5 Lessons Learned From an App That Failed

Clammr may have shuttered its app, but its tech offers important lessons for media as audio becomes an increasingly important channel in ambient computing.

5 lessons from an app that failedWe were enthused when Clammr launched last year. it was both an app and a tool for truncating and redistributing lengthy audio content. We were not alone. Apple chose it as one of the apps to include in its in-car CarPlay platform and as one of its best apps in January 2016. Alas, this month Clammr announced it was shutting down. But co-founder Parviz Parvizi was good enough to share some of the great ideas Clammr introduced and just didn’t have the runway to see through to success. Here are five takeaways media can learn from Clammr’s miss.

Lessons:

1. Visualize Audio

When standard app promotion proved too costly, Clammr turned to social distribution with a twist. It let podcasters clip and share their audio samples but with an auto-generated autoplay video. “That was interesting to podcasters,” Parvizi tells min. “They say they saw 6x engagement from these Clammr posts versus regular podcast posts.”

Takeaway: Video can sell audio.

2. Leverage the 1%

As Clammr pivoted to be more of a sharing platform with tools for creators, it cooked up an embedded audio-sharing player for sites. This allowed on site listeners to take a clip from an audio stream and share it on their social networks. Typically, getting users to interact with multi-step tools for managing their own media is a deal killer. And indeed, the rates of interaction were quite low—“on the order of 1%,” Parvizi admits. “But you didn’t need a lot of people.” Companies like PodcastOne built Clammr’s sharing tool into their player. Ultimtely, as of June 2017 the Clammr social-clipping tool reached 40 million uniques.

Takeaway: User-generated content works when properly amplified.

3. Audio As a Content Network

Taking its cues from Outbrain and Taboolah, Clammr explored turning audio snippets into native content advertising units. Conceived initially as podcast advertising, the unit would target the user with podcasts they might like, allow them to sample in-line and then click into the full podcast. In the end, the “conversion rates were too low and the implied CPMs and costs per acquired user were too high,” he says.

Takeaway: Target and network audio.

4. Audio Has a Ceiling

For all of his enthusiasm for podcasting, audio content, and the future of audio in ambient computing, Parviz recommends that the enthusiast remain realistic. “On-demand spoken audio is a small market, and there are certain things to flag there since it gets outsized attention,” he says. Consider radio, where little more than half the content is spoken, while the rest is music.

Takeaway: There is a natural ceiling for podcasting advertising as we know it—perhaps at $800 million to $1 billion. Most estimates have it at around $200 million now.

5. Ambient is Not the New Radio

While home assistants like Alexa and hands-free media like in-car audio and wearables will be a boon to audio media, it won’t be just another distribution channel for current fare, Parviz warns. “Embedded experiences require new formats,” he says. “There is a finite number of people who will walk around listening to an audio book. But a totally different set will listen to new kinds of content like quiz shows or interactive audio.

Takeaway: The medium is the message. Old formats are just the first easy ways to exploit new channels. Ambient and embedded media will almost certainly reward the content innovators more than the redistributors.

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