For the past few years we’ve heard all about smartphones and how they are taking over the marketplace, and finally according to a recent article from ZDNet, the switch-over seems to be taking hold. Their post from last week is summarized below:
New research from Google shows that smartphone usage is surging globally, especially in the U.S. and Western Europe. Beyond just device sales, this could mean bigger things for advertisers.
The surge in sales is having an impact for advertisers for sure, but I also think this consumer adoption cannot rule out the shift it will have for the app economy as a whole – app curators, app stores, mobile developers, content curators, brands, publishers, the list goes on and on… The ZDNet article is primarily focused on the advertising front of the smartphone revolution, however, as an industry the next few years will be very interesting to see how the different monetization models pan out.
So we know that mobile advertising is on the rise as more and more people buy smartphones, but let’s also consider what is being advertised. Wikipedia says the following on their Mobile phone content advertising page:
This is interesting as WHAT is being advertised in the mobile space is the promotion of other mobile services and products. I’ve started to notice this in my own mobile and app browsing. For instance the other day I was in one of my favourite apps and ads were appearing marketing similar apps within the program I was using. Essentially developers and are cross-marketing each other’s apps, which I think is a real emerging trend in the mobile advertising world. GigaOM had a good article that looked at the 5 trends that will shape the future of mobile advertising. It was an interesting read, here’s a quick snippet of the trends:
Spending in the mobile advertising space will be approximately $4 billion worldwide this year, so despite some perceptions to the contrary, we can safely assume it’s an area to watch in the coming years.
To get a clearer picture of mobile advertising’s future, it helps to first explore the current landscape. Five trends in particular stand out:
1. More-relevant behavioral targeting.
2. Growing mobile search.
3. Better analytics.
4. Greater interactivity.
5. Mobile-social as the “personal cloud.”
Yes, advertising in the mobile smartphone space is a big one, but I also believe the curation of content allowing for easy discovery has some real legs. I guess I’ll just have to wait and watch.
Here at App Carousel we like it when prominent bloggers feature us, so thanks to Kyle at BlackBerry Cool for this article. http://www.blackberrycool.com/2012/01/20/wmode-spins-off-appcarousel-business-to-help-carriers-and-developers-with-app-marketing/
We particularly like Kyle’s thoughts on how our carousels could add value to – and interact with – existing stores like BlackBerry App World.
We will be working more with the BlackBerry Cool team to prove out what our carousel approach means for app showcasing and discovery, so watch this space.
This article appeared in the Wall Street Journal and was re-blogged on this site, so;
1) all rights are acknowledged to the owner of the article Jeffrey Zaslow and the WSJ
2) because many of our readers are in the app discovery / recommendation / content personalisation space, I wanted to share it with you. Here comes the article, then once you have read it scroll down to the very end for a bit of a surprise …
Basil Iwanyk is not a neo-Nazi. Lukas Karlsson isn’t a shadowy stalker. David S. Cohen is not Korean.
But all of them live with a machine that seems intent on giving them such labels. It’s their TiVo, the digital videorecorder that records some programs it just assumes its owner will like, based on shows the viewer has chosen to record. A phone call the machine makes to TiVo, Inc., in San Jose, Calif., once a day provides key information. As these men learned, when TiVo thinks it has you pegged, there’s just one way to change its “mind”: outfox it.
Mr. Iwanyk, 32 years old, first suspected that his TiVo thought he was gay, since it inexplicably kept recording programs with gay themes. A film studio executive in Los Angeles and the self-described “straightest guy on earth,” he tried to tame TiVo’s gay fixation by recording war movies and other “guy stuff.”
“The problem was, I overcompensated,” he says. “It started giving me documentaries on Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Eichmann. It stopped thinking I was gay and decided I was a crazy guy reminiscing about the Third Reich.”
A lot of gadgets and Web sites now feature “personalization technologies” that profile consumers by tracking what they watch, listen to or buy. The software, embedded in sites such as Amazon.com and CDNOW.com, then recommends other books, videos and music based on a customer’s tastes.
Many consumers appreciate having computers delve into their hearts and heads. But some say it gives them the willies, because the machines either know them too well or make cocksure assumptions about them that are way off base. That’s why even TiVo lovers are tempted to hoodwink it — a phenomenon that was also spoofed this year on another TV show, HBO’s “The Mind of the Married Man.”
Mike Binder, creator and star of that show, had set his home TiVo to record his 1999 movie, “The Sex Monster,” about a man whose wife becomes bisexual. After that, Mr. Binder’s TiVo assumed he would enjoy a steady stream of gay programming. Unnerved, he counteracted the onslaught by recording the Playboy Channel and MTV’s spring break bikini coverage. It worked, he says. “My TiVo doesn’t look at me funny anymore.”
His wife, however, was taken aback when she saw all the half-naked women he was ordering through TiVo. He told her those women meant nothing to him: “I’m just counterprogramming because TiVo thinks I’m gay.” She was unamused. The incident inspired an episode of his show.
Though some users contend TiVo has sex on the brain, TiVo’s general manager, Brodie Keast, explains that the box is merely “reacting to feedback you give it.” Still, the machine employs algorithms — searching several thousand key details (favorite actors, movie and TV genres) — that leave some people wondering whether it is judging their predilections.
Mr. Karlsson, 26, says he “pre-emptively” found all the religious shows in his TV listings and used the “thumbs down” button on his remote control to tell TiVo he has no interest in them. (Giving three thumbs down is the best way to block a program.) After that, his TiVo recorded movies about creepy homicides. “They all have titles like ‘Murder on Skeleton Isle,’ ” says the computer system administrator in Cambridge, Mass.
He uses the “thumbs” button to tell TiVo he hates such films. He also orders cooking shows, which softens TiVo’s view of him. “I don’t want it thinking I’m an ax murderer,” he says.
Mr. Cohen, 30, has a TiVo that mysteriously assumed he wanted Korean news programs. The Philadelphia lawyer gave thumbs down to anything Korean, and his TiVo got the message. Sort of. “The next day, it recorded the Chinese news,” he says.
TiVo’s 500,000 subscribers use the box primarily to record programs they specifically request, and many laud its ability to pause live broadcasts and record a show’s entire season. Still, in TiVo-focused online chat-rooms and in secretive admissions to one another, some say they resent being pigeonholed by TiVo’s suggestions.
‘A Pregnant Gay Man’
Like TiVo, other techno-profilers run hard with limited information. Ray Everett-Church of Fremont, Calif., who is gay, ordered “Queer as Folk” videos from Amazon.com. Understandably, the site began suggesting gay-related calendars and books. Then he bought a baby book for a pregnant friend. So for weeks, the site also recommended parenting books. He says it was as if Amazon.com decided he was “a pregnant gay man.”
He fought back, he says, “by inundating it with additional data. I searched for other stuff — on politics, computers — so it would stop throwing baby books at me. Now it thinks I’ve abandoned the baby and I’m preparing for a career in politics.”
Mr. Everett-Church, a privacy consultant for businesses, predicts that as techno-profiling increases, more people will purposely muck up their profiles. They’ll fear ordering books on mental illnesses or sexual preferences because they’ll wonder if they’ll somehow be publicly identified.
All techno-profiling companies contacted for this article said that information gleaned is for the customer’s personal use only. Still, even Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos knows the potential mortification factor.
For a live demonstration before an audience of 500 people, Mr. Bezos once logged onto Amazon.com (amazon.com) to show how it caters to his interests. The top recommendation it gave him? The DVD for “Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity.” That popped up because he had previously ordered “Barbarella,” starring Jane Fonda, a spokesman explains.
Dawn Freeman, 23, a tax analyst in Lexington, Ky., has bought lowbrow videos, such as “American Pie,” from Amazon.com. But she was aghast when the site suggested Tom Green’s gross-out performance in “Road Trip.”
“I thought, ‘I know I don’t like high cinema, but have I really reached the point where I’d like to watch Tom Green lick a mouse?” To even out her Amazon profile, she went through the site finding “witty independent films.”
Her TiVo also thinks she’s a sophomoric-humor-loving 12-year-old, she says. It keeps giving her cartoons. “I know it’s dumb to take it personally, but it’s in your face. These are supposedly objective computers saying, ‘This is what we think of you.’ “
Dissing Ice Cube
A.J. Meyer, a 35-year-old Web site developer in Minneapolis, ordered the DVD for “Scarface,” the Al Pacino gangster movie, from Netflix.com (netflix.com). After that, the site kept recommending movies about gangster rappers. He stopped the assault by giving negative ratings to all movies starring Ice Cube. (Netflix allows members to rate any of its 12,000-plus titles with one to five stars — whether they have rented a film or not. That helps the site calculate future recommendations.)
After Mr. Meyer ordered a documentary about New York from Amazon.com, it pitched him countless documentaries — even one on the history of the thimble. He stopped the Ken Burnsification of his profile by searching the site for plasma TVs. “That way, I identified myself as a high-tech guy,” he says. “The thimble is more low tech.”
Virginia Heffernan, TV columnist for Slate.com, doesn’t understand why some people are resistant to techno-profiling, or find it creepy. She didn’t look for any deep meaning when her TiVo kept giving her TV shows in Polish. And after buying self-help books on Amazon.com, she accepted that every time she logged on, the site pitched products to make her a more self-fulfilled human being.
“I like the idea that someone cares,” she says. “Even a machine.”
TiVo users can program the machine to skip certain channels entirely. But many users don’t bother to figure out how to do it, or are too intrigued by TiVo’s recommendation process, says a spokesman. TiVo is paid to promote programs and products it calls “advertainment” on a special screen. But the company says none of these are given to users as suggestions.
Some people have given up trying to manipulate personalization technologies. Dino Leon, a hair-salon owner in Birmingham, Mich., says his TiVo quickly figured out that he and his partner were gay. They were OK with that, but just for fun, they tried to confuse the software by punching in “redneck” programs, like Jerry Springer’s talk show.
TiVo wasn’t fooled, and kept recording gay shows. Mr. Leon believes the box was giving them a message: “You’re definitely gay. And you’re watching too much TV.”
Terry’s wrap-up comment:
“So, that resonated, eh?! In these days of CarrierIQ and Pandora and all that recent kerfuffle about privacy and personalisation, the TiVo article makes sense … well, the original WSJ article was written a decade ago, in 2002. That’s right, the privacy and recommendation issue has been raging for a decade. Wow.”
I saw this article in the New York Times earlier in the week. The article – ‘One Million Mobile Apps, and Counting at a Fast Pace‘ provides an excellent case for why brands, device manufacturers, carriers, software companies, developers and publishers – basically everyone in the app economy needs an App Carousel!
Enough from me, read the article below. I’ll let you make you own deductions, just remember our tag line while you read: The content you care about showcased to your audience.
Somewhere at a computer last Wednesday, a developer pushed a button and the one millionth mobile app went to market.
Apps shrink the programs that were once available only on a desktop computer to make them usable on smartphones and mobile devices — stock trades, restaurant reviews, Facebook, streaming radio, photographs, news articles, videos and, of course, Angry Birds.
The pace of new app development dwarfs the release of other kinds of media. “Every week about 100 movies get released worldwide, along with about 250 books,” said Anindya Datta, the founder and chairman of Mobilewalla, which helps users navigate the mobile app market. “That compares to the release of around 15,000 apps per week.”
According to Mobilewalla, in a fairly quiet 14 days before the release of app No. 1,000,000, an average of 543 apps were released each day for Android-based devices, and an average of 745 apps hit the market daily for the iPhone, iPad and iTouch. The total for the two weeks across the Apple, Android, BlackBerry and Windows platforms was 20,738.
A product was counted each time it was designed for a different device in the climb to a million apps. So when Urbanspoon was released for iPhone, BlackBerry, iPad and Android, it was counted four times because each platform demands different code from the developers.
By any measure, the rise in apps is striking. In October 2008 the known app universe was 8,000 Apple titles. Mobilewalla was formed that year to provide a Web site for users to search for mobile apps, and to categorize and rank them.
Mobilewalla began analyzing Android and Windows apps in 2009, and added BlackBerry a year later. The 100,000-app milestone was passed in December 2009. In little more than a year, the total passed 500,000 and exceeded 750,000 six months after that. Five months later: one million.
For Dr. Datta, the surge in apps and the ability of almost anyone to bring an app to market is a chicken-and-egg story. Developers who have created fewer than 10 apps make up 80 percent of the producers, he said. “Anyone with a good idea can outsource the code, and they own a new app.” In January, Mobilewalla will begin tracking ranking, downloads and revenue for individual apps
Brad Hunstable, a co-founder and the chief executive of Ustream, an app that allows users to broadcast live video to the Internet using a smartphone, or watch video anywhere, explained how the world has changed. Building an app for a phone five years ago meant going through the carrier, and contending with hardware and quality assurance issues, he said. “Now anyone can build for a platform,” he said.
Adding to prime conditions for app development is what Mr. Hunstable called the “convergence of the app ecosystem,” a world with more powerful devices, higher quality networks and high-resolution cameras.
“It’s an exciting time to be a developer for mobile,” said Thomas Chung, a vice president and general manager of the Playforge, a developer based in San Mateo, Calif. The Playforge released Zombie Farm, a role-playing game, in February 2010 for Apple, and an Android version in October 2011. On Friday, it was the top game in its category on Mobilewalla.com. Lower barriers to entry have prompted an explosion of content in the last few years, he said.
“The market has become more consumer-facing, too,” he said. “A lot of people can download applications now, and it’s just a big win all around.”
A version of this article appeared in print on December 12, 2011, on page B3 of the New York edition with the headline: One Million Mobile Apps, And Counting at a Fast Pace.
Check it out here.
As we head to the launch of AppCarousel at the Open Mobile Summit, plenty of people have said to me things like;
“Why are you entering the app market, isn’t it crowded?” [Yes it's crowded but there are plenty of gaps and we are exploiting one of them!]
“Aren’t there enough start-ups out there solving problems like app discovery?” [Yes but many are exactly that - start-ups with little experience in app merchandizing - whereas we have 10 years of experience under our belt]
“Hasn’t everything already been tried?” [App-solutely not! This is green field territory when it comes to app promotion and app discovery]
So I decided to publish our mission, i.e. what we are trying to achieve along with our key customers and partners. It’s not set in stone, i.e. it’s not carved on a tablet ;-) so please pitch in with your views.
- To define a new paradigm in the way apps are promoted, i.e. app carousels
- When it comes to nomenclature for showcasing apps, for “carousel” to be as ubiquitous as names like Hoover, Kleenex and Xerox have become in their fields
- To abstract the merchandizing and discovery process for apps from the app stores, just as IKEA abstracts their showrooms away from the big warehouse of brown boxes (see previous blog article on this)
- To de-focus “apps” and instead focus on “all relevant content” which of course will include apps. Consumers care less about apps in isolation than they do about an overall media experience tied to the brand they care about
- To group content into logical bundles, highly targeted at a theme / interest / demographic / sector
- To focus on our customer’s brand, over and above the app store brand. Our customers are telling us that app stores weaken their brand because they are plastered with Android this and Apple that, and they want to not only showcase their apps but their brand too, with no distractions
- To help users and organizations to cut through the app store clutter by bringing the best apps and content right to the front, exactly when it is needed and relevant
- To deploy a platform that is easy to spin up, customize, propagate, and change according to the market
- To leverage the power of personal recommendation. Yep, I know everyone says that, but if I want to discover bundles of baseball apps, I would rather be told about them from my baseball buddies than by randomly searching through a store, and I would rather discover carousels of apps that other baseball fans like me across the US have already recommended
- To ensure that AppCarousel complements our customers’ other marketing and app strategies, and that it doesn’t detract from them. In other words, we aren’t saying to a customer that already has an app store “tear that down and start again”, our proposition is “let’s build an app carousel that reaches additional audiences in new ways and engages your users differently, but ultimately which drives more traffic to your apps and sites”
With just one week to go until the launch of AppCarousel at the Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco, I wanted to share with you the research and findings that we did, which led us to this point.
Our parent company Wmode has been in the app store business for 10 years, and as such we have a large number of relationships and insight into;
a) the enormous opportunities presented by the explosion in “apps”
b) the challenges that our customers and partners want to be addressed
Anyone in the app business will find that this list “hits the spot”.
So let’s dive in.
Ten issues that need to be solved
In our research we found these ten themes kept coming up over and over again.
1) Today’s app stores don’t solve the “free” problem.
Any developer who launches an app that has a price tag on it (i.e. not free) finds that it seldom gets discovered, because there’s a culture of free apps among consumers and free apps seem to bubble to the top of the various lists and categories in the Apple App Store and Android Market. Developers are telling us that it’s getting worse not better, and that they need new ways – outside of the app store environment – to showcase their quality apps.
2) Discovery is getting worse, not better.
From the end-user perspective, it’s a zoo out there. With around a million apps in the market, it is very hard to discover the app that could change your life or the one that could truly improve your productivity, or even the best personal finance or expense tracking app. Yes you can find apps, based on keyword search, but how can you discover truly relevant apps?
3) Developers still haven’t found the holy grail.
The majority of developers don’t make as much money from selling their apps on app stores as they would like to. Yes they would always say that wouldn’t they, but many great high quality apps, built by superb developers, get lost and buried in the noise, and they never realize their full potential. That’s why some developers still hold out hope that the wireless carriers will sell their apps for them, or that they will be able to do a deal with a device manufacturer to pre-load the app, because that’s more like a holy grail than the big app stores.
4) Users don’t think “apps”, they think “brands” and “solutions”.
When we found that out, it was an eye-opener. Our industry builds app stores, which are all about apps, and we fill them with apps, and we market apps. Separately we build bricks-and-mortar retail outlets. And we build web stores for buying goods online. We may even build a separate store for e-books, and one for videos. But a user who is obsessed with baseball and the World Series doesn’t think that way. He thinks “show me everything to do with baseball”, so in one place we should be showing him;
- baseball apps
- baseball caps!
- tickets to live games
- baseball Flash and Java games!
- news feeds and latest scores
- videos on baseball
- books about baseball
… and everything that we might possibly want to merchandize to that user. Now that is the big opportunity staring us in the face.
5) Everybody wants their offering to get above the noise.
It’s just like when you walk through a crowded street market or souk in a third world country. All the sellers are trying to shout louder than the others to attract you to what they have, and in the end it’s chaos. What’s really frustrating for brands is that they find it almost impossible to build and support their brand values in today’s app stores, they end up as just another street vendor. They are looking for better / unique / differentiated / targeted ways of merchandizing their content. An analogy might be that the brands want to be the first vendor at the head of the street, the vendor you see as you are approaching the market, the vendor you have to walk through to get to the others.
6) Bundles and packs are not well catered for.
Following on from point number 4, today we treat apps as single items, whereas the baseball fan would see logic if we were to package up a bunch of things and offer them to her in a cohesive bundle. Sprint has been successful with Sprint ID packs, which you can read about here, they are a great example of where bundling makes so much sense.
I love the way Sprint positions it:
“Sprint ID lets you cut through the clutter by selecting mobile ID Packs featuring apps, ringers, wallpapers, widgets and more. It’s all about you and the things you love to do.”
7) Users will pay for quality.
Time and time again it has been proved that users of apps will pay for quality. One of the divisions of Wmode has an app called Momentem which is a high quality call tracking app for busy professionals, and those people are happy to pay $4 per month for the app. Yes, you read it correctly, $4 PER MONTH! However what users tell us is that when they are in those big app stores they have no idea where the really good quality apps are, because they are lumped together with the large percentage of low quality garbage that seems to be filling the app stores lately.
8 ) The power of recommendation is being wasted.
A lot of start-ups in our space, and a lot of brain trust cycles, are being dedicated to fixing this one. Facebook will be a major force in this once they figure it out, as will LinkedIn. In summary, I am more likely to get an app that has been recommended to me by;
a) someone in my social circle (that’s obvious)
b) someone like me, i.e. someone I have never met, someone I don’t know, but that someone is very similar to me (similar demographic, job, role, hobbies, etc.)
9) App merchandizing needs to move faster
App stores are behemoths, giant tanker ships that are slow to turn. That’s understandable because there are categories, layouts, and hundreds of thousands of apps. So what the stores resort to is featured lists and showcases of what they think should be at the top in any given week. But when was the last time you went to a store and saw something hugely relevant and timely, e.g. if you are in LA and there is a U2 concert taking place, why doesn’t the store know that and offer you not only related music apps but other merchandize, videos, and even travel apps that will get you to the concert smoothly? Then, as soon as the concert is over, that content should disappear and be replaced by something equally timely.
So far in this blog I have avoided shameless plugs for AppCarousel, but here’s one, to explain the point: App carousels can be spun up quickly, aggressively merchandized, and can then be torn down again just as quickly. There’s no behemoth to push, no big config changes to do, just a 20 minute process and then it’s live. That’s what the market wants and what the brands want. It’s also a great way of experimenting to see which bundles work.
10) Curation is king. Automation is not.
Apparently one of the appeals of the Subway food chain is that they make a sandwich exactly the way you want it. So in the mobile apps space why is so much money being poured into AI (artificial intelligence), algorithms, and predictive systems that aim to figure out what you might like and serve it up for you. Imagine if you fancied a Philly cheesesteak sub, but when you walked in to Subway they had already made a pastrami on rye sandwich?! That’s what’s happening in today’s app stores.
So our view is that there is a huge place in the market for hand-curation of groups of apps and content that are focused and targeted on types of users and use cases. That’s not all that AppCarousel will do, but we will be working with our customers to deliver far more relevant well-chosen content to each user.
My next article on this blog will take these 10 concepts and explain AppCarousel’s mission.
Do you have any to add to the 10 above? If so, add your comments below.
Chief Spinning Officer, AppCarousel