Following initial hype around iMessage apps, interest from developers appears to be waning.
In the first month of launch, the number of iMessage-enabled apps added to the store grew 116%, reaching 1,100 apps, according to SensorTower.
And though six months later the number of iMessage-enabled apps blossomed to nearly 5,000 apps, the month-over-month growth rate has slowed to 9%. iMessage was likely a part of Apple’s strategy to align itself with the explosive chat app market.
Apple’s struggles are reminiscent of those experienced by Chinese chat app WeChat. The messaging service launched Mini Programs — stripped-down apps that live within the WeChat platform and that don’t have to be downloaded, but are instead accessed via the messaging app’s platform. However, two months after launch, less than 10% of developers who have built products for the program will continue to do so. Just 11.5% of users said they would continue to use mini apps in lieu of using a full version of a related app outside of the WeChat environment.
The inability for both iMessage apps and WeChat’s Mini Programs to gain traction shows that both developers and users are finding the offerings lackluster.
- For WeChat, this may have been the intent of Mini Programs. WeChat creator Zhang Xiaolong stated that he wanted the mini app experience to not necessarily be a sticky experience, but a useful tool users could leverage while in the WeChat app to make their lives easier. While this may bode well for users on WeChat, the lack of stickiness, combined with the absence of a centric mini app store to be used for discovery, may give developers little incentive to continue creating products for the platform.
- For Apple, the ramifications could be a little more complicated. The increasingly engaging chat app platforms are making it less necessary for users to spend time in other apps, which could begin cutting into revenue derived from the App Store. Apple is placing increasing importance on its Services segment, of which the App Store likely accounts for a large chunk. Thus, iMessage apps could help Apple remain relevant in the chat app revolution, while also giving developers the opportunity to get their apps in front of users. Because of this, waning interest could be a problem moving forward.
The top four messaging apps — Facebook's Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Viber — now claim nearly 3 billion monthly active users combined, narrowly outnumbering the combined active users on the world's four largest social networks, including Facebook.
These numbers have caught the attention of a wide range of businesses, publishers among them. News industry leaders including the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and the BBC are establishing a presence on a number of chat apps in an effort to be out front and build an audience on the latest platforms where people are consuming content. These early adopters are experimenting to learn which chat apps work for their audience and how they can leverage chat for the distribution of digital content, including articles, images, surveys, and video.
BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, has compiled a detailed report on messaging apps for publishers that looks at the appeal of these apps and how they're becoming a dominant platform for media consumption. It compares the leading chat platforms, including WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook's Messenger, and Viber, and what features publishers should know about when thinking about how they might leverage these properties. It also looks at strategies for content distribution across chat apps and finally spotlights some of the challenges that publishers may encounter as they begin to dip their toes into content distribution via messaging apps.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
- There are dozens of messaging platforms, each with distinct user demographics and features, and these differences will determine which apps a publisher should try and what type of content is most fitting.
- Publishers like The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and the BBC are experimenting to learn which chat apps work for their audience and how they can leverage chat for the distribution of digital content, including articles, images, surveys, and video.
- Chat apps are especially appealing to publishers because they allow these brands to tap into users' "dark social" activity. Dark social traffic stems from people sharing content privately through IM programs, messaging apps, and email, among other means.
- Because chat apps were once primarily used for peer-to-peer communications, publishers have an opportunity to reach audiences on these platforms through a more conversational exchange.
In full, the report:
- Breaks down the pros and cons of each major messaging app.
- Explains the different ways publishers can distribute content on messaging apps.
- Highlights the differences between native and linked content.
- Looks at the potential barriers that could limit chat apps' utility for publishers.
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- Subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and over 100 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. >> START A MEMBERSHIP
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