Not to App


Last year, upon releasing our Empordà wine guide in both print and electronic books, a friend of mine here in Barcelona asked if we had any interest in making an “app” for it. Naturally, with Apple’s as well as Google’s App Store success stories it was a relevant question to which I said, “no, not planning on it”.

In the “Cons” column six months ago were: how does this generate revenue from our guides, how does it not give away our content for free, and how does it generally boost the presence of the brand and not simply boost Apple and Google’s offer? Then of course there was the issue of the cost in building two separate Apps (if you’re not doing iOS and Android, then go home now), porting over a web version of our content to feed the App, and then paying for hosting App content. And what could we have charged for this? Most likely it would have had to be free in order to gain any traction and not be an embarrassment.

A lot of this was based on the experience of friends at Taste of Croatia. They have offered Apps for the content on their site. The Apps are free and they work quite well. But, despite being downloaded a few thousand times, they get nothing out of this but expense. Expenses I already have in generating thousands of pages in original content that are then released in electronic as well as print versions.

In short, instead of releasing an App for Vinologue we’ve been focusing more on making two products: epubs that are essentially self-contained websites/App-ish to some degree and printed books for the 21st century that take advantage of technologies that merge digital and analog such as QR Codes and GPS coordinates instead of street addresses (wineries around the world rarely have definitive addresses).

Although it was not due to any “genius” foresight on my part, I feel vindicated for making this decision last year as just this week the DO Empordà office has released an App. About 2/3 of the wineries in our Empordà guide fall within that regulatory body and thus it covers a good degree of the content we would have provided in whatever App we might have released. It is essentially a summary of what’s on their website, although oddly items that were out of date on the main site remain out of date. Also, some things such as GPS are a bit off and other minor aspects. These can all be corrected with time though and the App functions well overall. It’s also free on both the Apple & Google stores.

And this is a big problem in trying to innovate in Europe in general, but in Spain especially. Where in the US someone sees a need and fills it, there is so much institutional money floating around in Europe that they fill needs whether they exist or not. I may or may not have been better able to “App-up” that content, but now that I’d be competing with one that’s offered for free with the backing on institution (who would have no interest in promoting my App) there is no way in hell that I’d go there.

This is the problem with Apps. Apple started this craze five years ago and the Apps that originally came out fell in to two camps: those released by big companies and those released by private hackers who were just dicking around and came up with something cool. Now, with some half a million Apps on the Apple store and 700,000 on the Google Play store, you’d be nuts to release one as an unknown private individual unless you came up with something so unique that it marketed itself and this does not happen now.

The time to have Apped-it was at least three years ago and if government institutions are jumping on this now and spending who knows how much to make it happen isn’t proof that Apps have jumped the shark, then maybe you should find an App to let you know that. Oh, wait, there already is one.