Does the future of mobile content belong to apps or the web?

The rise of the mobile web offers publishers a way to reach many screens at once — without having to tailor content to an-ever growing number of custom platforms. Does this mean publishers can finally turn away from apps, which were once a source of so much promise but are now regarded by some as an expensive distraction?paidContent Live: Where content means business. April 17, 2013, New York City. Register now.
For skeptics, apps amount to a temporary — and increasingly unnecessary — technology. But this is hardly the only view. Many in the publishing
community still thinks apps will deliver on their initial potential to provide deep reader engagement and handsome ad revenues. Now, with the arrival of more tablets and smartphones than ever, the debate over apps becomes more acute: should publishers turn away and rely solely on HTML5 or instead double down on these new app opportunities?
These are some of the questions we’ll explore during “Are Apps or the Web the Future of Mobile Content?” one of many discussions that will take place during paidContent Live on April 17 in New York City. Our guests include Jason Pontin of MIT Technology Review, whose widely read 2012 essay made him a leading voice in the counter-revolution against app idealism. He will be joined by ESPN’s Ryan Spoon and Nick Alt of Vimeo – two mobile experts who offer other alternative app narratives.
Here are more of the topics we’lll be exploring during the panel (feel free to propose more in the comments below):

  • Is the payoff worth the cost?: Apps are nice in theory but they cost a pretty penny to build and maintain – especially as the number of platforms grows. Is the return worth it? Or should publishers plow that money into other parts of their editorial operation?
  • Platform proliferation: The initial promise of apps appeared brightest on Apple’s iPad. But now dozens of tablets, from the Galaxy to the Kindle Fire, are emerging – and consumers are finally picking them up. Do all these new screens present a new opportunity? Or another reason to escape apps once and for all?
  • Nice app, where do I find it? Those who want to wash their hands of apps are faced with a powerful counter-argument: You need to be where your readers are. As the mobile market grows, are the app skeptics confident their readers will find them on the mobile web?
  • Does sub-compact change the app game? The arrival of so-called sub-compact publishing offers a way to create light-weight and relatively inexpensive apps. Examples like Marco Arment’s The Magazine and The Awl also show how these new species of apps can deliver both a beautiful reading experience and an ongoing stream of subscription revenue. Do these offer an opportunity that the mobile web cannot?