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Minnesota mobile developers clocking millions of downloads

They just passed the 1 million mark in downloads. DoApp’s customers — TV news stations, newspapers, online publications and radio stations — can easily brand the app for themselves and deliver content via smart phones and other mobile devices.

First of two articles

Local developers of apps for mobile devices, especially those designed for Apple’s platform, are quietly amassing large numbers of users for their creations, I’ve been learning.

This past week, I thought it would be an interesting little project for me to do a survey of sorts as the basis for this blog post. What I did (totally unscientific, I admit) was ask all the Twin Cities-area mobile developers I happened to know just how many apps they have on the two major platforms, Apple and Android, and how many users have downloaded their apps to date. It turned into a bigger project than I thought! It required a lot of back-and-forth emails to clarify all their current offerings. But I’ve sorted it all out as best I can, and you’ll see the results of that survey in next week’s post.

I’ve known the two most-experienced mobile app development firms in Minnesota quite well for some time, having been a consultant to both: DoApp and CodeMorphic. These two firms began developing for the iPhone platform as soon as Apple released the SDK in March 2008, and had their first creations in the App Store from the get-go, in the case of DoApp (July 2008), and CodeMorphic soon after. So, it was no surprise to me, then, that these two have the largest numbers of downloads locally.

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But many more Minnesota developers jumped in after them, and still are jumping in. In fact, I learn about a new one almost weekly. Some publish apps in their own name, some only for clients, and some do both. (For apps developed for-hire for client companies, developers cannot track ongoing download numbers in real time — only their clients know, unless they tell them or otherwise publicize the numbers. But the developers can certainly make educated guesses, which some of them did for me,) What triggered this idea for a post was a news announcement just put out:

DoApp Inc. Announces One Million Downloads of Its “Mobile Local News” App

Actually, it’s not one app; there are more than 100 of these DoApp “MLN” apps out there, because that’s how many customers (media outlets) have signed up with DoApp to use what is really an “app platform.” It allows DoApp’s customers — TV news stations, newspapers, online publications, and radio stations — to easily brand the app for themselves and deliver their content via smart phones and other mobile devices, including the Apple iPad. (DoApp has not yet submitted to Apple an app designed specifically for the iPad, though its many iPhone apps do work on that new device.)

In its recent announcement, DoApp counted downloads for all its locally branded Mobile Local News apps, including both Apple and Android downloads, in saying they have surpassed the 1 million number. The company first made the Mobile Local News app available in April 2009. For more about all of DoApp’s products, see the company’s website. (In the photo: Joe Sriver, center, founder; Wade Beavers, left, CEO; and Dave Borrillo, VP-software development.) I conducted an email interview with DoApp founder Joe Sriver to learn more about the current status of his company’s Mobile Local News app business, which follows.

First, here’s a map showing U.S. coverage of DoApp Mobile Local News apps. Click on it to go a page that also lists, below the map, all the media properties throughout the country that have the company’s app.

Minnov8: Just out of curiosity, Joe, what percentage of the 1 million downloads you’re announcing for Mobile Local News are iPhone vs. Android?

Sriver: Currently, the breakdown is about 60/40 in favor of the iPhone. Android has really been gaining a lot of ground in the last year. 2010 is a big year for Android. We are seeing over 49 different brands of Android phones that are tapping our MLN app — a challenge to maintain.

Minnov8: How many of your existing customers for this app offer both iPhone and Android versions? Does our local WCCO-TV, your first customer, offer both?

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Sriver: Our platform offers the native iPhone and Android versions for all our media outlet customers — WCCO included. We will also have a BlackBerry WAP version debuting in the next month. We’re seeing a new influx of iPad users accessing the news, too, so let’s just say we will have an iPad solution soon.

Minnov8: Most all your customers for this app appear to be TV stations. Are any radio stations or newspapers signed up yet? Do you expect more of the latter two?

Sriver: “We have been signing newspapers as well. In the last few months, we signed Journal Communications, which includes Milwaukee’s Journal-Sentinel, and the Los Angeles News Group, which includes several newspapers in the LA area. Our SBT News app serves the newspaper in South Bend, Indiana. We have also signed Swift Communications, whose properties include many newspapers in the western and northwestern U.S. With our recent announcements, a flurry of radio stations are contacting us, and our first radio station app will be out in the first week of May.

Minnov8: How much are you seeing media outlets developing their own custom, native apps for mobile devices — as opposed to simply skinning your app and configuring it for use with their local audiences? What’s the difference in time and money with your approach?

Sriver: We’ve talked to many media outlets. A few of them have decided to do development in-house. Many of them call us back a few months later after they realize all the development requirements for iPhone and Android. They tell us our Mobile Local News solution is the fastest, cheapest and most efficient method to bring their content to mobile. The money difference is huge for them because it’s the support that kills them, and we have a solution that fits to scale. We’ve done nine major enhancements in 12 months already, and for a property to do so is a huge resource drain. It’s just tough to keep up with technology.”

Minnov8: How does DoApp Inc. make money from this app — licensing? Revenue share? Where does your “Adagogo” ad platform fit in here? What portion of your customers for this app have ads appearing on it? What revenue do you make from ads that appear on the app?

Sriver: We offer a subscription model where stations can receive 100 percent of revenue from advertisements, or an advertising revenue share model, where news organizations pay a small set up fee and then share advertising revenue with DoApp.

Minnov8: Are all current customers for the app in the U.S.? If so, any plans to pursue business in other countries?

Sriver: Yes, all current news entities who use Mobile Local News are in the U.S. We do have plans for news organizations in other countries. We can support translations right now, and we are working to reach out to the growing Spanish-speaking consumer market.

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Minnov8: Your original partner for the Mobile Local News platform was Inergize Digital Media of Minneapolis — and I remember having the initial discussion with them on your behalf in the fall of 2008. What role do they play? What percentage of the media outlets that have signed up to use your app were existing customers of theirs? And what revenue split does Inergize get from this partnership?

Sriver: Inergize brought many of their existing stations who used their web solution to the mobile platform via DoApp’s Mobile Local News. We’re working to establish other relationships and also extending our direct model to TV news/radio/newspaper properties. The relationship works like this: DoApp provides Inergize’s partner stations with the DoApp Mobile Local News mobile publishing solution. A percentage of ad revenue goes to the station or newspaper, Inergize and DoApp.

Minnov8: What does 2010 hold for DoApp? What portion of your overall revenues do you expect will come from the Mobile Local News and Adagogo combined?

Sriver: We will continue to build our base of news entities who use Mobile Local News. MLN is the most popular platform for mobile news delivery in the U.S. Our Adagogo ad platform is currently being used on all Mobile Local News apps. We will continue to grow Adagogo as well. DoApp is also focusing on mobile real estate. We have created what is arguably the most advanced real estate solution, combining cost savings capabilities for agents with simplicity for their clients — allowing mobile access anytime, anywhere via smart phones and other mobile devices.”

So, what about DoApp’s total stats, for all their apps? Here are the numbers I got from Joe:

What is the total number of apps DoApp has had accepted into the App Store? iPhone: 125 (all but about 15 are Mobile Local News apps). Android: 110.

Paid vs. Free? iPhone: Four are paid apps, the rest are free. Android: All are free.

What is the total number of downloads of all your apps? iPhone: 4.5 million. Android: 600,000. Total: 5.1 million.

Next Tuesday: My survey results