toura_logo_2011.jpgToura, a content management solution for the creation and delivery of mobile applications, is a relative newcomer to the mobile application market, but its owners are no strangers to the problems associated with mobile access.

Mobile App vs. Mobile Web

We are constantly discussing what is better, mobile app or mobile web app. While there is no right answer, the growth of the mobile app market and the potential it brings is very strong. Yesterday, CMSWire had the opportunity to talk about mobile applications with Toura CEO Aaron Radin and specifically about his company's solution which includes the Mobile App Producer.

Radin has a 15 year background in the digital media space. His time at CBS was spent trying to retro-fit content to work on mobile devices and working with phone carriers, something he called a very frustrating process. When the iPhone came out, he saw the potential and knew the distribution of content would really ramp up thanks to separation of carriers from content distribution. He also understood clearly that there would always be diversity in the market -- Apple and the iPhone would not be the only game in town.

What Radin wanted to focus on, and now found he could, was the content.

Toura Comes to Market

Toura, the company was formed in May of 2009, although the planning started much earlier than that. In March of 2010 they were given seed funding in the amount of US$ 1.5 million from angel investors which has helped them continue to develop the technology and increase marketing.

The Mobile App Producer

The Mobile App Producer is one component of the Toura solution. It is a web-based mobile content management system, hosted on Amazon. Basically, it enables you to upload, organize and format your content for publishing to mobile devices.

How It Works

You will continue to create and manage your content within your own content management system. This allows you to maintain control of your content completely. Once it's ready, you upload it via XML to the Mobile App Producer. There it is stored in a library (a database) to be used and re-used in your mobile applications.

With the Producer you structure the hierarchy of your app, creating essentially a site index, and for each node in the hierarchy apply layouts, design and associate content. You do this for different tablets or phones. When you are done you submit it.

Multi-Device Support

This is the second component of the Toura solution. A wrapper (an automated build server) is then applied that formats the application for the different device formats (iOS, Android, etc) and the resulting mobile apps are then pushed to the appropriate App Store for distribution.

A couple of key points here: first you aren't tied to creating a mobile app for a particular device or OS, this solution is multi-platform because, as we all know, you can't control from where your customers are consuming your content.

Second, you only need to push the app once to the associated App Store. Any changes made to the content is delivered directly to the app itself on the device. This includes adding, changing and removing content. So you aren't tied to getting updates from the App Store, unless you are changing the structure of the app itself.

Social- Enabled

Toura mobile apps also include social sharing capabilities. You can share with Twitter and Facebook, providing a great marketing opportunity. Radin believes they are on the cusp of social-sharing and are working on more features to encourage sharing that will lead to more awareness and sales of the apps.

Enabling Publishers to Focus on Content

Toura focused primarily on the museum/arts market initially. This, said Radin, was for a few reasons. First, museums have the content, and second they have the people to market the content to. This allowed Toura to focus on the technology and enabled them to quickly prove the capabilities of the platform. 

Recently they have signed on some big publishers and see a much wider market for their platform, especially for multi-title publishers (from an efficiency standpoint). And based on its capabilities there is a much wider market.

Again: Mobile App or Mobile Web App?

One of the biggest challenges when choosing to develop mobile apps is the wide variety of mobile devices you must build your app for. You can choose to build for a particular OS or device (tablet vs smartphone, Blackberry vs. Android vs iPhone), but that's really not a smart choice when you don't have control of the devices used.

There have been a number of web content management vendors recently come to market with mobile capabilities. Most have focused on delivering content via mobile web applications, not mobile apps. Toura gives you the ability to continue to create and manage your content in your current environment, and then deliver that content to mobile apps.

Why would this sound like a better alternative than what your WCM provider may be offering? Radin says that mobile apps provide an elegant merchandise layer. You can earn revenues from selling your mobile app. You can't do that via a mobile web app (at least not easily). Which again, makes Toura a good fit for publishers and media, in addition to museums and the arts industry overall.

And I will admit, when I looked at the British Library's Smartphone App for the iPad, my focus became solely on the content itself. There was little thought about the app that delivered it. Which is really what you want, to make it about the content.  Have a look for yourself:

Toura is priced based on a combination of a one time implementation fee and then fees that scale to the distribution of the respective applications. Users are trained to use the system and, as it's a hosted solution, there is no app install.

If mobile apps are your preferred approach to deliver your content, whether it's rich media content like that offered by the British Library, or something more scaled down and textual, Toura should be a platform you consider.