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Too Many Apps, Not Enough Time

Are we suffering app overload?

People download a lot of apps, but they abandon 95 percent of them, according to a study by Nuance.The result: They keep using the same apps—Nielsen says Facebook, YouTube, Google Play, Google Search, and Gmail were the top five apps in both 2011 and 2012.And they’re not spending markedly more time in apps: 39 minutes a day in 2012 versus 37 minutes in 2011.

While the Nuance stats are not new, the “if you build it they will not come for long if they come at all” phenomenon is getting more attention lately. Consider NYT tech blogger, Jenna Wortham, who is shoveling out of the charred ashes of app-burnout:

I asked a few friends, and their behavior is similar to mine. One friend who lives in Los Angeles said he had 150 applications installed on his phone. He estimates that he uses about 15 on a daily basis. Another friend, this one in New York, told me he had 104 apps on his phone and used around 20 regularly. For the typical app, less than half the people who download it use it more than once, said Guy Rosen, the chief executive of Onavo.

So what does this mean for you?  Are apps a bad idea, a distraction for your brand?

It depends who the app is for and what problem it solves for that audience.

To be sure, an “app” is not a solution to every problem, particularly if the only problem the app solves is the problem called “my company needs an app!”

No, it doesn’t, actually.

What your company needs is a group of consumers who look to it to solve a problem or make their lives better. And if those problems can be solved and those lives enriched through use of a mobile app, so much the better.

But consider this: What is it about using the app in a mobile context that makes particular sense for your brand?

That is, if I’m on State Street and I’m looking for a great restaurant or a deal nearby or if I’m looking for the closest taxi alternative, these are problems begging for a mobile solution. If I want an experience that’s impossible to get any way but mobile, then an app makes great sense. But when your app provides little more than access to the same radio station I can get on any radio in any place, then you need to ask exactly whose problem you’re trying to solve and whose life you’re trying to improve.

Theirs or yours?

Attention remains scarce and is only getting scarcer. Radio’s competitive advantage is creating content, not technology.  Our opportunity is to leverage great technology, wherever we can find it, to magnify our distribution across channels and add new power and new value to our content creations.  Our opportunity is to create new reasons to matter.

So ask yourself this question when diving in to the mobile space: Whose problem are you solving and how are you solving it? Whose lives are you making better and how are you leveraging technology to do that?

An app should not simply be “radio on a mobile device” any more than a movie should be a filmed play.

Who has time for that?

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