Google’s Eric Schmidt intoned the mantra back in 2011, “Whatever you’re doing, do mobile first,” to explain how every new initiative in his company is now filtered through the mobile lens. Mark Zuckerberg has admitted that Facebook’s inability to monetize mobile is a conundrum and a priority. Every automotive designer we spoke to at CES in January reinforced that the mobile phone was now at the epicenter of dashboard entertainment and information.
The march goes on. Spotify now has an app, and everyone is scrambling to be accessible to consumers on their smartphones, now past the “halfway point” in overall penetration.
Radio has done a strong job in this area, recognizing the potential and the reality of mobile. I’d like to think that our Techsurveys, Edison/Arbitron’s Infinite Dial series, and “Goin’ Mobile” (also with Arbitron) have helped set the agenda at radio companies, big and small.
So last week, when no fewer than four colleagues in radio sent me the “Mobile Insider” blog by Steve Smith called “The Age of the Branded Action,” I got the message. After reading the post, I understand why it kept ending up in my inbox and in my Twitter feed.
Smith hits on the killer app of apps in this passage that caught my attention and will hopefully resonate with you:
“This notion of empowering people to take action on the world, to express themselves in this world, is going to be enormously powerful. The brands that get that about mobile devices are the ones that will move us beyond the simple-minded “mobile-as-next-Internet” thinking. The transformation here is not just toward personalized media but actionable media. It is not just connectivity back to the Internet, but connectivity among devices in the world in real-time.”
So the bar is raised. Radio stations need to do more than build a Walkman that simply plays its audio.
The design and development of mobile apps should not be taken lightly. While many companies to their credit got in early, others have waited, hoping for the mobile landscape to perhaps settle or clarify.
In a space this dynamic (and isn’t this the case with the entire rainbow of digital?), action is essential, even if the end result is imperfect or even failure. At Jacobs Media and jacAPPS, we have become believers in “The Hacker Way,” as espoused by the aforementioned Zuckerberg as a clarion call to get it out there while constantly improving it. But whatever you do, ship it.
The early applications that we developed at jacAPPS back in late ’08 were simple streaming apps that had two basic functions – they provided a stream, and thus much-needed portability for an industry that had fully lost that attribute to Steve Jobs’ iPod. And they instantly bought stations prime beachfront property in the coolest real estate market of the 21st century – the desktop of the smartphone.
I remember our first app – fittingly for WRIF here in Detroit, my alma mater. When I downloaded it from the App Store that first time, and saw it on the front page of my iPhone next to Google Maps, Pandora, and Facebook, the excitement of seeing the station’s icon in that illustrious neighborhood was hard to describe.
What we’ve gleaned from bulding more than 700 apps would make a good user manual. We have learned a lot about engagement. We have learned about sharing. We have learned about buzz. We have learned about apps that reflect their brands and encourage consumers to act.
Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at what Smith calls “branded action” in the mobile space.
In the meantime, what’s your favorite radio app?