The running joke at the recent Application Developer Alliance’s App Strategy Workshop in Los Angeles was that 2015 has been declared the year of mobile. It’s funny because the years 2011 through 2014 were also declared the years of mobile. Humor aside, all this shows how growth in mobile is only accelerating. In reference to mobile apps, a recent white paper by comScore announced that in 2014 “Mobile app usage exploded on its way to becoming the majority of all digital media activity.” With that trajectory in mind over 250 app-entrepreneurs joined companies such as Ad Colony and Millennial Media to learn how to turn an app start-up into the next big digital media success story.
As distinct from the “mobile web” where content is viewed through a browser, mobile apps enable deeper user interaction with the content. With the well-defined and highly engaged audiences that apps create, high CPM advertising is often the best choice for monetization. However, with a lot of money on the table, app startups face intense competition to win users.
A winning product-market strategy (and some luck) is required for apps to be discovered and downloaded. But with more than 1.5 million apps in each the iOS and Android stores, it’s easy for even the best apps to go unnoticed. Of course, the Holy Grail of app discovery for developers is to be featured prominently in the iOS or Android stores. More exposure equals more downloads, a larger audience, and more revenue.
During the conference, much of the discussion centered on how to get apps downloaded. There was a spectrum of viewpoints on the best approach. Some speakers advised attendees to build and iterate rapidly, exposing their apps to rigorous testing from of a live audience. Other experts held that apps need to be largely bug-free and polished, in order to take root with early adopters who will evangelize it. Everybody agreed that successful apps need to have robust features and that entrepreneurs must be bold and decisive to make their product catch fire in the market. Several speakers even endorsed spending more money on app distribution than on the actual product development.
App creators face many challenges familiar to all media businesses. For example, continuously expanding the audience is essential; but staying highly focused on the core product attributes is required. Even with the best planning, app releases can be buoyed or eclipsed by just about anything else happening in the world. In short, having a great app is no guarantee of success in the market. Fortunately for app entrepreneurs there is a well-developed ecosystem of vendors to service and support their projects in every way conceivable. This conference showed the strength of this industry. Of course we should expect no less in this age of mobile.
As apps become ever more engaging and essential, revenue opportunities will increase. However, monetization must respect the intimacy that exists between a user and her device. Native, in app advertising enabled by technology such as Coull’s SDK can not only deliver revenue, but also add value to the user experience.