How Lose It, Twit, Angry Birds, Instagram Are Driving Mobile Innovation

These Four Success Stories Capitalize on Four Powerful Trends

By Published on .

Steve Rubel
Steve Rubel
Each major advance in distribution technology over the past 100 years has spawned a class of media upstarts that grew into giants.

Now a new era of media innovation is under way, one with mobile at the center. The disruptors in this category are capitalizing on four powerful trends: local, social, photo-centric and mobile -- or, as I call it, "LoSoPhoMo." As this group establishes a beachhead in your pocket, it's pivoting into more traditional formats. Let's look at four examples:

Lose It is a disruptor in health and wellness media. It debuted in 2008 as an iPhone app built around a simple premise: It calculates the number of calories you need to maintain your weight and then you can use its service to help track what you consume -- ideally, a slightly lower number -- and tap into your social network for support. The app, which is free, has millions of users and its parent company, FitNow, is bringing the Lose It brand to other platforms.

Amazingly, Lose It didn't have a web app when it launched, but has since added one. This year the founders also published a brand-new diet book as well. Android and other launches are in the works. And it recently linked up with Withings, a bathroom scale that connects to wireless networks and can even tweet your weight.

Leo Laporte is no stranger to tech media. He saw it bloom with ZDTV, a tech-focused cable network that later became TechTV and then faded once it couldn't find an audience.

Since 2005, however, he has built This Week in Tech, or Twit, from the ground up into a tech-media powerhouse, thanks to a suite of shows that attracted a strong following and advertiser loyalty. The company started with a focus on mobile, its popular audio podcasts riding the coattails of the iPod wave. Later it added video (live and recorded) as more sophisticated devices gained in popularity, and now Laporte is building beyond mobile to become a significant position on set-top devices, such as the Roku.

In 2010 it was virtually impossible to miss Angry Birds. The year-old mobile game has been downloaded 50 million times since launch and is already a global addiction. Every day people collectively play the game for an astounding 200 million minutes, according to Rovio, its publisher.

While its roots may be in mobile, it's now a popular desktop download in the Mac App Store and the birds' status as pop-culture icons led to a line of plush toys and a forthcoming Mattel board game. So it's no surprise that a movie and TV show could be next for the flying birds and pigs, making it arguably the first pop-culture juggernaut to originate on mobile devices.

Finally, there's Instagram, a mobile social network for photos that can be styled to look like an old Polaroid or Kodachrome. The service, only 10 months old, already has more than 1.75 million users. Media companies such as NPR have jumped in and now Instagram is also attracting brands.

These four examples illustrate how "mobile first" can be a blueprint for media disruptors, and with the market for smartphones set to explode, there's no doubt we will see others. But whether pure plays will continue their reign or whether traditional media companies can use their brands to create new models, a la News Corp.'s The Daily, will be worth our attention, too.

Steve Rubel is senior VP-director of insights at Edelman Digital.
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