like an argument for aggregating all the stations under one app, but again, no radio station will promote this app (it’s not their brand), and every radio station will seek out their own branded experience and place in the App Store.

 

4.  What the users want.

For more than four years, millions of consumers have heard radio stations promote their individually branded mobile apps, and then downloaded and used those apps with regular frequency.  We deliver more than 50 million hours of radio station stream listening each month, and almost a billion impressions against radio station content (historical “feed” content).  The average active mobile app user on our platform has more than 16 unique sessions per month.  Our users seem to enjoy their mobile apps, and don’t think of them as spam apps.

One reason why our users don’t see the similar radio apps as spam or store “clutter” is that they only hear about and ultimately download and use just one station app, which in most cases is likely the station they listen to most (only 2% of our users have more than one station app).  Instead, they search for and download the one app they heard about on-air, from their favorite radio station.  They get to listen to the station’s stream and access all the station’s digital content (social posts, promotions, contests, etc.).  There is no confusion among the users as they are focused on a single station app - just like the stations want.

 

5.  An optimized user experience.

Clip has invested significantly in the design and development of an outstanding user experience for radio station mobile app users.  We have received volumes of feedback from end users and worked jointly with our radio company customers to fine-tune the mobile app UI.  We collect data to determine feature usage activity and user interests, and we adjust our design according to these data.  All of this points us in one optimized design direction.  To accommodate the spam guideline, we would have to abandon what we know to be empirically optimal designs in order to create arbitrary variations in the mobile UX.  This is not in anyone’s best interest, least of all the end user.

 

6.  The best result for all parties involved.

As part of our dialog with the Apple App Store Review team, we received the following advice with respect to the Design - Spam guideline:

“Apps that simply duplicate content or functionality create clutter, diminish the overall experience for the end user, and reduce the ability of developers to market their apps.”

It’s critically important to understand that our radio stations apps suffer none of these problems:

  • They don’t duplicate content, by definition.  The content in each app is either a reflection of what the station has played in recent history or manually curated by the station content team.  Content from one app to the next is necessarily different.
  • The only duplicate functionality is the functionality that is essential to any radio station mobile app - stream start/stop, presentation of what is “now playing”, and access to historically played content. 
  • The end user sees no clutter because they hear about and download only one app - not hundreds of apps.  The end user’s experience is in no way diminished by the fact that a radio station in another market has a similar architecture and framework. 
  • And by no means does our practice reduce the ability of developers to market apps.  The opposite is true: a common framework allows hundreds of radio stations to efficiently communicate to their millions of listeners that they have a mobile app, how to download it, how to use it, etc.

Finally, there is no intent to “deliberately disregard the App Store Review Guidelines” or mislead or deceive users.  On the contrary, we are trying to provide the biggest fans of each radio station on our platform with an immersive experience, while simultaneously providing radio companies with an efficient mobile app environment.

 

As part of this appeal, Clip is willing to provide the endorsement from each of our broadcaster company leaders, for the points listed above.  Here is a list of our customers and the number of stations they each own and operate:

  • Entercom            130
  • CBS                     119 (pending)
  • Alpha Media       125
  • Salem Media       111
  • Cumulus               3
  • Radio One           56
  • Beasley                55
  • Entravision           48
  • Sphera                  10
  • Reach Media         7
  • Mt. Wilson             7
  • CRC                       7
  • BCA                       4
  • Personalities        25

If there are any questions related to this appeal, please contact me directly:

Michael Lawless    |    CEO of Clip Interactive

mlawless@clipinteractive.com    |    303.886.7867