Some time ago, the Museum of London produced a project called Streetmuseum, an innovative AR-based iPhone app which received critical acclaim from both the museum world and beyond. I interviewed Vic back then over on my Electronic Museum blog – now they’re back with a new project…
Please introduce yourself, and tell us the name of your project and what your involvement is with it:
I’m Vicky Lee, Marketing Manager for the Museum of London. In 2011 I commissioned and project managed the development of the Streetmuseum Londinium app, in partnership with TV channel HISTORY.
What does the project / app do?
Streetmuseum Londinium is an iPhone and iPad app which uses innovative technology to bring Roman London to life. Overlaying a map of ancient Londinium with present day London, the app reveals the hidden city beneath your feet. Users are guided around the capital where they can use a virtual dig tool to unearth artefacts where they were found; listen to sounds of the Roman city; and watch augmented reality video which presents scenes of Roman London against today’s modern backdrop.
How have you implemented it, from a technical perspective – and why?
The app has been designed for iPad and iPhone. Primarily it works best on iPad, allowing users to explore the Roman map in more detail. We released the app only on these platforms due to budget constraints, however as our main target audience was Londoners it was important to choose the platform that is most popular among them. Approximately 95% of downloads of the original Streetmuseum app was through iTunes, highlighting its significant market share in London, compared to the rest of the UK.
How are you marketing the app? How is it doing in terms of downloads / use / etc?
We have spent no money on marketing the app – instead we have relied on press coverage and reciprocal promotions. Our partner HISTORY provided 5 and 10 second promotional ads which aired on their channel in the run up to launch. They also promoted the app on their website and sent a bespoke eflyer to their email list. We also publicised the app on our website and in our leaflets, and sent an email to our enews list.
Our main driver of downloads was, however, from significant media coverage. A double page feature and review ran in The Times while the story was also covered in Metro. This was followed by coverage on ITV London Tonight and numerous pieces on tech websites, in app magazines and trade press. Coverage continues to be picked up since our launch in July 2011.
Social media was also key to promoting the app, and the story was spread quickly via Twitter and blog posts.
Are you tracking stats? If so, what are these telling you?
We can only track downloads and country of origin. As of October 2011, we had received over 70,000 downloads with noticeable spikes around significant coverage and interestingly around the start of the autumn term, which suggests that schools and/or parents are using the app to support classroom learning in relation to Roman London.
Can you tell us a bit more about the financial model?
The app was developed in partnership with HISTORY, who provided both sponsorship and also video and audio content. It was designed and built by creative agency Brothers and Sisters.
It is free to download so we are not generating any income, however, at the present time we have no plans to develop the app further. It is possible that in a few years we may revisit the app to coincide with the launch of our new Roman London gallery in 2015, at which time we will need to explore additional funding possibilities.
What are the things you’ve learnt most about as you’ve gone through the project?
It has become clear throughout the project that you can’t please everyone. Some users love the virtual digging tool while others think it’s just a novelty that the app could do without. There are certainly two camps – the (typically more academic or expert) users who love to pore over the Roman map exploring every little detail, and then the users who are having fun unearthing Roman artefacts and watching videos of life in Londinium, and discovering a city that they knew very little about.
User experience and feedback is important but we have to remember why we’re creating the app in the first place – to engage new audiences who may not otherwise visit us or be able to access our collections. If that means doing something a little less traditional to get them interested then it’s an approach worth taking.
What would you differently next time, and why?
If we’d had more time and money then it would have been nice to include more video content but I’m very happy with the overall experience.
How are you thinking about growing the project?
As mentioned above, we will possibly explore developing the app further to coincide with the Roman London gallery relaunch. One idea that didn’t make it into the first version was a news feed to keep users updated with new Roman finds in London – I think that would make a nice addition, along with new artefacts to uncover and a more up to date version of the map to factor in any new information that has been discovered since 2011.
Tell us anything else that you think might be useful to people thinking about building mobile apps
Try to come up with something that hasn’t been done before to ensure that both press and public have a reason to talk about you. There is a lot of competition out there so you need a story that makes you stand out and a product that sells itself.
To date, we haven’t had to spend any money on marketing our apps and that’s been down to the quality of the creative concept – both Streetmuseum and Streetmuseum Londinium had ‘firsts’ that we used to generate coverage and word of mouth.