There’s a curious paradox at the heart of mobile apps: Most people don’t like to download them. But when they do, they spend nearly all of their time in them.
In fact, people spend much more time using apps than they do web browsers on their devices. Earlier this year, Flurry, the mobile analytics firm, released a report saying that mobile apps accounted for 86 percent of the time the average American consumer spent on their mobile devices, compared with 14 percent for mobile web browsers.
Yet it’s murder getting most people to consistently download new apps to their phones. Last month, ComScore, another research firm, put out its own report showing similarly lopsided numbers for mobile browser and app uses.
But it also said that downloading of apps was heavily concentrated in a small segment of the population. Seven percent of smartphone users in the United States account for nearly half of all app downloads in a given month, while over 65 percent of them download zero — that’s right, zero — apps per month, ComScore estimated.
Apps can be more attractive because their performance is often snappier than a browser’s (anyone who has used the browser and app versions of Google Maps understands this distinction well). Publishers love apps because they can send out notifications alerting their users to fresh content, sales and other new developments.
A start-up called DWNLD is trying to lower the barriers to creating mobile apps for web publishers so that more of them — amateur bloggers included — can enjoy these benefits. The company (pronounced “Download”) has a service that will take an ordinary blog or another website and convert it into an app for iOS devices (Android will come later).
In an interview, Mr. Lanman said web publishers don’t need to do any special configuration and coding to their sites. DWNLD automatically scrapes their sites for fresh content and updates a publisher’s app. DWNLD’s engineering team, which consists of former Google, Facebook, Amazon and Foursquare employees, have focused heavily on creating apps with the performance of expensive, custom-made software. The company charges partners, starting at $15 a month for their apps.
“We couldn’t just automatically generate for you a social networking app, but for anyone whose primary purpose is publishing content, we are their solution,” said Alexandra Keating, chief executive and co-founder of DWNLD.
Even if the company helps publishers create nicer apps, Mr. Lanman concedes, its publisher customers still need to persuade their users to install them. “It’s much harder to get people to download a native app than to go to a website,” he said. “But if you do get them to do it, the engagement is much higher.”