NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Every brand should have an app. Period.
And it's not enough just to think about an app; brands should think about a mobile site, too, said Bob Bowman, president-CEO of MLB.com, at today's Apps for Brands event in New York.
Mr. Bowman likened the current transition to mobile media -- and the worries and opportunities that go along with it -- to another time of great change: when cable first emerged as a force in TV three decades ago. At the time, he said, there was much debate over whether to put Major League Baseball games on cable TV, but it did and the decision paid off, raising the sport's profile and its live attendance. Likewise, mobile is proving to be adding to, not cannibalizing MLB.com's business.
MLB.com has 25 million daily mobile page views and will have 4 million unique visitors to its mobile, or WAP, site today. Additionally it has 400,000 paid app downloads and the people downloading them "use it every day," said Mr. Bowman. "Our other subscription products, people use once a week or twice a week, but this product's used every day and the reason's obvious ... it's with them every day."
MLB was one of the first brands in iPhone's ballyhooed App Store, present at launch of the platform. Today, its $9.99 At Bat app offers live streaming of baseball games. Mr. Bowman today announced the app would introduce -- in time for the playoffs -- a feature called Quad View, which will let users watch four simultaneous views of the same game. Additionally, MLB.com has 350,000 downloads of its free app.
Mr. Bowman suggested media companies and marketers need to think about both mobile apps and mobile websites. Unlike applications, mobile sites work across all wireless phone carriers and devices, but they're a bigger haystack for consumers to sift through to find the brand they want. While there are millions of websites, there are only 81,000 iPhone apps, he said.
"Trying to get your content discovered on the web is very, very difficult," he said. "But 81,000 in the wireless world is a thimble ... a small thimble."
Plus, he points out, you can charge for an application. And he said when it comes to figuring out how much to charge, just put it out there -- "if it doesn't work, take it down, rework it, try it again. You can always make adjustments."
If a brand gets enough penetration, it can create the kind of business model cable has: A brand can charge subscription revenue and be broad enough to run advertising on its app. MLB hasn't done this yet on At Bat, but it does on its website, where it hosts a paid live streaming service.
He also reserved plenty of fire for the disparity between MLB.com and third-party traffic data, such as the kind from Nielsen. He contrasted MLB.com's 13.7 billion wired and wireless browser-based page views in July 2009 with Nielsen NetRatings' 914 million; in terms of unique visitors, MLB.com's numbers indicate 52 million while Nielsen indicates 15 million. ("Directionally, they're right," he quipped. "It's more than zero.") He urged media companies need to work harder to illustrate the difference between the two sources.
"We've not done a good job with advertisers and sponsors, making it clear how dramatically off these numbers are and we have to do a better job," he said.