Technology Trends: The App Economy

Liveblog

Joanne Lang
Ellen Pack
Alicia Navarro
Moderator: Stacy Morrison

Stacy: I'm excited about the panel. How many have bought an app? How many have bought more than 20? How many have bought more than you can count? In this time we are chasing incredible ways to start a business... web first or mobile second, and now looking at apps and penetration of iOS and so and so forth. 5.9 billion mobile subscribers in the world. 87% of the world pop. 1.2 million on the mobile web. ? use the mobile web. Games are the number one app. People are reading news on apps. 1 in 4 apps are used once and never used again. Now matter where you are, if you are trying to turn to a functional business, you have to worry about what platform is right for that idea. These three people are going to help you look at that.

Alicia Navarro, Ellen Pack, Joanne Lang, Stacy Morrison

Joanne: I'm the founder of AboutOne.com and the mom of 4 boys under the age of 8. A few years ago I was using facebook to organize my friends and LinkedIn to organize my career, but nothing in between to organize the other stuff in between. I had the idea for a game. I'm the head of my househould...CEO...I needed something to organize my personal information. I had idea...I didn't start the company because had obnoxious roommate in my head that said how can you do this.
I got a call from the doctor, from the pediatrician, who said you need to come right away. My son was in the ambulance unconscious. I need this information...it was on my computer at home. I couldn't even remember his date of birth. All the info was on my computer. I thought he was going to die and I felt like a failure. I had to turn this obnoxious roommate in my head off. I spent a year creating prototype...now have just over 100,000 moms on the site... I raised venture capital (only 4-6% of VC money has gone to women in technology). Had movie made about me, it will open next year. Feared so many things...my biggest failure is not to aim high enough. My lessons on Power Point (Accessible online) Proudest screen on App...access emergency numbers for your kids.

Ellen: Ellen Pack my newest baby is App Smitten and delivers hand delivered hand recommendations to your inbox. There are over a million apps. No good way to find a good one. Like looking for a needle in a haystack. We are doing that hard work for you and delivering the best apps in each category. We do that today through a newsletter. You come the website and you sign up. Recently we launched a parenting specific one.
We are in development, come out in Android and in iOS marketplace. We developed a mobile website. Easy to do and a lot less painful and far less expensive and up and going and learning a ton right away. While developing our app, big part of our mission is personalized recommendations. We have done a study about which apps people are suing and came up with an algorithm. We built it as a Facebook app, easy to do and use. Will launch in a week.

Alicia: This isn't what I dreamed of doing when I started out. Always knew I'd be an entrep. started to organize group decisions. An application that would replace copy and replacing URLs into an email...what about this one... Found development firm in Romania. Got it built with my savings. Got first version of website up and out. Did it in Australia. Didn't know what to do next. I did what does every self-respecting Australaian does. Went Backpackin for 6 weeks. Friend said, why turn into licensable software site. Thought that's a good idea. He had company to meet... Borrow business suite, call company in Romania...Walked into presentation and completely lie that had built service and lived in London and asked for 30,000 pounds to license it, and they gave her 10,000 pounds up front. In that month, went back to Australia...said goodbye got the product built and moved back to London. Product turns links people like into affiliate links. Spent year pitching for investment that she didn't get -- 2008. Recession about to hit. I was quite desperate. Had realization that I had to change the business. When I pitched people didn't like the front end they liked the back end--the part that would allow others to use it on their own. Now has 14 employees...Pinterest uses her for the last two years, Cosmo, Guardian... Idea behind is that the normal website can advertise with banner ads, but you can use the product to advertise with existing links...the article. Do it yourself, it's a pain in the ass to work with affiliate networks and integrate it into your site...If you do eveything necessary you aren't writing content. If you use Skimlinks you install 1 line of code and that's it. On Skimlinks find existing links and the changes it into affiliate links on the fly. Skim words converts words into affiliate links. The reason it is useful for you guys, it does it all for you and gives you useful analytics. Two days ago we release suite of APIs. Now you can build your own monetization tools. If you want to build your own monetization tools you can.

Stacy: So wow, right? One of the things that is so important about this session is you had to make a lot of decision about what was going to work for your business... what platforms.

Joanne: I started with a website. We used a mobile application. Now we are launching a series of mobile applications. Doing Windows first. Next we are doing Android. I thought everyone was going to have an iPhone...but they don't. We will release iPhone app after that. We are using on Phone Gap. We also have a Windows 8 to release as well. I chose Phone Gap because it is owned by Adobe. A friend is in security with a bank and uses Phone Gap...I didn't worry about security.

Ellen: I always had mobile app envy. I also felt I didn't know who my customer was or what they wanted. I just believed in getting out there and trying something. We could be up and having spent very little, just integrating mail chimp, and checking out what people want...incredible how quickly. What scares me is going underground for 3 months to develop something. But you can release things, do things without being perfect.

Joanne: We had beta testers. We did minimal features to get to market quickly. People will give you feedback.

Ellen: Break it into steps...

Alicia: My business is different. It's a B2B. The last two years we realized the back end is very API driven, which means giving other companies tools. It's a trend at the moment. Lot's of companies giving content -- API -- other developers use your content to create technologies. It's been a good strategic decision for us.

Q & A

Audience Member: What I'm hearing is that getting it out there gets you the feedback, and then you are dedicated to updating. How are you doing that?

Joanne: On fixed use, there is a review form... we have a help link, and so they can give feedback and which are the highest priority requirements. It takes away emotional decision and allows you to make factual decisions. We use Zen Desk for this. It's a seamless system. There is a mobile app, that we can use 24-7. So I have good 24-7 feedback. I have a Comeback Mom program. I couldn't hire the people I wanted for SEO and PR. I snuck around in BlogHer, and found bloggers on certain topics and asked them to help. Now I salary them. Now they are employees, but they choose the projects they want. They are passionate. They are brilliant at what they do. They are great at what they do. It's cost-effective.

Q & A

Audience Member: Are you montetizing for your app?

Joanne: We have a freemium app. Then we have a deal where you bundle things together for lead generation. Then there is a point system. Turned calendar and contacts into a game and you can turn those into revenue.
We have other sponsorships with corporations.

Ellen: App spin is an advertising based model.

Q & A

Audience Member: To get an app reviewed?

Ellen: Send an email?

Q & A

Audience Member:How are you building the recommendations?

Ellen: We are building them by hand. Right now we are hand tagging everything. There is an element in the apps that has to do with your friends recommendations. Having spent a lot of time looking at apps, there aren't as many in the categories you care about. If you are about organization or productivity, or certain areas of education for your kids, it's not an infinite universe. As a consumer, you love your phone, but you aren't out looking for apps. Consumer wants to be told what to look for.

Q & A

Audience Member: How are you going to personalize it?

Ellen: We are looking at your preferences. We aren't going to look at what apps are on your phone.

Stacy: You mentioned an article called "Web Second, Mobile First." Inverts a popular aphorism. Tell me what that clarified for you.

Alicia: If you only read one blog, read Mark Schuster, "Both Sides of the Table." It forces you to produce a viable product. While Schuster agrees, a lot of people just start with mobile and don't get to web or have to replicate functionality across platforms. Always know you will get to the web. You will want to do both a web and a mobile dedicated app. Do the mobile app and get to the web second. Think strategically. He also talks about, knowing what is appropriate for each platform. Pinterest has a lovely display. Doesn't make sense on a phone. Think about he unique characteristics of a device. It's an interesting article about how to think strategically about your applications.

Stacy: It was interesting to think of this. In publishing, magazines...In editorial we would be up at arms about the digital beast, hold up bottle of ketchup. We make the ketchup, but what will work. BlogHer offers up one type of content. What will our platform be in mobile? When at Redbook, when creating content for women, our hottest mobile time was 2:30 -3;30...when in car picking up kids, then 5:30-6 when trying to figure out what to make for dinner. Then later when thinking about games. Data and storytelling are not that far apart. When you are dividing things up.

Q & A

Audience Member: Why have an app or push through to a mobile device?

Joanne: Think how will they get to your site? Will they go to the app store? Will they search Google? How often will they use your solution? How easy is it to get to the application? We had to think about leveraging the phone itself. We had to think about GPS...log in the location when you took a video of your child's first steps. We wanted to use applications on the phone. Tip: Check the phone to see what is available. Do you need offline? Those decisions helped me decide if it was mobile web or native app?

Stacy: After you have built a product is distribution especially in a crowded environment. What does it come down to?

Alicia: It doesn't cost anything to use our product. We do have an inside sales team though to pitch to big business, but the only way we make money is if a lot of people come to us. We do a lot of marketing relationships.
If you do a good job it builds up over time. People talk about you.

Ellen: Is someone searching for what you have? Is someone searching for what you have and how are they searching? Just being in the app store, it doesn't market itself. You still have to market. there is no secret sauce.

Joanne: You are going to spend $5K a week to 30K to produce an app. Do press release. Look at stats. Have a pop in your app so you get review and feedback. Have a good icon. Be smart about colors and brand name. Have a descriptor. Some of the best review sites come from YouTube. Analyze categories. Where do you fit in. On the first day, you have to get a lot of traction. Tapjobs...pay them to help you get traction. They can get you up to a million downloads.

Q & A

Audience Member: How much do you need to spend on a marketing budgets?

Joanne: Three times more than your development budget. I use the comeback moms, so I don't spend that. Be clever. Look at CoolMomPicks. SimpleMoms. MoneySavingMoms. A lot of sites drive enough traffic. The amazing sites is that what you do there it stays there forever.

Stacy: Such an amazing story.

Q & A

Audience Member: Have you discovered a way to track downloads from those blog posts at those sites?

Joanne: Yes we track everything. We use Google Analytics. And we have a funnel. We track reach to renewal. I use an intern to do the tracking.

 

[Editor's note: The transcript above reflects what the liveblogger heard, to the best of her ability, but is not a verbatim transcript of the session. As such, it may contain abbreviations or paraphrases.]

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