At the end of each MSNBC YouTube video right now they have a 30 second post-roll of Ali Velshi explaining the 5-step process on how to install the new MSNBC app.

  1. Tap on the App Store on your phone
  2. Hit “Search” on the bottom right corner
  3. Type in “MSNBC”
  4. Click on the MSNBC app
  5. Click on “Get” or the cloud icon

There’s an implied sixth step where you need to actually open the newly installed app. Opening the app for the first time you swipe through a little slideshow that has two more (optional) steps: give your email and turn on notifications. Standard engagement economy tactics.

Hearing the 5-step native app install process a few times a day makes me think we lost something along the way. Remember when the call to action was to visit a URL? Not only is “Visit” more succinct, catchier, private, less prone to user error, and immune to competitive advertisements but it also doesn’t require a paid presenter to coach you through it. Once upon a time users might have needed Ali Velshi’s help getting to a website, but in my experience visiting a website is one of the first computing skills my kids learned without my direct involvement. The URL isn’t a foreign concept anymore.

I know I’m making a mountain out of a “We just want to promote our new app, maaan” molehill here, but even saying “Visit” with a redirect to their actual app download page would be easier. It boggles my mind why you’d push a clunky app store install flow over a five-letter domain name. I’d even bet $5 that the “native app” is actually a bunch of web views in a trench coat. In an even wilder twist, that app download page isn’t linked anywhere on the website! Ughck. I’m 0% invested on what’s happening over at MSNBC but I’m already getting whiffs of misaligned goals, interdepartmental strife, and poorly designed content management systems.

Anyways, websites. They’re old tech but still work great from time to time.