Now That The Ringtone Market Is Collapsing, Are There Lessons For Those Who Are Jumping On The App Bandwagon?
from the this-won't-save-your-business dept
Back in 2003/2004, both the music and the mobile industries became infatuated with ringtones. These short snippets of music were selling for 2.5 times (or more) what a single (full) music file was selling for, and the market was growing rapidly. Of course, some of this was due to incredibly shady practices, such as tricking people into thinking they were buying a single ringtone, when they were really signing up for a monthly subscription. However, from the very beginning of the ringtone revolution, we were amazed at how many folks in the industry talked about ringtones as a savior. As we pointed out in 2004, it wasn’t hard to predict that ringtone sales would peak and fall. First of all, it would become increasingly easy to take music that people had from elsewhere (authorized or not) and convert it to a ringtone, and secondly, it wouldn’t be all that long until unauthorized ringtones became easy to set up as well.
But the industry has a way of overhyping a fad that’s happening “now,” and betting it will be its savior.
And, of course, exactly what was predicted way back when is now coming true. The ringtone market has been on the decline for a few years now, as people realized they didn’t need to pay exorbitant prices for a tiny snippet of music anymore.
This is why we should think carefully whenever we hear people claiming that “app stores” are the new saviors of various content industries (or, for that matter, the mobile industry). While app stores are a bit more defensible than pure ringtones, it’s likely to still face the same basic trajectory, as people realize that apps are just data, and there are increasing opportunities for more open solutions to route around locked-down versions. People seem to think there’s some sort of magic in “apps,” but they’re really just the same sort of digital content that has been hard, economically, to monetize long term. There are ways to do it, but simply assuming that apps alone will be the answer is likely to end in disappointment.