This week, we are excited to feature a guest blog post from Patrick Cuttica, a Social Media Marketing Specialist at SocialKaty, Inc. Patrick weighs in on mobile apps, mobile marketing & the entire mobile ecosystem. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @PCutty.
Last week I attended Blue Sky Innovation’s event at 1871 where guest speaker Mark Cuban said the following with regards to mobile:
The next morning, I opened my Facebook mobile app and the saw the following:
Earlier this week I came across this piece on Business Insider in which the author, Jim Edwards, essentially argues that “the app store duopoly [Apple AppStore and Google Play] is basically incompetent at telling people about apps” and Facebook is well on its way to building a lucrative business around owning that marketing niche.
This sequence of events got me thinking in even greater detail about something that I had already been mulling around in my head: There seems to be a complicated love-triangle of mobile ecosystems emerging amongst Google, Apple and Facebook in which: Apple and Google duke it out to own these “on-ramps to the Internet” that Cuban spoke about and Facebook is content to own the "access roads" and "street signs" to direct you to the "on-ramps" so-to-speak.
So, back to my News Feed observation from the morning after Cuban’s talk — I asked myself: what’s really going on here? Fundamentally, it’s simple. I was served an App Install ad in my Facebook News Feed promoting the Google Search app for iPhone. But let’s break that down a bit more: that's a Google product... designed for an Apple product... advertised on a Facebook product. In fact, if we take it one step further, I think it’s safe to say:
Here we have THE Google product (search) designed for THE Apple product (the iPhone) being advertised on THE Facebook product (News Feed).
I was all set to formulate my thoughts from this sequence of events — Cuban’s talk, my News Feed observation and the Business Insider article — and write in-kind. Then, just this morning, I discovered a fourth and fifth piece of compelling discussion relating to the topic.
In a conversation with Michael Copeland on the new a16z podcast, Benedict Evans brilliantly dissected this exact ecosystem triangle, or as Benedict described it “swirling soup of interaction and engagement and user acquisition and identity and payment sitting on top of iOS and Android.”
In the three-quarters of the podcast Benedict discusses what they describe as the mobile OS war. While I highly suggest listening to the entire discussion, in the interest of brevity, I think this quote pretty well sums it up:
“The platform war ended and Google and Apple both won because Google and Apple both got what they wanted but they wanted different things… and everybody who goes out and buys an iPhone is using Google Search and Google Maps as long as Google Search and Google Maps are good. And Google’s problem is making sure that Maps and Search are good. And for Apple, if you’re using Google Maps or Google Search on an iPhone, that’s not a problem as long as you’re buying an iPhone, and you’ll buy an iPhone as long as the iPhone is good… and that’s Apple’s problem.”
It’s in the latter fourth of the discussion, when Benedict speaks about that “swirling soup” on top of iOS and Android, that I see a serendipitous connection to the timing of that App Install ad promoting Google Search for iPhone that was served to me in my News Feed.
Rather than paraphrasing, I felt it would be more effective to construct the story using bits and pieces of Benedict’s brilliant dissection himself (roughly transcribed) with my comments interspersed to connect the dots -- almost as if I were chatting with him (which would be incredible):
“We’re kind of in a pre-pagerank phase for how people discover and engage stuff online. That’s to say an app store now looks a lot like Yahoo! 20 years ago.”
“You can browse every app that there is but there’s a million apps. We haven’t moved to the point where we discover.”
Me: How do we get there?
“...part of that is some sort of manual curation, part of it is better search in the app stores.”
Me: So is this something Apple and Google can fix?
“It’s a generic problem for both Apple and Google — they’ve got a million apps in their store! But I don’t think that is an execution problem. It’s not a question of improving the execution of what they’re doing now.”
Me: Ok, can you give me an example?
“To me, a startup that says, ‘We made an app and it’s in the app store and it can’t be discovered’ is like a writer who says, ‘I wrote this book and it’s in Amazon and no one can discover it there.’”
“It’s like, well they have over 25 million SKUs they can’t put your book on the homepage necessarily, so it’s up to you… And yet when you say it’s up to you [they say,] ‘Well, but there’s no SEO there’s no SEM equivalent.’"
Me: Ok, so what's the answer?
"It doesn’t follow that the answer is Google will do better search or deep linking or that any of these initiatives is the answer, but clearly we lack an answer, and we lack an answer also in a much much more complex world…"
Me: Gotcha, so if app search & discovery doesn’t necessarily matter to Google & Apple, what does matter?
“What matters is, you know, how does it get onto your phone, how do you interact with it, and all those questions, frankly, are still wide open. And to some extent those are in the hands of Apple and Google as the platform owners who can make elemental changes in what can be done on the platform, but they’re also in the hands of Facebook.”
Me: Ok, I think I get it…
“There’s that sort of swirling soup of interaction and engagement and user acquisition and identity and payment sitting on top of iOS and Android that Apple and Google have some control over in that they can offer new options but they don’t really directly control the direction of it.”