Digital Directions: Breaking Away From the App Herd
Onto the bandwagon we go. Guy Tasaka, a mobile strategist and veteran of both LibreDigital and The New York Times, bemoans the lack of strategic planning: "Many publishers think they need an app without ever asking why."
Key Points to Consider
In this rush to get a mobile app deployed, three strategic areas often are overlooked:
1. Leveraging the capabilities of the mobile platform. Smartphones and tablets are amazing devices, equipped with GPSs, accelerometers, interactivity and wireless capabilities that allow for dynamic content refresh. Yet many "apps" don't use these capabilities, and look more like static e-books with new wrappers around them. Developing a product strategy that uses these new capabilities is a challenge—it is all so new. Yet, without taking advantage of these capabilities, it is no wonder that some potential customers ask, "Why would I want this?"
2. Segment-specific requirements. Effective digital initiatives are specific to each market segment, each content type, and "vertical" served. An effective digital strategy for food and cooking would likely be quite different from higher education, poetry or trade. Yet the bandwagon effect often has everyone jumping on the same solution, often with disappointing results. Publishers need to step back from shoveling their backlists into mobile wrappers, and consider what mobility means to their specific customer segments, and how new value can be delivered to their customers' specific needs.
3. Business model. The impetus to get out there with a mobile app often supersedes the imperative for a well-considered business plan for the projected impact on revenue and earnings. An encouraging aspect of mobile content is that it is an opportunity to overcome the "all content is free" paradigm that became such a disaster on the web. "There are many financial implications that need to be explored," says Tasaka. "If publishers don't address this now, they are in danger of reliving 1997 and [free-content] websites all over again."