Your Guide to Surviving Life in the ‘Appmosphere’

If you read my column regularly, you might know that while I am not a big fan of year-end reviews or coming-year predictions, I am a fan of identifying business trends and cycles that help generate prioritized, actionable lists and executable practices. For this last column of 2012, I thought it would be a good idea to shine the light on one business trend that needs your attention in 2013: life in the “appmosphere.”

Somewhere toward the middle of the year many publishing brands broke through their well-defined universes and ran rampant across the unbridled appmosphere where they subsequently exploded into fragments of information. Individual social efforts (like Pinterest), branded content, and branded apps led the charge. These were just a few of the initiatives. Other efforts included distributed content models, HTML5 exploration, bundled content (print and digital), and even advertiser-driven initiatives. Individual brands, in many cases, lost their collective brand power as they became individual experiences in the appmosphere. While brands focused on creating niche communities, it seems they forgot that they belonged to one.

In the appmosphere, competition is at its most intense and the least organized. Success requires every brand to become a content publisher. This creates significant dilution across traditional publisher brands. While competition is typically a good thing, some of these new-world publishers have, in some cases, taken on a “cowboy” mentality. For the new-world publisher, the gamer, the entertainment entity, and the small-to-medium-business (SMB), this is truly a new world. These companies see nothing but upside and opportunity. For this new breed of publishers, they are defining the efficiency of the new frontier. Someone needs to own this charge in a way that supports all of our business’ profitable growth.

Let’s take a look two facts:

  • The Alliance for Audited Media (AAM) reports that more than 80 of all media brands have developed branded apps for different mobile platforms.
  • They create, distribute, and, in only 40 percent of the cases (measured by the AAM), charge for their content.

This mad rush to branded apps, with little to no consumer monetization or drive to continued engagement, causes pause. And, so does a fragmented, multi-app approach with the same operating environment. Survival in the appmosphere requires a few key areas of focus:

  1. Build a monetization strategy for your apps that doesn’t dilute your brand efforts. Giving it away in an app makes it very difficult to charge for it down the road unless there is a unique monetization strategy inside the app.
  2. Create a link between and among your apps to ensure equality in brand presence. Cross-sell space in between apps works very well. Rodale apps showcase a best-in-class approach to this.
  3. When building sponsored, or advertising-funded apps, always include links to your offline and online presence outside of the app world.
  4. Include reasons to return to your app. A hashtag-driven Twitter feed is the easiest way to make this happen.

All of these appmosphere, off-the-cuff trials we have seen in 2012 lead me to ask the question: is it time to form a publishing-oriented council that focuses on best-in-class, go-to-market and business strategies and starts to define the future? Not just a resource of case studies, but ideas around process, procedure, and industry-approved approaches to efforts that elevate all of our businesses.

I’m curious to know if you feel anyone is creating this type of leadership now, or if it’s time for a group of us to gather together and take control of driving toward a sustainable appmosphere, driven by content publishing as the leader and supporting business rules that facilitate flourishing futures.

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