Arise, the Discerning Downloader

Gartner has just released its latest stats around mobile app downloads and is claiming we’ll reach the peak number of downloads per user in 2013. The analyst house suggests that currently iPhone owners download 4.9 apps a month and that it’s 6.2 for Android devices. That number will decline to 3.9 and 5.8 by 2017 as users become more ‘discerning’ when downloading apps.

This shows an interesting change in the growth of the mobile app marketplace. The industry has gone from non-existence five years ago to providing revenues of $18 billion in 2012 and a predicted $26 billion foImager this year. The biggest app store, Apple App Store only celebrated its five year anniversary this year. The market has exploded.

Gartner’s suggestion that there will be a new attitude to downloading – as consumers become more comfortable with their choice of device and the apps that are out there – shows how users will become rather more sophisticated in their approach to what they keep on their mobile in coming years. There will certainly still be money to make in developing apps over the next five years but quality, reliability and user experience will become more important as the competition rises.

In the comms industry, we are aware of the value of mobile optimisation of web content and having a comprehensive strategy as more and more people consume their information on a mobile device. Many companies are developing their own mobile apps to enhance the user experience and make life easier. For example, our client, Coloplast, recently developed a mobile app for wheelchair users looking to locate a bathroom on the go, Wheel Mate. It took a very common and difficult problem for wheelchair users and found a way to make the situation easier, without the need for anything more than just a smartphone. The response from users has been excellent.  

Mobile strategy should always be acknowledged by businesses when reaching out to their customers. This doesn’t have to be in the form of an app but could be as simple as ensuring you can view the website on an iPad, iPhone and an Android device.  If app development is being considered, organisations need to ensure they offer the best app, rather than just another ‘ticking a box’ for the different communications channels. The considered consumer will only pick the most useful/entertaining apps with the best user experience when making the choice to download or not. These will be the apps that see a return on investment.  Deciding to build a mobile app shouldn’t be a bolt-on to a mobile strategy, but should be carefully considered and developed according to your customers’ needs.  

Top Gear iPad app launches

Top Gear magazine released an iPad version of popular monthly print issue this week, which launches to coincide with the ‘Cars of 2012’ issue.

From the brief demo shown at the launch event, the app looks to be a good one. The ‘pages’ of each issue look similar to the print addition, but certain aspects of each come alive in various ways.

TopGear iPad app

For example, this month’s cover features images of the Cars of 2012 under spotlights. By tapping each, you get playback of the engines firing up and revving, a la Clarkson. Nice for the Ferraris and Maseratis of the world, but you wonder what will happen when they feature a family saloon on the cover.

Or actually, you don’t. The guy presenting (who didn’t introduce himself, sadly) told the audience each cover would be interactive in one way or another, with the production team “finding ways” to bring them alive.

Deeper inside the iPad addition there’s more treats, such as videos from presenters Clarkson, Hammond and May as part of their monthly columns, images in slideshow format and an interactive feature that allows the reader to open the boot, bonnet and doors of a featured auto. Quite nice when you’re looking at one of the more extravagant supercars with gull-wing doors (or Back to the Future Delorean doors for non-car enthusiasts).

TopGear iPad app

In fact, the iPad addition easily overcomes a few inherent issues with print. The buyers guide that lists the specs and prices of all makes and models on sale in the UK is much, much easier to flip through on the iPad’s endless scroll-column compared to print. And there’s almost limitless space for hi-res images of each car, excellent news for a magazine that’s all about showing off big shiny things.

The launch event also featured everyone’s favourite white-overall-clad mute, The Stig. Stiggies’ actually become quite a good PR and marketing tool in his own right. He was a bit of a pull for the event, and while he was on stage for a bit he soon ‘got bored’ and wondered off – and thus left the audience to focus on the app demo.

The app is in iTunes now, £2.99.

Also, here’s me with The Stig.

TopGear iPad app

Is the Telegraph one step closer to a paywall, or kicking off a paid content ‘ladder strategy’?

The Daily Telegraph is about to start charging for its editorial mobile apps, which until now have been free for anyone wanting to read the paper on the go.

In “the coming weeks”, iPhone and Android smartphone uses will have to start forking out £7 a week for the editorial apps as they are bundled into the paper subscription. Only those who already subscribe to the Telegraph print or the £9.99 a month iPad edition will continue to get the apps for free.

Does this mean the paper is one step closer to erecting a paywall around its website content? There has been discussion of such an endeavour last year, following in the national paywall trend of the FT and The Times.

It’s also possible this is the beginning of a ‘ladder strategy’ for the paper, where web content is offered as the free lure followed up an up sell of the physical print paper and convenience of the mobile apps. That would make yet another variation of the national paywall model, coming in underneath the FT’s ‘you get a few articles a month for free, then pay’ and way below The Times’ ‘all or nothing’ payment approach.

Offering short form content that appeals to the mobile user, such as ESPN Premier League video highlights, suggests the Telegraph sees more of a market for this content amongst mobile device users – perhaps thinking they’re more likely to consume video on a commute or double screening at home. The slight drawback is relying on seasonal sports content puts you in danger of losing regular weekly subs during the off season period.

Has the Telegraph found the paid content’s paywall sweet spot? It’s a big ask, but we might find out in ‘the coming weeks’.

@simonhill

The Paperboy’s Digital Satchel Just Got Bigger

Spotting the online version of print coverage just got a whole lot easier with a new app from Kooaba. The Swiss firm has updated the existing Paperboy app, which allows users to snap a picture of a print article in a newspaper or magazine and use image recognition technology to search and pull up the online equivalent.

Until now, the app had been limited to some 85 titles from Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Today’s update expands this to hundreds of titles, including big names such as The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, USA Today, The New York Times and Halifax Courier. Okay, that last one might not be huge, but you get the idea – there’s a lot of titles.

A full list can be seen here.

The app works by linking with NewsPaperDirect and PressDisplay to index online content against published print articles, negating the need for your average QR code. Tom Desmet, Kooaba’s Marketing Manager, told The Next Web, “It’s automatically available for all newspapers that are connected with NewsPaperDirect, and our direct clients. Automatically every day, every page, every article. No QR or anything else needed.”

Clever stuff.

For PRs, there’s a few implications. Sharing content with clients and colleagues just got a bit easier. Say you spot a piece in the paper while out of the office – you can snap a cheeky pic and send the online version straight to your team in the office. Or you can opt to archive the online version to read later, if you’re too busy to go through it right away. One slightly naughty element is the chance to take a sneaky shot of a headline article or two in you local news agents on your way to work, and save those precious pennies.

Which leads to another point – paywalls. While there are hundreds of titles available through Paperboy, The Times and The Financial Times are absent from the otherwise extensive list of national papers. Doubtless this is due to the paywalls currently in place around both publications’ websites, making indexing online articles against print relatively impossible for Kooaba. So there are some restrictions on the breadth of publications that will be part of the app.

Kooaba’s business model is quite straightforward, using what the company calls a ‘social paywall’. While an article is free to view by the app user and anyone the article is shared with, viewing further articles on the same publication will be charged. It’s not a proven model, but should it prove popular, more and more titles could start appearing in Paperboy’s digital satchel.

The Guardian’s Reflecting on iPad apps, while The Indy Begins Building a Paywall

News coming from the more liberal end of the broadsheet spectrum this week shows just how differently The Guardian and The Independent are adapting to the digital publishing landscape.

After some time cooing over Apple’s tablet, The Guardian has almost gotten around to launching an iPad app. At launch it will be free, thanks to some sponsorship from those broadcast types at Channel 4, but after a few months it’ll set you back a full £9.99 a month (blimey, you can get a premium Spotify subscription for that). That’s unless you subscribe to the good old fashioned print edition, in which case it will cost you nothing. Oh, and if you’re not in the UK, you’ll still have to fork out. Sorry America.

It’s not just a re-hash of the paper mind you, but is more focused on a ‘reflective’ reading experience. That’s according to editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger, who states in the promotion video, “We’re not going to be scrambling to update it every minute or every hour…We will do that on the browser, the browser is a place to go for liveblogging and to go searching for material. This is going to be a different kind of read, a bit more reflective.”

The Independent, on the other hand, is taking a much more gung-ho approach in the digital space. The paper has also announced an iPad app, and has plans for a paywall a la The Financial Times (that’s a small amount of content for free, as opposed to The Times’ cash or nothing approach). The paywall could be up as soon as next week, with the accompanying iPad app being offered at a pay-per-day rate or at the expected monthly and yearly subscriptions.

The paper is also choosing to axe around 70,000 of its free print copies from circulation, which usually end up in stations, hotels or those little stands next to the air steward as you board an aeroplane. This is part of an effort to reposition the paper as a “multimedia title”. That means a good 45% of the audited circulation will disappear overnight, save for a few copies requested by BA and Hilton Hotels. The deficit will be made up of free copies of the 20p i sister paper, which will see its circulation jump to over 183,000. Moreover, this will fulfil certain existing contracts with advertisers that have been promised a combined circulation of 340,000 – albeit in a sneaky fashion.

Given the relative closeness of the two papers – both liberal-leaning daily nationals – it’s very interesting that The Guardian can sit back and produce a reflective, almost experimental type app, while the Indy is making dramatic changes to both physical and digital editions almost overnight. Of course, this is the first decent update to the Indy’s site and digital offering since 2007 – so it’s a little overdue. For some perspective, back in 2007 we were just beginning to gleam the idea there might be more to Apple than expensive laptops than little while music boxes.