Discussion Forum Asks the Question, ‘Are Apps the Past?’

The question of the viability of native apps versus HTML 5 and other Web-based digital products was the subject of a session, “Are Apps the Past?” at the Publishing Business Virtual Conference & Expo on Sept. 13.

Native apps are generally purchased from a marketplace such as Apple’s App Store or Google Play and downloaded to mobile devices; Web apps are accessed online and offer a mobile-friendly experience across platforms without having to download data to a particular device, explained session moderator Ron Matejko, before asking publishers and app developers about their individual approaches.

Mike Haney of Mag+ noted his company’s native apps were “premium design products” offering fully optimized experiences on various devices. Because apps must compete with games, TV shows and other premium offerings, Haney believes native apps offer a better user experience, “as opposed to a website that has been squished down into this space.”

Chris Sanborn, whose firm Sanborn Media Factory works with both native apps and Web apps, said his approach is that “it should be mobile Web if it can be.” In some cases native apps are needed to achieve a desired level of functionality, he said, but the mobile Web offers advantages in regard to reducing complexity and breaking free of the “walled garden” approach when publishing to a multi-platform environment.

Regarding the Web versus native apps debate, Shouvik Paul, VP at Maz Digital LLC, said “it’s too soon to call it, and it’s foolish to say one is on the decline and another is on the increase.” He focuses instead on barriers to market entry such as cost and complexity, and the need for individual publishers to make decisions based on their individual goals, as well as the increasing availability of tools enabling publishers to do much of the work themselves.

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