Selling in mobile markets (TOCCON 2010)

O'Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference 2010I’m at the O’Reilly’s Publishing Tools of Change (TOC) conference in New York. Twitter hashtag is #toccon. Everything I learn here I’ll be applying to the m4Lit (mobile phones for literacy) project that I head up in South Africa.

Day one is workshops day, and first up is Selling in Mobile Markets, presented by Rana Sobhany, author of Marketing iPhone Apps.

The big question: How can publishers stay relevant in a digital world?
Great content. Curation. Quality. Subscription?

What’s special about mobile content:

  • Mobile phone is readily available
  • Engagement on the user’s terms
  • Short bursts of usage

Questions we need to ask ourselves:

  • How do you make your content most appealing?
  • How much is your content worth?
  • Apps? Mobile Web?


  • Small screen
  • Short attention span
  • So, very high demand for quality
  • Development costs ($20K-$100K dev costs for an app on any platform)
  • Gatekeepers (e.g. Apple for their App Store)


  • Immediate
  • Personal
  • Custom (e.g. you can publish a whole book, or chapter by chapter)
  • Measurable
  • Fast

PLATFORMS for mobile apps …
iPhone/iPad platform:

  • Coexists with Apple’s iTunes Music Store
  • Divided by category
  • >2bn downloads to date
  • Approx 200,000 apps available
  • Dev language is Objective-C (must be developed on a Mac)

Android platform:

  • Android is an open source operating system for mobile
  • Dev language is Java
  • Android market:
  • Payment is a recent addition to Android Market
  • Self-service model for developers to publish their apps; no iTunes gatekeeper scenario
  • No friction, but no quality control either

BlackBerry platform:

  • Dev language is Java
  • BlackBerry App World:
  • Expensive apps (=>$2.99)
  • Limited functionality
  • Multiple handsets
  • No centralised payment system (need to use PayPal)

Palm platform:

  • Market stronghold has dropped off
  • Dev language is C, C++, webOS for newer Palm devices
  • About 1m webOS devices out there, more women than men own one

Windows Mobile platform:

  • Dev languages Visual C++, .NET, Java
  • Windows Mobile 7 recently launched to much fanfare
  • If wanting to reach business users, seriously consider Windows Mobile 7

Symbian platform:

  • Very popular abroad; Nokia+Symbian relationship makes it more compelling for the global market
  • Nokia is Symbian’s biggest customer
  • Dev lang mostly in C++
  • Traditionally it’s the most expensive to develop for

STRATEGY: Pitfalls of each platform …
In her opinion, there are 4 primary mobile development platform.


  • Most attention from users and media, but very crowded space
  • Apple is a gatekeeper and it’s very difficult to plan launches
  • Hardware is expensive and there is a “application etiquette” to adhere to on App Store


  • Open platform, pros and cons associated with this
  • Not very high adoption rates
  • Hardware fragmentation

Windows Mobile:

  • OEM relationships make it harder for developers


  • Don’t dilute your app too much — choose the platform that your target audience is using
  • Also, committing to one platform can give you leverage/support from them
  • Pricing is key; $4.99 on App Store is the sweet spot
  • Adhere to the pricing guidelines of the platform you choose
  • Launch day: Speak to press 1-2 weeks before launch. Provide them with screenshots and value prop to users.

MEASURING success …

  • 1:1 mapping of mobile phone to user (this very unusual (think of TV and radio) (My note: Maybe in the USA, but not in developing countries)
  • Have someone on the team be responsible for analytics. Not necessarily the developer.

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