Smart App Banners in iOS, be gone

Apple introduced Smart App Banners so people using Safari in iOS can be informed / reminded / annoyed about an associated app produced by the host site or organization.

For example, you’ll see this thing if you land on a Wall Street Journal story:

Smart App Banner Wall Street Journal

It’s interesting the first time, tiresome the second, and anger-inducing the third.

And it doesn’t go away. Reload the page and it stays. Visit a different story on the same site, it’s still there.

If you visit a certain site regularly — as I do with ESPN — you’ll really hate these things.

Worse still, there doesn’t appear to be an easy way to disable Smart App Banners if you’re unwilling to Jailbreak your system.

These things are problematic for developers as well. Dion Almaer wrote up six simple functions that are missing from the current system. Most of his suggestions are of the be-nice-to-people variety:

I would like to declare “I don’t want to bug the users, so only show the message once a month”

That’s reasonable, and it’s a shame it has to be addressed at all.

Notable things: Tumblr’s pride is justified, but misplaced; newspaper ad sales are on a very long slide; indoor navigation has an accuracy problem

Here’s the headline: “Tumblr boasts nearly 170 million monthly visitors

Only that’s not quite right. Those 170 million monthly visitors aren’t going to for the sake of visiting Tumblr. They’re looking at this kind of thing (and rightfully so, because it’s awesome).

That’s an important difference. I have no issue if those numbers are meant to show the rise of Tumblr as a publishing platform. But if the stats are trying to place Tumblr in the same domain as other top sites, we need to take a step back and consider the context.

Here’s Quantcast’s* current list of the top 10 sites “based on the number of people in the United States who visit each site within a month”:

  1. Google; 194,407,568 [monthly people in the U.S.]
  2. YouTube; 174,158,768
  3. Facebook; 140,719,136
  4. MSN; 98,480,592
  5. Twitter; 91,263,448
  6. Yahoo; 79,030,880
  7. Amazon; 76,791,592
  8. Wikipedia; 68,114,712
  9. Microsoft; 63,044,600
  10. Huffingtonpost; 61,289,024

Tumblr is a publishing platform / discovery tool. The only other sites in the top 10 that compare — and this is a reach — are YouTube and Twitter. Both of those sites are also utilities — a significant portion of their engagement and distribution occurs off-site via embeds and external tools. Tumblr doesn’t really work that way.

Tumblr is closer to and Blogger, and that comparison is where things get interesting.

From the same Quantcast stats:

No. 15: Tumblr; 51,947,516 [monthly people in the U.S.]
No. 17: WordPress: 51,182,896
No. 19: Blogger: 48,293,848

Tumblr certainly has something to celebrate, but it isn’t the thing that’s being played up.

*I’m using Quantcast data because that’s the source of the “170 million” figure. The validity of Quantcast’s numbers is beyond the scope of this admittedly feeble examination.

Alan Mutter says newspaper ad sales have fallen 25 quarters in a row:

It is a testimony to the legendarily high operating margins of the [newspaper] industry and the considerable cost-slashing skills of contemporary publishers that nearly all the newspapers in business in mid-2006, when the trouble began, are still plugging along today.

The full piece is worth a read.

Last week I said I need an app for finding products in stores. Sadly, that’s an itch that will remain itchy for some time:

Analysts caution that the technology is still immature, with high costs and accuracy issues keeping more prospective customers on the sidelines. Adding more Wi-Fi access points and other hardware is expensive. Most indoor positioning systems, even using Wi-Fi, still miss the precise location by several feet. And there aren’t enough high-end smartphones in the market that can handle indoor positioning. [Emphasis added.]

“Several feet” isn’t good enough when you can’t find the damn Tobasco sauce.

Notable things: The WatchESPN app and the multi-screen buffet; you built the app, but will people use it? (probably not); the retirement of Fireman Ed

This was a big weekend for college football. It seemed like every channel — including all the flavors of ESPN — had a game, and many of them were worth watching. It’s the kind of weekend that destroys the “last” button on remotes.

Someone in ESPN’s marketing department came up with a clever solution to this abundance problem. Rather that catch a few plays on one game and flip over to another, you could watch a game on your television and monitor another game through the WatchESPN app on your tablet or phone. It’s picture-in-picture, only you’re holding the small screen in your hands.

ESPN pushed this set-up hard during the prime time Notre Dame vs USC game on Saturday (that game was on ABC, but ESPN and ABC are both owned by Disney so they do a weird “ESPN on ABC” co-branding thing for big games).

I’m not much of a college football fan — I think it’s a lightweight version of real football — but I was tempted to fire up the WatchESPN app on my iPad.

What’s more important is that ESPN planted the seed. I have a Slingbox, so I rely on that for most of my TV streaming. There are times, however, when the Slingbox-connected television is being used for other things (“Curious George” is in heavy rotation). The WatchESPN app never crossed my mind, but now it will.

The marketing worked, dammit.

Moreover, it’s only a matter of time before I take multi-screen viewing to its logical conclusion: one game on the TV, one on the iPad, and a laptop fired up to browse the web. My router better limber up.

(Somewhat related sidenote: I’d love to ditch cable as much as everyone else, but there’s no way that’s going to happen if I can’t watch live sports in high definition on my preferred devices. Until the sports blockade is disrupted, all this cable-cutting hoopla is just gobble, gobble turkey.)

Fred Wilson on why it’s no longer enough to build an app that people download:

you need to master the “download app, use app, keep using app, put it on your home screen” flow and that is a hard one to master. [Emphasis added.]

The home screen is a popular neighborhood and the dock is the best street in town.

Fireman Ed will no longer attend Jets games as Fireman Ed.

What does that transition entail, exactly? Ditch the helmet? Go jersey-free? Sit quietly during J-E-T-S chants?

Related: Deadspin has the final word on the Fireman Ed “retirement”