App Glut(tons)

The mobile trades this week are abuzz about whether or not we’re in an “app glut.” The catalyst for this is a comScore report that 65.5 percent of us didn’t download an app last month.  At first, this might seem alarming to people (like me) who make apps for a living or people for whom apps are an important part of their overall distribution strategy.  But rather than the beginning of the end for apps, what I really think is occurring is the end of the beginning. 

Six years after the launch of the iPhone AppStore the app market is normalizing. The days of the latest fad, whether Candy Crush or FourSquare, are over, and for most of us, we’ve found the things we need, and have settled on some favorites. Statistics tell us that the average user has about eight apps that they use every day as well as about thirty that they use at least once a month. And the time spent on apps is currently about an hour and a quarter per day!

So the real question for media brands trying to find their way into that “Top 30” or better yet the “Great 8” is what do I need to deliver to do that?  The answer is at least a two-step process.

First: drive downloads. We know from yet more research that the average app download costs its publisher between $1.25 and $1.32! That could run into a lot of marketing dollars, except that for media brands, you have a whole lot of free media at your disposal. So get on the air and start telling your listeners about your great app. Last fall, WCSX in Detroit launched a game app for deer hunting season (kind of a big deal around these parts). The app generated 55,000 downloads in just over a month. How did it do this? With over 250 on-air mentions in that period, that’s how. The station got behind the app and promoted it in lots of fun, interesting ways.

Once the user has the app you have to continually remind them of why it’s useful and make it useful in as many ways as possible with updated content and great, interactive, social, viral features. That’s what WEEI does. Their app is a terrific resource for all things Boston sports, and they have the numbers to prove it. The app adds a steady flow of new downloads each month, but when I looked at their July numbers there was an 800% increase! I called Carlson Mozdiez, Director of Integrated Media Strategies at Entercom Boston, and asked why this might have happened. He remembered that the last week of July was the Major League Baseball trade deadline and the Sox made a number of high-profile moves. The station sent its existing users push message notifications of these moves and traffic on the app spiked. But clearly those users were telling their friends because new downloads jumped too.

So while the frenzy for new apps may be waning, the mobile user is now more dependent on his device than ever and using it for more things. As incumbent media brands, radio has a unique opportunity to cut through the noise and prove its usefulness all over again.

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