McGraw-Hill Cos. launched the Architectural Record Continuing Education app for iPhone users last May and has seen more than 12,000 architects download the mobile version of its popular online credited-course program over the past nine months. More than 6,000 tests have been taken using the mobile platform.
“It was a natural progression to our [continuing-education units] website,” said Laura Viscusi, publisher of Architectural Record. “The architects have to take continuing education credits, and we're the largest provider of classes to architects.”
The app gives architects access to hundreds of digital courses available through Architectural Record's Online Continuing Education Center. Courses are presented as articles and webinars followed by a test.
McGraw-Hill developed the app because research showed that the Online Continuing Education Center had become a top draw on the brand's website. Moreover, architects needed a vehicle that moved with them, from the airplane to the job site to the home. “Their personal and professional lives are very blended,” Viscusi said.
The publisher developed a single-partner sponsorship offering that has been maintained by Armstrong Ceiling & Wall Systems since its inception. Armstrong branding sits not only on the app but also on all promotional materials that support it. “We continue to run a series of advertisements [to drive downloads] online. The app sponsor rides with that promotion. They also have a CEU channel with four to six courses,” Viscusi said.
The publisher also promotes the app course-by-course through its Twitter stream, which reaches 375,000 followers. Sponsor information accompanies new course announcements.
McGraw-Hill launched the app at the American Institute of Architects Convention, a prominent venue that increased initial exposure. A prize giveaway at the event helped build a following quickly, with 3,000 architects downloading the app in the first month, Viscusi said.
The marketing plan included print advertisements in publications such as Architectural Record and GreenSource magazines as well as the McGraw-Hill brands' e-newsletters.
“It has expanded our audience to new users,” Viscusi said. “We can tell when they are taking the courses.”
The company set an initial goal of 10,000 downloads in its first year and plans to exceed that, netting 15,000 by next May, she said. The next stage will be the development of an Android app.
“The secret is to make something that works for readers and advertisers,” Viscusi said. “Readers need to take the courses on the go and advertisers need to connect with those prospects. An app works if it meets a mutual need.”