Making Choices in The Mobile App Economy
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
Posted by: Sheri Toomb
Making Choices in The Mobile App
by Bob Carlton, Principal at LMK Consulting
Mobile is putting pressure on publishers to quickly adapt
and successfully deliver. In a "sink or swim” environment, the hype of apps has
begun to challenge publishers in ways they never imagined. Mobile comes
in the face of already thin technology development resources. Mobile
means supporting multiple proprietary apps that are almost impossible to track
or keep updated. Ultimately, mobile can mean serving someone else’s
strategy more than your own.
A native app is a great way for developers to create
functionality that’s not possible with a web page (or that might otherwise
require the use of Flash in a web page). Games are a perfect example of this.
For a publisher whose product is words and pictures, it is unclear what
additional functionality an app can provide that a well-designed Web page
As publishers begin to develop enhanced or extended content,
these assumptions must change. Increasingly, new content models include
that interactivity, video and offline reading. The gap on these is closing with
HTML5 and with the promise of ePub 3.
When deciding to publish content in an app rather than a
mobile website, publishers need to understand that the value of links.
For mobile apps, links as we know them on the Web, are greatly
diminished. An app is a standalone program, not a part of the open Web; as a
result linking to other pages is clunky at best. You cannot link to content on
other apps. And links to websites, while possible, require switching the user
to another application (AKA a mobile browser) and disrupting the user
experience between articles.
Perhaps most important consideration for publishers is the
ownership of the platform on which you publish. No one owns the Web, and therefore
no company can impose new rules, pricing, censorship or other surprises along
the way. When developing a mobile app, a publisher technically becomes a
node within someone else’s platform — namely Apple or Google — and is bound by
their rules and whims. Apple’s decision to impose a 30 percent tax on all
publisher subscriptions done within apps is just one example of this.
Financial Times created a lot of buzz with their
decision to fully withdraw from the App Store and go all-in with their mobile
Web app, formatted in HTML5. Developing an app for someone else’s platform
might give the illusion of a new marketing channel, but in reality it means
becoming a node in someone else’s business model.
All that said, a mobile app can be a decent marketing
channel, and there is value for publishers in having a presence inside the
various app stores. But if you peel away all the other layers of what an app
can be and focus on it exclusively as a marketing channel, then the conclusion
is that an app for publishers is basically a bookmark on people’s phone
screens. That’s it — a reminder to consume the publisher’s content, and a quick
link to do so.
may want to stick to these principles after the "we need to have an iPhone/iPad/Android/WebOS/Win7/etc.
app” hype passes:
limited development resources to build a single, great mobile Web version of
a bookmark version to all the app stores of an app that launches the Web
browser with their mobile Web site.
services specific to mobile, which provide readers a superior browsing
experience, tailored for the mobile Web.
monetization strategies for the mobile environment, opting for revenue
generators that are perfected for mobile consumption.
loves readers, writers & the digital world that is emerging around us.
He is the Principal Consultant at LMK Consulting,focusing on
digital content, online marketing & social media strategies for media
businesses and non-profits. With more than 25 years of experience,
Carlton has excelled in transforming organizations, driving successful client
engagements, and managing product management & business development with
companies ranging from early stage start-ups to large education companies.