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National Geographic apps not yet driving sales beyond mobile: panelist

NEW YORK ? The National Geographic Society?s line of free and premium mobile applications are not yet driving sales in other channels, according to an executive at the Digiday:Apps conference.

National Geographic offers several applications on for iPad and iPhone devices, including games, nature guides and digital atlases. While the company drives revenue from some its premium applications, which cost between $0.99 and $9.99, mobile usage does not translate into sales across other channels.

?We don?t realistically see there being a large correlation [between application usage and sales elsewhere],? said Aaron Kohn, vice president of corporate strategy and development and general manager of mobile at National Geographic, Washington.

Mr. Kohn participated in ?The app economy: 2010 and beyond? panel discussion moderated by Mickey Alam Khan, editor in chief of Mobile Marketer, New York.

Other panelists included Mike Germano, president and cofounder of Carrot Creative, New York; Raj Aggarwal, CEO of Localytics, Cambridge, MA; Chris Wilkes, vice president of marketing and audience development at Hearst Magazines Digital Media, New York; and Patrick Mork, chief marketing officer of GetJar, San Mateo, CA.

Apps not generating sales eslewhere
National Geographic drives revenue via magazines, such as National Geographic, National Geographic Kids and National Geographic Traveler, as well as a cable television network, National Geographic Channel, in addition to its premium applications.

However, usage of National Geographic applications has not significantly impacted revenue generated in other channels.

?It works more in the other direction,? Mr. Kohn said. ?Things we promote on our channel drive application sales.

?We hope that will change going forward,? he said.

National Geographic app strategy
National Geographic currently offers applications on a number of platforms such as iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.

?We?re seeing fragmentation,? Mr. Kohn said. ?Beginning this year, it?s no longer just the iPhone.

?When you?re doing an app, you?ll need to think about what other platforms you?ll support,? he said.

The company has produced the most applications for use on Apple?s devices.

?It?s partially an audience issue,? Mr. Kohn said. ?The audience indexing highest is on Apple, and growing on Android.

?That being said, we?re working with all the different original equipment manufacturers, and experimenting to try to make the best bets,? he said.

National Geographic is not planning on expanding its offering of applications considerably, but instead focusing on improving the quality of the applications it puts out.

?We are somewhat pulling back, and taking a less-is-more approach,? Mr. Kohn said. ?We?re adding richer activity for users.?

Developing a quality application means adding value for consumers, rather than just producing carbon copies of other National Geographic content offerings.

?We try to grab onto those things that make the branded app interesting to address the market in new ways,? Mr. Kohn said. ?It?s not just about taking [existing] content and plugging it in.

?You have to change it around into something useful [on mobile],? he said.

The National Geographic World Atlas application, which Mr. Kohn pointed to as an example of a popular application, could be seen as one example of that philosophy.

The premium application, available for the iPad and the iPhone, features interactive, customizable maps that integrate GPS functionality (see story).

While the company?s applications are now primarily paid, it is carefully considering what models to use when developing products for mobile.

?We?re still playing around with the model ? will it be free and ad-based or premium?? Mr. Kohn said. ?We?re figuring out the price elasticity and what?s going to work best.?

Final Take
Peter Finocchiaro, editorial assistant at Mobile Marketer, New York