Monthly Archives: January 2012

App Apprehension

apps logos
Did you happen to see the Pew Research released this week that showed people open less than five apps per week? And, Nielson data shows that one in five of the top 50 apps every month is new to the list, meaning consumers are constantly presented “discoverable” new apps. (Discoverable, meaning that they don’t have to dig down into the obscure parts of the app store; these are the top 50 most popular.) It’s estimated that people delete 80-90% of their apps.

I think people tend to delete apps so quickly, because they buy apps like they buy gum. They’re a quick impulse buy and they lose their flavor after awhile. But every once in a while there’s an app that breaks free of this maxim. And some of these apps cost significantly more than the typical 99 cents or $2.99 that people are willing to pay because the apps are great. At Zondervan we launched a $24.99 Bible app late last year and people seem to be embracing it with positive reviews and excellent sales performance.

With such crowded app stores and consumers largely abandoning apps they download, I thought I’d spend a few minutes wracking my brain and putting forth some observations on what elements make the kind of app that people hang onto for a long time. I think it works when apps:

Employ a simple, elegant user interface that focuses on the primary task of the app instead of getting too busy (Examples: Instagram, iMovie, Shazam)

Make life easier or more productive (Trip It, Evernote, Kayak)

Aggregate and catalog info efficiently (Flixster, JamBase, Gate Guru)

Include fresh daily content based on the user’s desires (Pulse, Flip Board, Flud)

Often this is user generated content often coming from one’s peers (Facebook, Words with Friends, Urban Spoon)

Include content that people are passionate about like sports, politics or religion (ESPN Score Center, or Drudge Report/Huffington Post, or NIV Study Bible<–Disclosure: That’s a Zondervan product)

These apps listed above I downloaded a long time ago and continue to use. I can appreciate Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Dizzy Bee, Doodle Jump and Topple as much as the next guy, but they don’t seem to have the staying power of the others listed above.

Do you agree? What other insights or observations do you have?


New NIV Study Bible App

Check out this video for the new NIV Study Bible app, which became the seventh highest grossing book app in less than 48 hours.

And here’s a reader’s review (@geekrev) that makes it easy to see all the functionality:

What’s working for you in this app? Or how would you like us to improve it?

11 from 11 –> Apps

These are some of the best apps for iOS and Android that released in 2011, in my opinion. Not many were released in productivity that weren’t already available in prior years, and some of these will negatively impact your productivity, but they sure are fun.

Super 8 – Great alignment of useful + free + product launch (Super 8 film)
HBO Go – Great value proposition for gaining & retaining customers
Spotify US debut – Great roll out strategy (geography) to architect PR story about growth
Songza – How can there still be room for more music apps? Innovation
Songkick – Same as above
Tweetbot – Don’t you just live open source?
Jetpack Joyride – Just plain old school fun
Quarrel – Risk meets Scrabble… What’s not to love?
Forget-Me-Not (game) – Pac Man with ever-changing mazes
Apple iOS 5 – Not an app but makes apps greater

Honorable Mention:
Tiny Wings & Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery

What are your favorite Apps?

Follow my blog to check out the all-time best apps lists I’m pulling together…

Bootstrapping Your Content

In the post “Is Content King?” I posited that content is in fact king, citing the ultimate “content-monetization” example of the very rich NFL and NBA broadcast licensing deals. But what about content with less demand? Surely there are diminishing returns, at least from the networks and distributors’ perspective, right? Let’s look at some smaller fish…

The NCAA of course has the pro leagues’ play book (eg: the ACC’s $1.9 billion 12 year deal), but it’s hard to get the attention of even ESPN 17 or Fox Sports South-SouthWest (I made up both of those networks) for the left-handed, red-haired women’s softmoor curling team’s pre-season games (also made up). Even so, media-savvy minds know that content is king and they will find a way to monetize it, with some even “self-broadcasting” their assets.

Oklahoma University’s DIY attitude has them recently completing a $5 million high def video production and broadcasting upgrade that lets them broadcast from any venue on campus, leveraging 60 production personnel (mostly students who need to master the gear anyway, plus some freelance pros). OU has already produced and broadcasted 60+ sporting events (baseball, softball and even track & field) on Cox Cable’s CST network in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. They’re smart to bootstrap the monetization of their content, and we know big media comes calling sooner or later.

In this case, it makes sense that the production costs are covered by the school’s investment, so ‘for-profit’ media companies can easily pick up the feed for sporting events they might otherwise qualify as not worth the investment. In OU’s model, students learn, freelancers get work, audiences see content they wouldn’t otherwise see, and the school and the media company makes money (both of which in turn employ people, keeping the economy moving). And, that’s how America is supposed to work, right?

PS. To see the ultimate in monetizing content, read “Is Content King?”

Is Content King?

You may remember from a few months ago that both the NFL Players Association and the NBA Players Association had organized labor strikes this season, disrupting the NFL’s typical pre-season practice regimen and truncating the NBA season. What you may not know is that the networks were on the hook to pay the broadcast licensing fees to the leagues even if negotiations between the leagues and players associations broke down and they couldn’t work out a deal.

That’s right, on those big time $4.3 billion network carriage fee deals (which go to $7 billion in 2014), the networks had to pay the leagues even if their employees (players) didn’t show up for work!

Are the networks overpaying? Doubt it. Twenty-three of the top 25 broadcasts this past fall were NFL games and one of three people watching TV this past Sunday were watching the NFL playoffs, and Tim Tebow wasn’t even in any of the games. Those viewers weren’t watching the network, they were watching the game and the players. (The “content.”)

So do the networks have any power? Of course they do. They call the shots when they take risk on distribution of unknown content, which has license fees that at the very least equate to the production and development costs.

But what if you can’t get one of the executives giving “green lights” to say yes to your content? Is content still king?

PS. If you think content is king only for big time brands like the NFL and NBA, read my blog post “Bootstrapping Your Content.”

The Color Purple

This is just a quick observation about the great American melting pot. I don’t have time to do a bunch of research to understand the full historical context, but as I watched the Iowa caucus results come in and saw the leading two candidates separated by only eight votes, I was reminded of how evenly divided the last democratic primary was, and of course the 2000 general election. Here are those numbers:

Seems that in addition to us having blue states and red states (and of course there are both Reps and Dems in each state), that there are also nearly equally divided shades of red and blue.

In your opinion, is that a healthy America or not? Your thoughts?

11 from 11 –> Music


While we wait for the Recording Industry Association of America to release the 2011 music sales data, I thought I’d share my favorite 11 albums from 2011.

I use the word “album” like we all do now, because of the decline of CD sales and growth of digital music, but also because I think albums are better than singles. (It’s harder to make 10 to 16 great songs on a non-compilation album, and I personally like artists that make bodies of work without filler.) Also, I use the word “album” because I think we’ll see continued growth in vinyl record sales, which were up 37% in the first half of 2011, according to the RIAA. (Full year data is out for the UK showing CDs down by 13% and digital up 24%, according to the British Phonographic Institute.)

Here are my 11 from 11
(alphabetical order)

Ryan Adams’ Ashes & Fire
Adele’s 21
The Black Keys’ El Camino
Bon Iver’s Bon Iver
Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues
Allison Krauss & Union Station’s Paper Airplane
Amos Lee’s Mission Bell
Robert Plant’s Band of Joy
Radiohead’s The King of Limbs
Various Artists’ The Story (EMI)
Wilco’s The Whole Love

Honorable Mentions:

Francesca Battistelli’s Hundred More Years, Beach Boys’ Smile Sessions, Cage the Elephant’s Thank You Happy Birthday, Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto, Danger Mouse & Daniele Lupi’s Rome, Death Cab for Cutie’s Codes & Keys, Decemberists’ The King is Dead, Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light, Gungor’s Ghosts Upon the Earth, Hawk Nelson’s Crazy Love, Hillsong’s Aftermath, Lykke Li’s Wounded Rhymes, My Morning Jacket’s Circuital, The Roots’ Undone, TV on the Radio’s Nine Types of Light.

Looking forward to in 2012:

U2’s Songs of Ascent