Marketers must embrace both channels to mirror consumer behavior.
With the continued advancement of HTML5 technology, marketers and publishers are beginning to debate the necessity of investing in mobile applications, as mobile websites become increasingly sophisticated. Why develop for numerous platforms - such as Android, iPhone and BlackBerry, for example - when you can develop just once in HTML5?
Speaking at the OMMA Mobile conference in New York City this morning, however, Louis Gump, VP of mobile for CNN, suggested attempting to choose between the two strategies is "like asking which wheel you'd rather have on a bicycle."
Acknowledging that it would be "great" to develop just once for a range of devices, Gump stressed that consumers continue to consume media and content through both channels. "Start with the consumer in mind… If you're trying to decide between mobile web and apps the answer is both, and both are going to continue to grow, we believe," he said.
Despite that outlook, Gump did suggest a tipping point would eventually be reached, and implied mobile web could eventually replace the native application. "If history is any guide, mobile web will have some major event that helps it come around, he said.
For a publisher such as CNN that approach makes complete sense, as it attempts to cultivate the largest audience it can, regardless of platform. According to Ken Harlan, co-founder and President of mobile ad network MobileFuse, however, the mobile web holds greater ad promise than apps.
"We definitely feel that's going to be where a large portion of the traffic is over time. We just don't know when that's going to be," Harlan told ClickZ, adding "We're servicing both channels, and I'm not going to make that bet, but we're not focusing on apps."
One important distinction between the two channels remains the issue of tracking and targeting, however. In-app measurement remains far more effective than that on the mobile web, thanks largely to the fragmented way in which mobile devices handle cookies. Despite that fact, Harlan believes his network's strength in mobile web sets it apart from its rivals. "Mobile web is probably 65 percent of our traffic. We've concentrated more on mobile web than anyone else," he said.
For agencies and advertisers, however, those metrics are essential to justify continued investment in the channel, and many focus their media buys on the app space as a result. "In-app is easier than mobile web to measure. We can get pretty accurate and similar metrics to those we would get online," explained Paul Gelb, VP and mobile practice lead for Publicis-owned Razorfish.
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Jack Marshall was a staff writer and stats editor for ClickZ News from 2007 until August 2011.
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