The mobile app is the new webpage

mobilecontentThe iPhone. Android. These two platforms are reforming the mobile industry, and have been considered as agents of change long before their launches. What’s received less attention is how they are fundamentally changing the concept of mobile content and altering the infrastructure of mobile ad networks.

Books are now applications. Next generation smartphones are driving a reversal of what’s occurring in the online space. Whereas cloud computing and advancing browser technologies are shifting content from specialized applications into browser-centralized spaces, content on phones is being packaged into on-device application downloads within app marketplaces. The most extreme example of this repackaging was seen shortly after the iPhone launch – one developer offered electronic book releases, with each book packaged as a standalone application.

It makes sense. Browser centralization is a logical step for personal computing that is enabled by a device ubiquity; users interact with a mouse or trackpad and keyboard, on a relatively defined monitor space. The mobile landscape, on the other hand, is far more fragmented, both in terms of software and hardware. As a result, the best method for content to be formatted to a specific device depends on the content being built into a specialized application. What does this mean? The industry is going to be seeing a lot of applications…

The mobile app is the new webpage. And as such, similar advertising models will apply. Where web pages were integrated into broader ad networks, now some enterprising mobile ad solutions are gaining ground, building similar networks with mobile apps. By providing a high quality SDK (Software Development Kit) to app developers, companies like AdMob or Smaato enable developers to monetize their applications with advertising seamlessly. For advertisers, these solutions provide the volume to justify a buy, and by building the advertising features centrally, the networks are able to provide rich ad experiences via the SDK. It’s not a new concept – this has been done for Java applications for a while now. However, the newer incarnations come as quality of experience and quantity of applications is increasing dramatically.

Competition will improve the industry. Because of the open nature of the platforms these vendors are providing solutions for, application ad networks are going to emerge as a highly competitive market. To cater to advertisers, the vendors will be continually developing new technology and options to drive mobile engagement, as well as better accountability and tracking. On the developer side, they will need to compete in their business models and options for developer control. And while it may be a headache for the vendors, this is a great thing for advertisers, developers, and the industry as a whole.