Mobile apps for the long tail

Even though I regularly blog about things which directly relate to my work, I rarely make use of any of them in my work. But then a few weeks ago I blogged about “Social mobile and the long tail“, an entry in which I tried to imagine what the non-profit/developing country/mobile applications landscape might look like. I had been toying with the idea of blogging about it for a few months, but just hadn’t come up with an image I was happy with. For a while I’d had the long tail in mind, so eventually I plumped for it even though it was originally conceived for something entirely different (consumer demographics in business, of all things).

During my recent presentation at the Texting4Health conference at Stanford, the graph caused quite a stir (you’d have to have been there to know the context), but it proved an incredibly useful visual for something which would have previously taken me a minute or two to explain. Since then it’s effectively got me an invite to another conference, this time in San Francisco, which has an interest in the focus areas for mobile applications in the developing country/NGO world. The fuller blog posting has also proved popular – a document I’ll be using later this week at a gathering in Washington D.C.

Reactions to the relevance of the long tail in the mobile applications space have been mixed. Some people just got it, some people debated and discussed it, while others just didn’t click. But that’s fine. The whole purpose of the graph was to try and generate awareness around something I see as extremely important. There’s a lot of energy, and increasing amounts of money, being funnelled into the social mobile space right now. If – in the context of grassroots NGOs in developing countries at least – mobiles are to live up to their full potential we need to make sure that all this time, money and effort are concentrated in the right place.

And for me, at least, that means putting most of it in the long tail.