Experience trumps content in apps monetization

How one uses content to create desirable user experience more important than content itself when it comes to monetizing one's app, panelists suggest.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Content is no longer king as consumers today  are more interested in the experience delivered via the medium that is delivering the content. As such, developing one's mobile app based on desirable user experience is vital in monetization, stress industry players.

Speaking at the Digital Matters conference held here Tuesday, Ivy Wong, CEO of Next Mobile, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Next Media, said one of the key issues the company had to contend with when going mobile was how to monetize content on mobile platforms.

She recounted that while it had launched 15 apps in the space of two years, essentially one app for each of the company's publications including Hong Kong broadsheet Apple Daily, it had not seen much revenue generated aside from mobile advertising dollars. The situation was not helped by the fact that print continued to generate "much higher" revenue than its mobile services, Wong noted.

Considering the mobile was a more personal medium, Next Mobile decided to create "animated virtual news" in the form of short, one- to two-minute video clips to make its content more appealing to users. For instance, Apple Daily created an animated video clip depicting golfer Tiger Woods crashing his car in 2009, which helped garner some 3 million views, she recounted.

"What we are doing currently is not to monetize content but to create people's habits in terms of using their apps. That's the first step," Wong explained to ZDNet Asia on the event sidelines, adding that about 1.2 million to 1.5 million users in Hong Kong use the company's apps daily.

Only after creating a stable user base, can a monetization layer be added on top through mobile advertising or in-app purchases, she stated. The CEO did note that Next Mobile was still "quite new" in monetizing their mobile services and working through the "trial and error" phase.

That said, Wong believes the "real money" will start rolling in within one to two years, but added that more investments will be needed to see this to fruition.

Phil Chen, head of global content division at HTC, agreed. A fellow panelist, the executive said Tuesday it was "tough" to monetize digital music content in Asia. Based on internal research, the Taiwanese phonemaker found that consumers in the region could be divided into two camps: people with more time than money; and people with more money than time.

Chen elaborated: "Those in the first group are mostly youngsters who would consume new music content, but would rather get it off Pirate Bay than pay for it. The second group consists of older working adults who are more likely to listen to music from their generation than to purchase new musical content."

In order to make money from music, he pointed to services such as Soundhound, which allows consumers to instantly identify and discover music. With such apps, there is opportunity to monetize the service--in this case, song recognition--and not the actual content itself, he said.

Soundhound offers both a free app version and a paid, ad-free version on mobile platforms such as Apple's iOS, Google's Android, and Microsoft's Windows Phone.

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