Are Apps Here to Stay? So It Would Seem

BusinessWeek has an extensive piece on apps, mobile and online, and the corresponding revenue projections associated with the "app economy":

The money flowing into apps is inspired by the belief that smartphones and other portable devices are transforming the tech world. The growth of mobile computing is sparking a renaissance in software development. Gaming apps are the most popular programs right now, but mobile shopping, content, social media, communications, and productivity tools are attracting increasing amounts of capital. "We don't think this is slowing down anytime soon," says Matt Murphy, the partner at Kleiner Perkins running the fund dedicated to Apple-related investments.

Yesterday VW announced free game app, "Real Racing GTI," for the iPhone. This is one of the only "vehicles" being used to promote the company's new GTI car for the time being. Later there will probably be conventional advertising and marketing, but for now it's the app (essentially product placement) and PR. This will enable VW to determine how (cost) effective mobile and specifically apps are as a marketing/advertising medium.

Magazine publisher Conde Nast is offering the December issue of GQ as a $2.99 app download. According to AdAge

It's a potentially significant step in print publishers' efforts to make something positive out of digital media. For one thing, the iPhone app puts Conde in position to play on new e-readers and tablets, the company said today. "If you can get here, you're ready to go there," President-CEO Charles H. Townsend said in a presentation to reporters. "That's what this is about."

The new app platform, however, could help the company squeeze circulation and real ad revenue from digital. Because the apps will include all the editorial and ads that the print editions do, the Audit Bureau of Circulations will consider the apps to be paid circulation just like newsstand sales and subscriber copies. That's important because advertisers only want to pay for ad space in issues that the audit bureau defines as paid. But it's also a big deal because Conde wants the digitized versions of its magazines to command print ad rates, not the far lower rates seen online.

Local shopping and inventory enabler NearbyNow has shifted its business substantially to developing mobile apps for magazine publishers and helping them monetize those apps. NearbyNow is building some of those Conde Nast magazine apps, such as Lucky and Brides. It's also working with Runners World, Seventeen and a range of others to come. CEO Scott Dunlap previously told me that some of these apps have more downloads than the print publications have subscribers. 

What apps allow is a richer experience on smartphones, and potentially eReaders over time. However in some cases the distinctions between smartphone apps and the mobile Web version of the publisher experience are breaking down or becoming more similar. Facebook's iPhone mobile Web site is a case in point. Not quite as rich as the app, it's a very good substitute and worthy alternative:

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Google is another company that's trying to bridge the divide between "app" and mobile website. But the oft-mentioned idea that apps are simply an interim step until the mobile Web is sufficiently developed to "take over" now seems incorrect.

At our online mobile marketing summit next week, Rachel Pasqua of iCrossing and Scott Dunlap of NearbyNow will talk about apps and the "mobile app opprtunity." The session -- as well as the entire summit -- is free. You can register here.