Apps: Exploring the Next Content Frontier

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Getting Involved in Apps for the Right Reasons

While you want to avoid that "bandwagon" response, you still need to recognize that the mobile marketplace represents a significant opportunity as the proliferation of cheaper smart phones continues to grow. Blossom believes that mobile computing platforms will be the default manner for consuming most of our content in the years ahead. While we still use other devices such as televisions and desktop computers for the experiences they provide (like much larger screens), the mobile nature of the smart phone is very attractive to users.

Larry Schwartz, president of Newstex believes there arfe concrete business reasons for building mobile apps. "For our customer's the appeal is extending the brand and content onto mobile, and creating a new revenue stream," Schwartz says. "But I really see it as extending the network from the desktop to mobile. The current generation of B2B content customers are primarily desktop-oriented. The next generation will be mobile." He believes the real battle for publishers as they move to mobile is finding the right business model. "Do you pay a one time fee? A monthly subscription? Does that entitle you to use the content on any device? Does the iPad have a different pricing model then the iPhone? All of these questions need to be sorted out and answered and that's going to take time," Schwartz explains.

The Financial Times views the app marketplace as simply another outlet for its content. Lord says that his company is using the same approach on mobile apps that it uses on its webste, that is, you can see 10 articles per month for free. After that, you are asked to subscribe. "In this way, readers get to sample the content and the iPhone is another channel to drive increased subscription revenues," Lord says. The mobile platform also offers additional outlets for advertising revenue over and above the subscription revenue they could generate. "Mobile is also seen as an attractive advertising platform and we are experiencing significant demand amongst our advertising base to extend their reach beyond the desktop and onto these new channels. It allows advertisers to engage with users outside of the office and in a different mindset and context," he says.

Rafael Sidi, VP of product development for ScienceDirect at Elsevier believes mobile represents a huge business opportunity for scientific, medical and technical (STM) publishers (one which could be applicable to publishers of any type of content), "Content providers need to realize the value that applications are bringing to the specific platforms and content in terms of creating a new ‘scientific knowledge ecosystem.' There is an opportunity for STM publishers to help this ecosystem flourish by developing offerings with applications and application marketplaces integrating with content. The open innovation this creates will accelerate science."

Finding Success with Apps

Part of the reason companies could be so reticent to join the mobile app marketplace is the newness of it all. Even though it feels like it's been around for a long time, Apple only opened up the App Store July 10, 2008, just two short years ago. Prior to that, developers were not thinking about this approach for delivering content. Given the short amount of time this has been around, there aren't many good case studies that show a prolonged success rate for companies delivering content in this fashion. Schwartz says it's really too early to tell. "By 2011 we'll have good metrics and a much better idea what content people are willing to pay for. We know the appetite is there and I think the iPad will become a very important product for content companies," he says.

Lord looks at it in terms of downloads and the number of visitors. "Our iPhone app has been downloaded over 230,000 times, and we see deep, sustained usage amongst its users. Our mobile website attracts over 1.6m page views per month. Readers value their time more than they value the news." He adds, "As a business tool, the FT aims to help our clients be more productive. And mobile is one way of doing that." This provides a way for readers to access the news wherever they are from their business device of choice (whether that's the Blackberry, iPhone or something else).

Dan Aton, co-founder and chief innovation officer at XOS Digital says clients have had success using his company's digital asset platform. In their case, it's for fans interested in keeping up with college sports. One client, Southeastern Conference (SEC) football has seen early success with a mobile strategy based on on XOS's platform. "Our primary example, the SEC Digital Network, has been a great success, and has validated our platform and business model. The SEC Digital Network officially launched at the start of the 2009 football season and continues to evolve. Two critical components include its Web portal (www.SECSports.com) and its official iPhone application, ‘SEC Sports.' We also have made a [mobile site] and text alerts available through this model."

Blossom says financial publisher Bloomberg has shown early success on the mobile platform. "Bloomberg is not unfamiliar with combining news, data and features, given its experience both in online media and in professional financial information services. They've done a great job. Other examples are perhaps less intuitive but still very important. Pandora is an online music service that was struggling for many years to break even. This ad-supported and premium service then developed an application for the iPhone and found both a much broader audience and broader revenues."

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