Is it just too mundane to talk about mobile application metrics when the iPad – touted as the savior of news media – has only been out a day? Yeah, probably, but before I too get swept up in the frenzy of newness and coolness, I want to go on record noting that the total number of iPhone apps downloaded or purchased doesn’t tell you anything about engaging audiences. Ditto for iPad apps.
It must be true because I saw a story about how people don’t use smartphone apps in the New York Times. No, not in David Pogue’s technology blog. It was in the softy Sunday Styles section, right under a huge article about middle school boys using smelly body washes to get “masculinity in a spray can.”
The key takeaway (of the smartphone story, that is): Most people have more shoes than iPhone apps. They download a bunch of apps and even pay for some of them, but they don’t actually use a lot of them.
“Since Apple launched its App Store in 2008, media, industry observers
and Apple customers have bent over backwards to heap encomium after
encomium on applications,” Mickey Alam Khan, editor-in-chief of Mobile Marketer and Mobile Commerce Daily, wrote last week. “Yet, for
all the hoopla – 150,000 applications in the Apple App Store, 30,000 in
Google’s Android Market, 50,000 in GetJar – not enough questions are
asked of the efficacy of this mobile channel, either for content,
marketing, retail or entertainment.”
What questions should be asked? The usual indicators of engagement – number of visits to an application per week or month, visits per unique user and the like. Khan also wants to know “How many deletions each month and after how many visits?” and “Do users respond to images on applications the way they do on mobile sites? Do they have the same patience for page load times, application versus mobile Web sites?”
Unfortunately, Khan notes that the data just isn’t there yet. “Apple, Google and others of its ilk are asking retailers, publishers
and brands to spend tens of millions of dollars on products created
uniquely for their proprietary application stores.
“The least that
application store owners can do to reward this marketer devotion is to
offer data on an aggregate level….
“With each new mobile device’s launch, more hysteria is created around
the content possibilities. The Apple iPad’s debut has launched
another round of application development, this time giving hope to
publishers worried over the future of the printed book….
this simply an Apps Bubble or another viable mobile channel that can
hold its own with the mobile Web? Only time and data will tell.”
The right data, that is.