How to make a news app…and other digital publications


4 Nov 2016

Steve Lamattina

how to make a news app

So you’ve got some content you’re itching to get out to more people, but currently it’s stuck on a webpage. Perhaps you want to highlight certain content? Or create a more customised mobile experience for your readers?

Well fortunately app makers are the perfect medium for your digital publication, world- dominating dreams! I’ll show you all the basic features you might need, as well as a couple of niche ones.

Whether you’re looking for ideas on how to make a news app, an app for your blog, or an online magazine app, you’ve come to the right place.


The Essential Features

Most publications have things in common, so let’s take a look at some of the features/sections/connectors (all these terms are used interchangeably, depending on the app maker you go with) you have at your disposal.



This will most likely be the bread and butter of your app. It’s available, in one form or another, within basically every app maker. This feature generally works like a blog post. You have a text box where you post your written content, and this can be formatted in the same way you would format a post on a website. This could also include adding images or embedding things via HTML.

The article sections can often be organised hierarchically, for example in categories such as “Culture” and “Fashion”, helping users reach the content they want easily. If you already have an online publication, its structure can be mirrored within the app. You can also use handy features such as search, content filters and sharing with this feature.

Some app makers, such as GoodBarber, allow you to not only create articles from scratch but import them from popular services such as WordPress and Blogger. This makes it even easier to import your content if it already exists online in another form. It’s worth noting the article feature also allows commenting, with integration options for services like Disqus.


Not too dissimilar to articles, this is basically another way to import content from your own, or other, sites. If there is an RSS feed enabled for the content you want, you can simply add this feature, insert the link, and the content will update automatically. This is more useful for up-to-date news, or other content that is updated regularly.


If you use video content, perhaps for news stories or interviews, these can easily be added to your app. Video sections vary amongst app makers, but most of them have at least a basic video upload feature. Some of them also have custom integration with services like YouTube and Vimeo. If you really wanted to, you could also embed your YouTube videos within an article section.

A handy addition to some app makers is a live-streaming feature, which would allow you to link a livestream broadcast to your app, perhaps for coverage at a festival, or broadcasting breaking news.



You can easily add images within your articles, but some app makers also allow you to add image galleries or link your social photo accounts, like Instagram or Flickr.


Of course you want your amazing content to be shared, and this can often be done from within the articles section in some app makers.

If you have a thriving social network, though, you can bring it all to one place for your user by integrating Facebook and Twitter sections. Some app makers, such as GoodBarber and Shoutem, allow you to go one step further and allow your users to create a basic profile and chat to each other, as well as posting on discussion boards.


Getting the Word Out – Push notifications

Most people understand how useful push notifications can be these days (for a full run-down you can check out our dedicated article), especially for user retention. And with publication apps it’s no different. There are a few tips and tricks, though, that you can use specifically for these kind of apps to help keep your users coming back for more.


User Groups

With a few app makers (for example AppInstitute, Shoutem and GoodBarber) you can create groups based on the tags you give content, such as ‘music’, ‘arts’ or ‘latest updates’. Users can then sign up to the content they’re interested in and receive automatic push notifications whenever new content is published. This means that users can filter what types of notifications they get, therefore increasing retention through relevance…of course, your content also needs to be worth coming back for.



Perhaps your publication has specific local content, competitions or urgent news? If so, you could make use of geo-targeted push notifications. There are a couple of ways to do this:

  • Geotargeting: this is a manual push notification that you send out to people in a particular region, usually more large-scale, like a country, state or city.
  • Geofencing: this is normally set up for smaller areas, centred around specific events or shops, for example. The region is set up manually, but the push notifications are sent automatically once someone interacts with that area, for example by entering or leaving it.


So what can’t you do?

As mentioned, app makers are basically perfect for creating an app for your digital publication. But hey, this is the real world after all, so nothing is 100% perfect.

Your main limitation when creating a news app, or similar, is centred around subscriptions and paid content (paywalls). At this point, there’s no easy way with app makers to create recurring subscription-style payments directly from your app.

You may be able to figure out ways around this by offering a payment system on your site, but the simplest way would probably be to create a free (lite) app and a paid app, if paid content is one of your ‘must-haves’. Yet this will also mean two paid subscriptions with most app makers, so keep this in mind.


Which app maker?

When it comes to these types of apps, one benefit (or perhaps a negative if you’re as indecisive as me) is that most app makers offer the tools you need. Listed below are our top picks, with some information on each.



As our top-rated app, GoodBarber (see review) offers several options for most of the features mentioned, including social profiles and walls. Their article hierarchy is user-friendly and, on top of that, they offer user groups, geotargeting and geofencing push notifications.

Try them out!



Shoutem (see review) offer a good variety of both social options and app features for publication apps. They also have good user group settings for push, but unfortunately no geolocation or geofencing available yet.

Try them out!



AppInstitute (see review) offer most of the media options you’d need, albeit relatively simple versions. But their big plus is that they provide all types of push notifications: geotargeting, geofencing and user groups.

Try them out!


As mentioned, most app makers give you the basics for creating your digital publication app, so if you feel like the above don’t suit you then feel free to have a look at some of the others available. They’re all offer free trials so there’s no harm in trying them out!


If you have any questions or comments on this topic, feel free to ask a question or leave a comment below.