Questioning Mobile First

Jeff Jarvis sums up our own thoughts quite succinctly:

“Larry Kramer, publisher of the much-larger USA Today, just said with admirable candor that he can’t put up a pay wall online because his product “isn’t unique enough.” Ditto The Daily.

Next, The Daily started as an iPad-only offering. Eventually, it branched out to the iPhone and to Android tablets (but only for Verizon telephone customers) and the Kindle. I hope that other publishers learn from this misguided “mobile” strategy. Too many have dreamed that the tablet would return to them the control over brand, experience, and business model that the web and its links took from them. Too many think they need to create new products just for so-called mobile devices (though we actually often use them when stationary, at desk or on couch).

No, a news organization should have a strategy built around relationships with individuals, serving them wherever, whenever, and on whatever platform they like. My needs don’t change just because the device in my hands does.”

This dovetails nicely with Vibhu Norby’s post entitled “Why We’re Pivoting from Mobile-first to Web-first” and Fred Wilson’s response, “Rethinking Mobile First”. Both are worth diving into.

Norby says:

“All in all, mobile service apps turn out to be a horrible place to close viral loops and win at the retention game. Only a handful of apps have succeeded mobile-first: Instagram, Tango, Shazam, maybe 2 or 3 others (Games drive short-term revenue but don’t get me started on that topic – sell a billion $0.99 games with 30% taken off the top by Apple/Google and you now have the equivalent revenue of a Call Of Duty opening weekend). Take Path, one of the most promising mobile-first startups. I don’t want to rag on them because I love the app, but it’s just a good example. Color would also work well. With 5-10 million downloads, Path has retained less than 200,000/users a day according to AppData. You can also check their download rank in the Social category and see that it has dropped from 5 to 94. That’s anywhere between 2 and 4% retention and a couple hundred downloads a day. Even if that’s wrong by 5x or 20x, it still doesn’t make sense as a business for many years. A boutique social network user is not exactly the type of person to click on an ad.”

Fred Wilson says:

“What I want to focus on is the paradox that mobile is where the growth is right now and that mobile is very very hard to build a large user base on. Everything that Vibhu says in his post is right. Building an audience on mobile is a bitch.”

It’s good food for thought.