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Thread: The false economy of vanity apps

  1. #1
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    Default The false economy of vanity apps

    and the people who are growing fat by not telling their clients the truth.

    That is the latest headline from MobiThinking. This is an interesting editorial on the state of apps vs. web site use of the mobile internet.

    Although written by MTLD and obviously pro Mobi, I do think they provide a valid argument for their point of view and include some interesting stats to back their conclusions. (You'll need to read the complete editorial for the stats) :

    The false economy of vanity apps and the people who are growing fat by not telling their clients the truth

    Submitted by Editor on 12 December, 2010 - 17:09.

    This blog post attempts to explain three things about mobile marketing, mobile ad networks, apps and analysts that have puzzled - and irritated - mobiThinking throughout 2010. With the help of a briefing with an ad network (Millennial Media), one awards dinner (The EMMAs) and some pre-Christmas drinks and chat, mobiThinking has reached a conclusion. This conclusion, if correct, is a worrying one, as the answers/causes of these puzzles are closely and intertwined, creating a dangerous and self-perpetuating false economy. While Apple and the iPhone have benefited greatly from this false economy, the blame falls, mostly, elsewhere with collective responsibility lying with everyone else who is getting fat off the back of it. It’s not a conspiracy, but there is too much silence from people who ought to know better.
    mobiThinking doesn’t expect this opinion to be popular. And those that have been riding the mobile app gravy train are not going to like this prediction for 2011: “Sorry, but it ain’t going to last.”

    The three questions:
    1) Why do companies continue to throw away valuable mobile budgets on vanity apps, i.e. mobile apps that would never have been commissioned with the smallest amount of due diligence?
    2) Why do ad metrics reports from mobile ad networks always suggest that the iPhone is the dominant smartphone platform, when sales figures clearly show it is not?
    3) Why do experts think that in-application advertising – led by Apple’s iAds – is, or is going to be, huge?

    Link to editorial:

    http://mobithinking.com/blog/vanity-apps
    C.T. Kirkpatrick
    Austin Texas
    Akron.mobi

  2. #2
    Mobility Regular morse's Avatar
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    Mobile budgets are slim, and if companies don’t get ROI, they are going to pull the budget altogether - and that isn’t going to help anyone.
    Back to dear old mobile web then ... another bubble and bust scenario .. am happy as it applies for mobile apps!!

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    Senior Member seanboy's Avatar
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    More app-bashing from mtld. Not surprised.

    Speaking of, 5 billion apps were downloaded to mobile devices in 2010.
    Last edited by seanboy; 12-16-2010 at 04:53 PM.

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    Senior Member ChinaMobi's Avatar
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    If there are vanity apps, can we also have vanity webs too, where the "CXO" has no idea why they need a website?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChinaMobi View Post
    If there are vanity apps, can we also have vanity webs too, where the "CXO" has no idea why they need a website?
    And what about those vanity TLDs too? j/k
    C.T. Kirkpatrick
    Austin Texas
    Akron.mobi

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    Senior Member ChinaMobi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by think View Post
    And what about those vanity TLDs too? j/k
    Very true, think, but I do like .me. There's so much fun with it, such as silly.me, poor.me, pardon.me. It's the ultimate TLD to encourage your creativity.
    Last edited by ChinaMobi; 12-16-2010 at 08:32 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChinaMobi View Post
    Very true, think, but I do like .me. There's so much fun with it, such as silly.me, poor.me, pardon.me. It's the ultimate TLD to encourage your creativity.
    until xxx comes out
    C.T. Kirkpatrick
    Austin Texas
    Akron.mobi

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    Founding Member Scandiman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChinaMobi View Post
    Very true, think, but I do like .me. There's so much fun with it, such as silly.me, poor.me, pardon.me. It's the ultimate TLD to encourage your creativity.
    bite.....

    sorry, I couldn't resist.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scandiman View Post
    bite.....

    sorry, I couldn't resist.
    yes, the creativity is certainly flowing.

    Just DontBlame.me
    C.T. Kirkpatrick
    Austin Texas
    Akron.mobi

  10. #10
    Senior Member ChinaMobi's Avatar
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    Pleeeeeeeeeease forgive.me for starting this whole silly thing. Ha ha!

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    MobiEnthusiast coast's Avatar
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    For small businesses who can afford $5k for a single mobile site vs. $10k + $10k + $10k for 3 device-specific, downloadable apps, this article makes sense. For apps developers reaching consumers directly, or for larger corporations who want to make a useful application and include their branding in it, not so much.
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    Senior Member gogo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by think View Post
    Just DontBlame.me
    What about the person who registered debugger.me LOL ?

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    Senior Member noonoo1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coast View Post
    For small businesses who can afford $5k for a single mobile site vs. $10k + $10k + $10k for 3 device-specific, downloadable apps, this article makes sense. For apps developers reaching consumers directly, or for larger corporations who want to make a useful application and include their branding in it, not so much.
    That's a perfect answer for not going down the app route!
    ENOUGH SAID


    Mobile Web Search, forget google, bookmark... JUST.mobi

    Snowboards.mobi | Convert2.mobi | Caravans for Sale | VOTES.mobi

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    @Seanboy – I wrote this editorial. While mobiThinking is a dotMobi site, I’m an independent editor and this article is my opinion only. You shouldn’t think this is necessarily the view of dotMobi.

    You have every right to disagree with me, but please don’t think that this article bashes all mobile apps. It just discusses vanity apps – the ones that make you ask “why did you bother?” Sorry if the article didn’t get this message across clearly.

    mobiThinking is not anti mobile app – though sometimes we think the money might be better spent elsewhere – I’d suggest there are more video case studies of award-winning mobile apps on mobiThinking, than you’d find on any other site. Take a look at the Guide to Mobile Awards http://www.mobithinking.com/mobile-awards and Guide to Mobile Agencies http://www.mobithinking.com/mobile-agencies-guide.

    If you don’t have time to read the article, I will try to paraphrase it for you:
    Many download apps are unsuccessful. And probably wouldn’t have been made if agencies were a little more objective with their clients, rather than just taking their money. Unsuccessful apps need a lot of promotion. Mobile ad networks are doing well out of this (as are all media outlets and media buying agencies). As lots of companies are promoting apps, most mobile ads are targeted at certain handsets, the iPhone particularly, and this skews those charts that mobile ad networks put out. These charts mislead journalists into thinking that iPhone market share is 40% instead of 3-5%, which is part of the reason that companies think they need an iPhone-only app, without thinking though the options… and so on. I feel there’s a bit of a false economy with these vanity apps – certainly not all apps.
    There’s a lot more to it than this: http://mobithinking.com/blog/vanity-apps

    I’d hate you to think that mobiThinking isn’t objective. It’s quite a popular site (considering the niche, budget etc) these days with around 6,000 visitors each week, so I assume that we must be getting something right. As always we welcome your opinions on how it might be improved. My email address is: editor (at) mobiThinking.com.

    @Think – thanks for posting (I always feel a bit nervous posting articles here).
    @Coast – thanks for your support as always.
    @ChinaMobi – for sure you could have a vanity mobile site – until it gets good traffic, when it ceases to be a vanity.

    Thanksforlisteningto.me

    Cheers, Andy
    Last edited by mobiThinking; 12-17-2010 at 08:39 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mobiThinking View Post
    Thanksforlisteningto.me
    I just love people with a sense of humor.

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    Mobility Regular morse's Avatar
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    The BBC used freedom of information requests to see how much money was being used by the British government to create apps. The thinking behind this request was: while it’s great for the government to disperse information in as many mediums as possible, these apps cost a lot to create and owners of and Apple iPhone or Android smartphone generally don’t need free help from the government, particularly at a time when the economy is still not in the greatest of shapes.
    http://www.intomobile.com/2010/07/06...r-governments/

    What does this tell us? That most mobile apps out there aren’t useful or good enough. The first day I played with an iPhone, I downloaded about 10 apps. Only one of them proved to be well-done enough for me to use again. The rest just didn’t offer what they had promised. What has your exeprience been? How many apps have you downloaded that you’ve used for more than a day or two? What are you still using?
    http://www.businessweek.com/the_thre..._of_money.html

  17. #17
    Senior Member ChinaMobi's Avatar
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    The same can be said of websites too. There must be countless number of websites offering no true value. I had a website with only basic information of my company. It cost me money to maintain but it did not appear to bring me any new business.

  18. #18
    Pred
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    and the other side of the coin also is almost noone is making a cent from apps lol
    the so called developers
    a nano percentage actually prove to be successful/popular and actually make any direct cash for developers

    as this sinks in, even less will be inclined to spend time and resources making them imho

    apps are okay for certain things imho, a few specific purposes, but more than a few is a bit like a bookmark, too many and you can never find the bloody thing

    for the same reason streets have names and have had for thousands of years, i feel the web address will be the daddy for our lifetimes at least

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChinaMobi View Post
    The same can be said of websites too. There must be countless number of websites offering no true value. I had a website with only basic information of my company. It cost me money to maintain but it did not appear to bring me any new business.
    yeah, true but it can be done by paying $10 for a domain, sometimes free hosting or a few $ a month and instant site builder if not a developer like us. even the uninitiated can get going for peanuts
    many do what you said with a business premises costing x,xxx per month and still make losses

    this is a very low cost entry point by having a website and people can technically get in touch from anywhere on planet

    if you have a real world product or service you don't need much targetted traffic to make a bit of cash imho
    problem is domainers usually have neither

  20. #20
    Senior Member ChinaMobi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pred View Post
    for the same reason streets have names and have had for thousands of years, i feel the web address will be the daddy for our lifetimes at least
    Agreed. There will still be a lot of people who like the freedom of having their own "address" and publish whatever they like, rather than being subject to control by Facebook etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pred View Post
    for the same reason streets have names and have had for thousands of years, i feel the web address will be the daddy for our lifetimes at least
    Astute observation. May i use it?

    Also as Pred points out, many apps are little no more than book marks. The most downloaded app on GetJar (or any app store) is Facebook with 100 million downloads. It is no more than a bookmark. A hyperlink to the mobile site. It's actually a Web app.

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    Senior Member gogo's Avatar
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    Here is a different take

    http://techcrunch.com/2010/12/11/the...t-mobile-team/

    Myth 4. You must build for all platforms from Day One.
    Reality: Start with iPhone or Android only first.
    One of the big fears when building a mobile property is that only a subset of the market can be addressed via each platform (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Symbian, XHTML, SMS). These days, the best consumer apps are launching on iPhone or Android only first. This provides enough distribution/addressable devices to see if the app can gain traction. Once it gets traction, other platforms can be supported. A great example of this is Foursquare, which launched exclusively on iOS and grew from there.
    In part you should choose your platform based on your market and distribution approach. iPhone or Android (as well as increasingly HTML5) are good bets for the US, and increasingly, the rest of the world. You should only build XHTML or SMS based apps if you are focused on the low- to mid-range of developing markets.
    this one is cool http://techcrunch.com/2010/12/16/wor...es-yes-really/
    Last edited by gogo; 12-17-2010 at 10:56 AM.

  23. #23
    Pred
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChinaMobi View Post
    Agreed. There will still be a lot of people who like the freedom of having their own "address" and publish whatever they like, rather than being subject to control by Facebook etc.
    yep agreed

    this whole social media revolution which has led to facebook being mentioned on every news program. time person of year etc
    even the social media film. just makes people watching think, how do i get a piece of that
    people will outgrow their ****ty free email adresses and getting lost in a sea of hundreds of millions of users
    im also getting a little sick of ex girlfriends contacting me lol

    but this spark will set everything going. tbh it's only just started

    even mark zuckerberg started out with facemesh, then the facebook, then had to buy facebook, then spent more on fb.com
    upgrading all the time for a better and better domain
    of course the site is what counts but the name is phenomenally important
    i bet craigslist.org is more profitable than facebook and certainly a thousand times more so than twitter. but its not sexy and wont get bought becuase of that
    i know they own com too but u see my point

    quality generic domains and quality brandable domains is where its at. i would not want to be in any other area
    key is not to focus on too many sites as you can get lost

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    Founding Member Scandiman's Avatar
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    Andy wrote: @Think – thanks for posting (I always feel a bit nervous posting articles here).
    -------

    No need to be nervous, we may be hot heads at times but at least it's a lively discussion.

    I liked the article, I've seen the vanity app problem first hand at a non-profit, the app is getting dated but theres few downloads to justify the spend to upgrade and now it sits doing nothing for the organization.

    On a side note I'm curious when you might write about .mobi at mobithinking?
    Last edited by Scandiman; 12-17-2010 at 03:34 PM. Reason: typo

  25. #25
    Senior Member ChinaMobi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pred View Post
    im also getting a little sick of ex girlfriends contacting me lol
    The foundation of social networking is that you want to be contacted. But, like you said, sometimes you don't want to be easily found.

    i bet craigslist.org is more profitable than facebook and certainly a thousand times more so than twitter. but its not sexy and wont get bought becuase of that
    Professional investors focus on profit and return. I like investments that are solid in income but cheap because they are not noticed by the general public.

    quality generic domains and quality brandable domains is where its at. i would not want to be in any other area
    That's my focus too.

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    MobiEnthusiast coast's Avatar
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    @mobiThinking I liked the article, but I can also see @Seanboy's point (having debated it with him at length) that it is important to make a distinction between what works for a small business and what works for an end user.

    @Seanboy writes software programs, and the apps that act like software and are not just bookmarks or advertisements serve a different purpose and should be (IMHO) classified differently. Apple went and muddied the waters by calling mobile websites "Apps." I first learned about the blurred line, ironically, with Boroughs.mobi -- does that site sound familiar Seanboy?
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    Senior Member seanboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coast View Post
    @mobiThinking I liked the article, but I can also see @Seanboy's point (having debated it with him at length) that it is important to make a distinction between what works for a small business and what works for an end user.

    @Seanboy writes software programs, and the apps that act like software and are not just bookmarks or advertisements serve a different purpose and should be (IMHO) classified differently. Apple went and muddied the waters by calling mobile websites "Apps." I first learned about the blurred line, ironically, with Boroughs.mobi -- does that site sound familiar Seanboy?
    Apps can be both web-based and native.

  28. #28
    MobiEnthusiast coast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seanboy View Post
    Apps can be both web-based and native.
    Okay, professor, what's a web-based app that is not a mobile website?
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  29. #29
    Senior Member ChinaMobi's Avatar
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    Web 2.0 is about enabling users to interact with websites so in a sense they are all web apps.

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    @coast, I was also wondering where mobile Web ends and mobile Web app starts. So I recently asked Dominique Hazael-Massieux at the W3C – i.e. the folks that set the standards for html5 and all the APIs e.g. location. It seems the border is blurry, but his own opinion is:

    “I think they become a Web app when the developer presents them that way, and the user buys into that view. In terms of what makes that story more credible, here are a few (semi-random) parameters:
    • Self-contained (keep you in their controlled space as much as they can);
    • Rich/interactive user interface, possibly mimicking the native user interface (UI) of the device;
    • Using advanced device capabilities (geolocation, camera integration, etc.) and other technologies being developed by the Device APIs and Policy Working Group;
    • Action oriented (rather than information oriented) – a tool more than a book;
    • Not relying heavily on, or hiding when possible, the browser chrome (back button, reload button, URL bar).
    • Working off-line (e.g. using HTML5 ApplicationCache, localStorage, and indexed database)
    There are probably more of these, and, of course, not all Web apps fit all these parameters; but what most people consider Web apps will fit at least some of these.”

    There’s more here: http://mobithinking.com/blog/what-is-a-web-app
    Also anyone interested in Web app will probably appreciate Dom’s best practice mobile Web app which is a guide to best practice mobile Web apps.

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