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Before submitting a proposal to PBS, it is critical that you thoroughly research what you want to accomplish with your app. We cannot express how incredibly important it is that you come into the app process with comprehensive knowledge of what you want your app to do, what you want users to gain from it, and how you plan to maintain it once it is in the marketplace. When you have determined those essential elements you can begin to design a concept and a plan around them.

This section guides you through the preliminary steps you need to complete before proposing an app to PBS. Please read through it carefully and refer to our recommendations page for helpful hints to get you started.

As you develop your concept and plan, be mindful of all requirements. An app will most likely not be greenlit by PBS if it does not conform to the established requirements.

Development process

There are seven critical phases during the app development process.  Below is a graphic highlighting those phases followed by brief descriptions of each phase.


1:  Research

The research phase is possibly the most important phase in the proposal process.  During the research phase, goals are determined, a concept is created, and a development plan is established.  
2:  ProposalPresenting your project plan and all required elements to PBS happens during the proposal phase.  PBS provides a form designed to gather the information necessary to consider your app.  Simply fill out the form and submit it so PBS can begin the review process. 
3:  Startup (Roles and Responsibilities)Once PBS greenlights your app, it's time to assemble a team.  Think about what roles will be assigned to each team member and the responsibilities that come with each role.
4:  Design, Wireframes and PrototypeTo have a clear idea of what your final app should look like, a prototype must be developed.  This phase is dedicated to the creation of your app mockup.
5:  DevelopmentOnce there is a clear understanding of the look, feel and functionality of your app, it's time to develop!  The amount of work you have done in the previous phases determines how quickly this phase can go.  Thorough preparation typically leads to faster development.
6:  Pre-LaunchThe pre-launch is an opportunity to go over your checklist, test your app and make sure it's ready for release. 
7:  Initial LaunchThis is the culmination of the previous 6 phases.  Your app goes live in the iTunes store and users start lining up! 

See additional recommendations from PBS.

Establish a timeline

One of the most important factors at the beginning of the app development process is your launch date.  The launch date dictates the flow of everything that happens going forward.  Be sure to examine all requirements and features of your app when determining a launch date and PBS will investigate available resources and work with you to achieve your goal. 

Determine your goals

Identify the goals you want to accomplish with your mobile app and think about the metrics associated with each goal to help develop a plan going forward.  PBS uses this information to:

  • evaluate how to prioritize app submissions
  • keep the focus on app features and content that serve the goals
  • evaluate performance of live apps

Below are some goals which your app can serve:



Audience Growth

Forecasted Audience Size (e.g., expected downloads or monthly visits)
Engagement Indicators (i.e., expected avg. sessions per month, avg. time spent per session, etc.)
Reach to New / Under-Served Audiences (i.e., what % of the audience do you expect to be new or under-served?)

Revenue Generation

Expected Net Revenues
(please deduct fees and commissions to the platform owner, e.g., Apple, or to sponsorship sales before calculating net revenues)


This is a qualitative metric. Innovation can be technological or originality of content/feature set, but it must be innovative in the context of all things mobile, not just public media. The bar for meeting this goal is high.

Serving member stations 


See additional recommendations from PBS.

Identify a concept

 As you begin to develop your concept, ask yourself the following questions to help you get started:

  • What key features and functionality do I want my app to have?
  • How will my app serve audience needs?

PBS has developed some recommendations to help you:

  • Create concepts that offer more than just entertainment.  The goal of the app concept and marketing message should be enrichment in addition to entertainment. 
  • Keep it locally relevant.  Strive to find a local or geo-targeted angle to the extent feasible or relevant to the content.
  • Create an interactive experience.  Seek opportunities to allow users to collaborate, compete, share or have some form of social interaction around your content or even contributing to it. Mobile is a great opportunity to let the "public" shine through in public media!
  • Make your app stand out from the rest.  Develop a unique angle.  Look for features and functionalities that are natural offshoots of the content and what your audience wants to do with that content.
  • Maintain high quality.  Your audience expects the same high editorial standards you have on-air and online so be sure those standards carry over to your app.

See additional recommendations from PBS.

Begin high level planning

Some elements that need to be considered in the planning phase include:

  • intended platform type
  • native app or mobile web app/site
  • app updates
  • functionality changes
  • content refresh

(warning) When considering platforms, please think about whether a native app is necessary or if your audience could be better served with a Mobile Web application or site.   

(info) Keep in mind that third parties have total control over native applications whereas PBS offers much greater control and flexibility with your Mobile Web site on

Mobile App vs. Mobile Website

A Mobile App is an application designed to run on a specific mobile device.  Download and installation required.

Mobile Website is a website created specifically for mobile devices and is accessible through mobile browsers.  No download or installation required.

The table below outlines some specifics of each option: 

 Mobile App Mobile Website 
PortabilityNeeds to be developed for each platform (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Palm and the list goes on…)Common platform – some solutions enable you to develop once and run on all web-enabled mobile devices
Hyper LinksIt is possible to link to an app but since most users will not have the app installed, the most effective way is to link to the download page for this app. It is possible to link from an app externally to other websitesPossible to provide links to different pages on your mobile site and to link from your mobile site to other websites
DiscoverabilityMost apps don’t achieve critical success and fade into the world of anonymity. You will need a very well defined strategy to break into the top list for your category in order to make it (AdWhirl estimates $1875 per day advertising budget can get you there , Pinch Media says the impact of being in the top 100 is a daily increase of 2.3x in the number of users)People can find your site by using any of the search engines and via links from other websites, blogs, Twitter and links embedded in emails. A good marketing strategy can definitely increase the number of visitors, especially if it is viral.
Distribution & Market SizeAt the mercy of the App Store police in regards to availability of your app and approvals to get it in. Requires users to download – huge barrier to entry. 


Limited to the number of users on the released platform

Anyone on the web has access to your mobile site
Usage of Device CapabilitiesAble to use all device capabilities (GPS, camera, voice, RFID, address book, calendar, etc.)It is possible to use features like GPS, offline data storage and video from within mobile websites using the latest mobile browsers which support HTML5. Access from the web to some native capabilities of mobile devices is still limited due to security and privacy concerns (e.g. access to address book or calendar)
Supportability & UpgradeabilityDifficult to support and maintain after app is downloaded. Every new release with bug fixes requires to go through the entire approval process of the app store


After new version of application is placed in the store, it requires all existing users to upgrade in order to get it- big barrier

Easier to support and maintain as developer has complete access to the site 


No need to upgrade, all users see the latest version

Entry Costssome app stores charge extra fees for publishing or certifying your app (Apple charges developers $99 and enterprises $299, RIM charges $200 )None
Revenue ShareNeed to share sales revenue with the app stores (Apple takes 30%, RIM takes 20%)It’s all yours
User ExperienceFull control of User InterfaceLimited to the capabilities of HTML/CSS. User experience will largely depend on how the mobile website is designed
PerformanceAble to achieve high performance through app code that runs locally on the devicePerformance will largely depend on how the mobile website is designed
Offline BrowsingPossibleHTML5 enables it to some extent, but is supported only on selected devices


Native Apps

Mobile Web

Audience Reach Smaller audience Much wider audience (anyone with a smartphone or feature phone) 

Development Skills

Specialized programming

Web design

Functional Capabilities

Tied to device

Tied to browser

Audience Strategy

(45M people – fragmented by OS)

(250M people in USA alone)

Distribution Strategy



Channel Control

Apple, Google, RIM, Wireless Carriers

PBS and stakeholders

 See additional recommendations from PBS.