With the introduction of smartphones and tablets, apps have become synonymous with how we browse content and handle tasks on the go. Apple introduced the App Store in July 2008 and changed the way we do everything from communicating with family to hailing a cab. This change impacted publishers as well. App installs became a go-to metric for publications looking to gauge public interest in their content, but now that’s starting to change. The average American consumer now downloads zero new apps per month. Users already have the apps they want, or are tired of looking for new ones. So where does this leave those trying to monetize their digital publications?
As revolutionary as apps are, they still have their problems. They can be hard to find in an ever-expanding marketplace, and they require a user to download and open each individual app. In the past year there have been developments that make it easier to combine the effectiveness of an app-like mobile website and a native mobile app. Android Instant Apps is one example of a new technology breaking down the barriers that are holding back apps. If someone sends you a link from inside an app, Android Instant Apps allows you to access the app without having to download and install it. This cuts down on the friction between the mobile web and mobile apps, allowing for a better user experience and more engagement.
Another innovation that’s erasing the split between web and app is the ability for publishers to send push notifications to mobile devices through the mobile web. Google’s Chrome browser and Mozilla’s Firefox browser both allow for push notifications, giving websites an app-like feel. These notifications give publishers the ability to re-engage and re-target their readers, boosting engagement numbers. Kevin Weatherman, vice president of business development at OneSignal, says that “taking away that requirement to download and the ability to directly message users who don’t install an app [is] going to be a particular boon to newspaper publishers.” You could replace the word “newspaper” in that sentence with “magazine” or “blog” and the sentiment would stay the same. In the endless endeavor to keep readers coming back to your site, being able to send them a notification about content they might find intriguing is invaluable.
These options are part of what Google calls progressive web apps that combine the best parts of apps and websites. This fusing of two previously different and competing platforms is great for both users and publishers. A frictionless experience that allows readers to go back and forth between apps and websites provides a better option for readers. Not having to download a complete app means easier access to content, and the ability to share content across platforms. For publishers, this means more engagement, as users access content from the app on the mobile web, or access more content on their mobile sites.
Jim Schinella, the chief business officer at Fyber, puts it like this: “It’s a natural evolution. Innovation will always go to the heart of where there’s friction.” The friction that used to exist between apps and websites is diminishing, and in its place is a new mobile environment that combines the best of both.