In my first two articles for FierceDeveloper, I laid out two rather negative themes for mobile publishers. First, I stated boldly that for most publishers, the iPhone does not represent a goldmine of financial opportunity. Second, I predicted that most of the new app stores modeled after Apple's App Store would not succeed. I gave a number of reasons for these positions and there was some healthy debate online.
Since then, Verizon held a developer conference and announced the imminent launch of its own "app store" for smartphones with a number of key promises, including access to a dizzying number of network APIs slated for release sometime over the next two years. Verizon also announced that publishers would have access to direct carrier billing, which in my opinion is the key ingredient to determining the success of any app store, and the reason you cannot put Verizon's program onto the list of initiatives likely to fail.
However, Verizon said something else that helps to define a trend you need to understand. They stated that their goal was to authorize, test and launch a submitted application in 14 days. That, along with their policy of paying out developers 70% of the retail revenue, would help to ensure that Verizon would eventually have the largest app store of all. They clearly laid out their ambition to be No. 1 in the quality, selection and functionality of mobile apps.
The press measures app store performance on two criteria: volume of downloads and number of available stock-keeping units (SKUs). While Verizon seemed less willing to directly set a goal for the number of apps they would host, members of the audience went there almost immediately. People started throwing out numbers: 10,000 apps, 50,000 apps, 100,000 apps...
More. More. More.
Back to that first iPhone article for a moment. I asserted, based on primarily a statistical argument, that most developers would not be profitable on the iPhone. The reason is that the number of paid downloads is low relative to the amount of available product. So while there are a few celebrated winners, there are a whole lot more losers you don't ever hear about.
While it's enticing to think that a new game (or app), one not necessarily based on any big brand or franchise, can organically grow its sales into a success story, the truth is that iPhone success is manufactured through the execution of a perfectly orchestrated marketing plan. In other words, it's not good fortune, dumb luck, the world community of users simply appreciating innovation and quality--no, in most cases, it's the marketing plan. Not just a couple of banner ads either. We're talking about a very sophisticated plan that includes advertising, feature requests, price cutting, press releases, multiple independent product reviews and above all, perfect timing.
Suddenly, it's all about marketing.
In the new world order, all mobile publishers need to gain a competency in marketing their products. With the (good news) that the carrier networks are opening up to more developers and more product, you can easily get lost on their decks too.
In fact, even today, where there are still a very small number of products in a tightly controlled system, the decrease in browsing traffic has led many publishers to begin using marketing strategies to increase discoverability of their games and apps on the carrier decks. It used to be that the only marketing strategy worth pursuing was asking (begging) the carrier for featured placement. Now it's possible to drive demand directly and that's exactly what many publishers are now trying to do. But doing so in a way that's ROI-positive is particularly challenging. I'm going to lay out the steps for doing that successfully...Continued