monetization of mobile audiences


The rapid pace of growth of the mobile internet brings access to a larger audience and also brings new challenges associated with migration to a smaller and vertical screen and to a significantly different user behavior. The challenges are not only related to reengineering the experience to take full advantage of mobile devices which are location and context aware and are with us 24/7, but also related to monetization mechanisms.

Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Millennials, defined as those ages 19-34 in 2016, now number over 75 million and they represent over one-third of the US labor force. Yet some companies still wonder if they should build their technology mobile first!

Smartphone Penetration 2016 LJ Salazar Consulting

“A better question is: should we create a mobile app or rather use a web app with responsive design?”

When evaluating options, I have found it helpful to ask these questions:

  • Will an app encourage adoption? Or hinder it?
  • Who are my target users and which devices are they using?
  • Do we solve a problem that will make the user not only find and download our app – helping it rise to the surface in a vast sea of millions of apps in the store?

“The best place to hide a secret is in the second page of a web search results query; the same applies to the second or third virtual screens of a mobile device. If an app is not addressing a daily problem it is not likely going to displace something from the already crowded first screen.”

App or mobile web?

These days it does not make sense to design a web app for the desktop. Always design mobile first as that will force you to stay away from distracting elements and create a focused experience for the users.  A web app provides a quicker path to market. You’ll have less friction because nothing needs to be downloaded and go-to-market will be faster because you’re avoiding the app store approvals and the required user upgrades to deal with so many different versions of mobile operating systems.

On the other hand,  the web-based app response time with constant data traveling back and forth can negatively impact the user experience and in a world where the average attention span is 5 seconds or 140 characters, even small delays can be wrongly perceived as poor quality in the product offered. If the user experience is better served by leveraging the processing power of the device, then an app is likely a better option.

Have you done the analysis of your target audience and their use of technology? For example in the low-wage hourly jobs sector, smartphone penetration is less than 55 percent, and two-thirds of users have android devices, a good percentage with a dated version of the operating system. Clearly, an app was not the best route, so at Jobaline, the right choice was to use responsive design. To serve the non-smartphone sector, we even enabled text message functionality! So far over 100,000 low wage workers found their job via text messaging

Do some research, answer those simple questions, and pick a path. You can always explore the other path later. When launching new products or services, having a narrower focus helps you move much faster .

When is the right time to monetize?

It’s important to think about the user experience first and the monetization of your application second.

“Successful companies will optimize for great user experience, and sustainable monetization is a consequence of doing so; it never works the other way around, whether you’re building apps for a large Fortune 500 company or for a startup.”

There’s no easy answer to the question: “When is the right time to start monetizing?” It all depends on the customer segment you’re trying to reach. In some cases, a freemium model is actually conducive to a negative outcome. For example, if you are aiming at businesses and are trying to disrupt existing players, be aware of the “too cheap to be good” stigma.

In the consumer space, things are a bit different. Monetization, even if elegantly implemented, often creates friction. That being said,

“in general, people are always happy to open their wallets or interact with advertising if the user experience is pleasant and focused on delivering value.”

One of my favorite apps is Flipboard, where I created my own daily magazine that serves my needs. The user experience is well designed and the advertising experience is of high quality, seamlessly integrated with the content, and more importantly, in the same context as the stories I am reading or the videos I am watching. This works as well as or even better than micro transactions, and the technology exists today to make it happen in an elegant way for both apps and mobile responsive designs.

At the beginning, you want to learn about how well your service is addressing a core need and often monetization will evolve from there. Don’t put a good idea in a box: “advertising is the only monetization” or “we have to charge per minute” or “we have to charge per transaction”, but rather,

“let the user experience and frequent testing inform the best monetization path.”