@knakao

Category: Mobile

Control Your Destiny [All Things D Re-Post]

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I had the pleasure of meeting All Thing’s D writer Ina Fried and being interviewed for this article.  Everything that follows is her work…..

Frustrated By Apple’s Long Approval Process, WhitePages Goes Android First With Latest App

Ina Fried, All Things D

JULY 12, 2011 AT 9:00 PM PM

When WhitePages launches its Localicious app on Wednesday, it will be in the Android Market rather than in the iPhone App Store.

There’s a simple reason for that. Although WhitePages still sees iPhone owners as a key target, Apple’s approval process is just too difficult to time a launch around. As evidence, the Seattle company notes that one of its apps, a reverse phone lookup directory, has been in Apple’s hands for the past two months awaiting approval. So, this time around, the company decided to go Android first.

“I think we are going to see a lot of people start to ship Android first,” WhitePages Chief Operating Officer Kevin Nakao told AllThingsD. “You can’t be held hostage.”

Localicious isn’t the first app that WhitePages did first for Android. The company also has launched a Caller ID app for Android after finding, like others that wanted to offer such a service for iPhone, that Apple wouldn’t allow the needed access.

Even when Apple does approve apps, it generally doesn’t give a clear enough time frame to fully plan a launch, Nakao said.

“Marketing an application becomes increasingly important given the number of apps that are being published,” Nakao said, noting that the company wants to time its product launches with a PR campaigm as well as mobile, Web and social media advertising campaigns. “Since apps can still get tied up in the iOS approval process, it makes this marketing planning almost impossible.”

Nakao’s comments echo sentiments expressed earlier on Tuesday by Android co-founder Rich Miner, who now works for Google Ventures. Even though he works for Google, Miner said that he used to recommend mobile developers launch first for iOS because of the platform’s size. These days, Miner said the size of the opportunities are more similar, while Android offers more flexibility, such as making it easier to allow developers to offer test versions prior to launch.

Android is not without its challenges either, of course. Developing for Google’s operating system means testing for a large number of devices as opposed to just a couple of iPhone models.

Nakao notes that the company has two testers just for Android now. “I’d rather hire more people and have options,” he said.

As for the app itself, it’s a local search program. It’s main distinguishing feature is that it allows people to search local listings by neighborhood as opposed to just geographic distance. That means users in San Francisco won’t see listings for Daly City unless they want to and those in Hollywood won’t be forced to go over the hill to the Valley. More importantly, those in Manhattan’s TriBeCa district won’t be sent over a bridge to Jersey just because it happens to be geographically proximate.

Nakao notes that there are more than 82,000 distinct neighborhoods within American cities, places with which most urban dwellers have an affinity. Localicious also aims to be more current by offering tips based on nearby places where people are “checking in.”

“That way it is more alive,” Nakao said.

Those who want to give Localicious a try can find it for free as long as they have an Android device — iPhone owners will have to wait until Localicious comes to their neighborhood.

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Do You Really Need To Make A Mobile App?

Ever since Apple launched the iPhone app store, the company has been pushing its apps to get all of the attention. But when was the last time you read a review about a new mobile website? Thousands of apps and billions of downloads consistently steal the headlines, while the mobile web is largely ignored by everyone but the consumer. Yet, despite what the marketing would lead you to believe, consumers use the mobile web just as much as apps.

Link to the full article on Mashable

America’s Long Tail

Designed by Ryan Kazda

One of the biggest issues facing local is scale.  The population of the US is very distributed, with the largest US metro (New York City) representing only 2.71% of the US population.

I explore the challenges of scale further in my Mashable post:  “5 Things You Need To Know About Location-Based Social Media

(I threw the data at Ryan Kazda who designed the graph).  The image was selected and re-published in the book “Social Media For Dummies”  Is that at good thing?)

Another Mobile Listacle

courtesy of @whatsupandroid, Carmen Villadar

Mashable loves “Listacle’s.  The awkward sounding portmanteau is a “list” combined with “article”.  Only grown men with adolescent thoughts like me think its funny .

The best part of this listacle I wrote for Mashable  is the clever cartoon created by my talented friend Carmen Villadar.

TechCrunch Article: 2010 The Year Android Shakes Its Money Maker

This was my first guest blog post, I wrote in 2009 when Apple dominated the Smartphone market and many were questioning Android’s future.  Liz Powell provided critical feedback and edits.

Mobile games publisher Gameloft might have thrown in the towel on Android, but that is a mistake. I certainly understand why they gave up on Android. Since launching in February of this year, our own Whitepages Caller ID app has become a top ten grossing Android application, and yet we’ve seen less than $54,000 in revenue. While our iPhone app download counts are in the millions, our Android app downloads are a mere 17 percent of this volume.

Despite our meager return on investment this year, I believe that the real potential for Android app developers lies in the New Year. Here’s why:

End-To-End Goodness

In addition to being an open platform that facilitates device innovation, Android offers choice and progress when it comes to the marketplace where consumers discover and download applications. While iTunes and The Official App Store are the only places consumers can download apps for their iPhone, Android’s open platform allows merchants like MobiHand and HanDango to set up storefronts, ultimately providing more purchasing options for consumers. Google’s focus on improving its the user experience in its own Android market will also continue to boost revenues for app developers. For example, when the recent 1.6 OS (Cupcake) upgrade provided a much needed facelift for the market, we saw an immediate 18 percent lift in sales for our paid Caller ID application.

Billing Options Get Greener

While Google still has a long way to go in terms of reaching as many consumers as iTunes does, with the power of “what’s hot” and capabilities like in-app purchases, they have begun to enlist an armada of players—including carriers with deep experience in integrated billing—to create better markets for the merchandising and sale of applications. In early November, T-Mobile announced that they will launch their own Android market with integrated carrier billing, giving consumers the ability to charge applications to their phone bill. Also on the Google market roadmap is the ability for publishers to offer subscription purchases.

The low friction of bill-to-phone capabilities for consumers and the recurring revenue benefits of subscription services have the potential to drive significant revenue into the hands of developers. For example, we recently launched a service that allows consumers to text any number to 566587 (LOOKUP) to identify unknown callers and the bill-to-phone conversion rates have been two times what we have seen with the application market conversion rates. Thirty-four percent of our customers selected the unlimited subscription option over a single-use fee.

“Always With Me” Needs to be “Always On”

With the influx of more applications that require persistence—streaming music, Facebook, Skype, IM, & Caller ID—Android’s ability to run more than one application at a time is becoming more important. The “always with you, always on” benefits of mobile will be a key advertising opportunity especially for location-based offerings. Publishers will be able to use Android to generate more revenue by staying in front of users to produce more ad impressions. Advertisers also will be able to reach consumers closer to the point of sale, and take advantage of geo-triggered offers. Higher frequency of usage should also reduce churn for subscription-based services.

T-Mobile Got It Started Right, Verizon Will Unleash the Beast

T-Mobile launched the first Android phone in the U.S., and embraced the open platform. Any other U.S. carrier might have been tempted to meddle, but T-Mobile proved that an open platform would not be riddled with malware and abuse. With Verizon now going big on Android, we will start to see significant uptake. Verizon has 89 million customers with an average Data Revenue Per User of $15.69 to T-Mobile’s 33.5 million customers and $10 in Data Revenue Per User. Sprint has the highest data revenue per user of $19 and 48.3 million customers. In short, Verizon and Sprint will attract many more customers willing to spend more money on Android applications.

Android Needs To Be A Player, Not An iPhone Killer

For the same reason developers support multiple game platforms, browsers, and operating systems, Android just needs to achieve enough consumer scale to justify the investment. As long as Google stays focused on providing freedom in an open and competitive ecosystem, app developers will be rewarded. In just six months, we handily recouped our investment from launching an Android application and expect a significant return next year as Google leverages the reach and power of players like Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Motorola, HTC, Dell, and Samsung to grow its platform.

Think Different

Future app developers should approach Android with more than a simple port of an existing iPhone application. Our initial interest in Android was motivated by innovation and new product features that required integration with core device functionality offered by Android but firewalled on the iPhone. Android’s absence of an approval process facilitates rapid product development and the open platform provides the opportunity to innovate, giving every developer the freedom to compete and earn a place in the consumer’s pocket.

Online Media Daily: Mobile Advertising Q&A

WhitePages is one of the largest people directories on the Web. With the Seattle-based company in the midst of expanding both its online and mobile offerings, we interviewed Kevin Nakao, its vice president of mobile, about WhitePages’ mobile initiatives and the challenges of adapting its service for cell phones. Before joining WhitePages, he was vice president of music services for RealNetworks, where he launched Rhapsody Mobile and worked on music and video programs with Cingular, Verizon, and Sprint.

OMD: Can you give a brief overview of WhitePages’ mobile initiatives?

Nakao: Sure, our mobile initiatives focus on getting more users, doing new things, and making money.

On the distribution side, we have built an audience of over two million mobile users through a re-design of our mobile browse site m.whitepages.com and by launching new applications for the iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, and Text Message-based services.

We have also innovated with new services like Caller ID for Android, which quickly hit Top 25 in the Android market. So we decided to provide the ability to identify unknown calls and texts on any mobile phone, and launched a new service called LookUp. It’s the first service in the U.S. that allows consumers to identify unknown calls and text messages by texting that number to LookUp (566587).

On the monetization front, we have tested a number of approaches around advertising and paid models. For advertising, we have the benefit of a direct sales force of 15 people that has already been selling a top Web site and building relationships with key online media agencies. So we try to package mobile with online buys.

OMD: Can you give some idea of overall differences in campaign results for advertisers on Whitepages mobile v. the wired Web site — e.g., response rates?

Nakao: I have always wondered why the click-through rates on our ad campaigns for mobile have historically been higher on mobile than the Web. Our CTR on mobile averages about 1%.

One of the primary factors driving the difference is that there tend to be fewer ads on a mobile page versus a Web page. We recently implemented this approach in the re-brand of the WhitePages.com site. For example, by reducing the number of ads on our home page from four to two, the click-through rate on the display ads has increased 25%.

OMD: Has Whitepages seen higher engagement via the mobile Web or mobile apps?

Nakao: We have been doing a lot of testing of ad campaigns to see if there are any differences in performance between advertising on our mobile Web site versus our iPhone application.

There have been slight differences, but the more important variable has been the placement of the ad (top or bottom) and testing ad copy that speaks to the mobile use case. We also learned that iPhone application users may be reluctant to leave their app via a click out unless the application can remember where the user last left off — a feature we added earlier this year.

From a consumer standpoint, we see significantly higher engagement with the iPhone application over the mobile Web site because it offers a lot more features and a downloaded app gets great device real estate and presence with the user. In the case of Caller ID for Android, it’s always on and is used daily by many users.

OMD: There’s been a lot of debate around whether publishers should offer a free or a paid app. You have both. Why?

Nakao: We offered both free ad-supported and paid applications, and now we understand the importance and metrics around leveraging both. A free, ad-supported version helps us reach the broadest possible base of consumers and provides distribution and marketing opportunities for paid services. A free version not only provides you with a base of users to up-sell to, but also provides feedback and testing to improve your service before you offer a paid version.

The combination of both advertising and paid revenues creates a stronger business case and overall ROI. The higher revenue per user enables higher customer acquisition budgets to help scale our business.

OMD: Can you discuss some of the difficulties you’ve faced in trying to offer Whitepages as a subscription service on mobile apps?

Nakao: In my opinion, all of the app marketplaces have fallen short in terms of offering robust billing and pricing solutions for both consumers and developers. As an example, none of the application markets offer a monthly recurring or subscription fee — they essentially provide vending machine models that only allow you to charge the consumer up front.

Even Apple’s in-app billing requires you to charge for the app on the outset, and in-application billing is not currently possible on a free version. This forces publishers to charge higher prices than they’d like or force the user to re-download the application. In spite of this, we’re happy with the paid conversion rates and some of the platforms are starting to build better billing options.

One of the other opportunities with mobile commerce is to make it easier for consumers to charge services to their phone bill. Our LookUp service gives consumers the choice between paying per use, subscribing to an unlimited plan, and then charging it to their phone bill. Apple, Google, and RIM do not currently provide these capabilities in their application market. The carrier pipes are a lot smarter than some folks give them credit for.

OMD: What makes a mobile campaign on WhitePages different from other kinds of mobile media buys?

Nakao: We know that people rely heavily on our mobile services to do things like find people, restaurants, call their hotel for concierge services, or get directions to an important business meeting. They are literally “on the go,” ready to make a transaction, and ready to act on relevant advertising.

We think the accuracy and immediacy of the information we serve up creates an environment for ads to have a big impact with a receptive, action-oriented consumer.