With multimedia being the key to success these days, celebrities are closely connected with tech development. Long gone are the days of regular TV and radio appearances being enough for stars to stay popular. Now, they need to fully adopt all aspects of digital.
While social media has catapulted public figures to levels of fame they would otherwise never reach, the mobile app boom of 2013 and 2014 saw a wide swathe of actors, musicians and influencers launching personal apps to stay connected with their audiences. However, since 2016 there has been a notable drop off in celebrity apps, with the most high-profile departures announced in the past month.
On 3 January 2019, American singer Taylor Swift announced that her social media app ‘The Swift Life’ is making a swift exit from app stores this February. The app was released in conjunction with her album in November 2017 and was an instant hit, rising to number one in the Apple store’s overall app ranking, but within days it fell to #793. Since its grand launch, the app has garnered a total of 595,000 downloads, which is poor compared to the singer’s 114 million Instagram followers and 83 million Twitter followers. Developed in partnership with Glu, a mobile game development company, the app’s shutdown is most likely due to declining user engagement and complaints about trolls posting vicious political and homophobic content on the platform. San Francisco-based Glu Mobile has been behind a number of other celebrities apps including Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears, Katy Perry and Kim Kardashian.
Kim Kardashian was actually the first celebrity to make a debut in the mobile app marketplace with the ‘Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’ game in 2014. The game was a breakout hit for the influencer and Glu. Since its launch, the game has achieved a total of 33.4 million downloads across all app stores, and in December 2018, the app was averaging 3.72 million Daily Active Users (DAUs).
The following year, Kim, along with her siblings Khloe, Kendall and Kylie, launched individual subscription apps. Fans signed up in their droves but Kylie Jenner initially pulled in the most subscribers - 1.75 million in the first week alone. At a cost of $2.99 per month, fans received behind-the-scenes photos and videos from the sisters’ personal lives as well as insight into all things relating to beauty, fashion, health and fitness.
Following the recent announcement by Kim Kardashian and her sisters’ decision to pull the plug on their personal apps, keeping up with the Kardashians may be significantly harder for their fans in 2019.
The sisters didn’t cite a reason behind their decision but it can be argued that a $2.99 subscription model promising exclusive content lacks credibility given that the Kardashian-Jenner clan are already accessible to fans via social media and their reality television shows. Furthermore, most of this ‘exclusive content’ was often screen-grabbed and leaked on the internet.
So, what does the demise of these high-profile apps spell for the celebrity app market? If the likes of Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift - with their immensely large and avid fan bases - are unable to keep an app alive, what hope is there for anybody else?
At Priori Data, we don’t believe celebrity apps are necessarily doomed. As we are living in an era of rapid change, celebrity apps as we know them need to evolve.
Every day, smartphone users are sending billions of texts, taking millions of photos and using petabytes of data. This puts pressure on the already limited storage space available on smartphones. To launch a celebrity app means to compete with every other app that exists on a mobile device.
Platforms like Instagram enable consumers to stay connected with not one but all of their favourite artists and influencers via a single platform, are massively deterring dedicated celebrity apps from pulling in downloads and revenue. As a result, there has been a shift in celebrities opting to release apps that fans can embrace for to day-to-day use, instead of self-promotion tools touting behind-the-scenes content. There are few applications which come under the daily list of our fast-moving lives, and these typically fall under the remit of social networking, music/tv streaming apps, productivity, and health and fitness apps. Pairing a famous name with a useful service can bring great success, and a number of tech-savvy celebrities are taking advantage of opportunities in this space.
Looking at app stats, Tidal maintained impressive usage across both Apple and Google Play devices during December 2018 – but not in comparison with Spotify. Tidal barely take a 2% share of Spotify’s DAUs.
Last year, actress Maisie Williams, best known for her role as Arya Stark on Game of Thrones, also ventured into tech entrepreneurship with the launch of a social media app. Daisie provides creatives with a platform to promote their work and has generated a total of 49,000 downloads since its launch in August 2018.
Australian actor Chris Hemsworth is one of the latest celebrities to branch out into the world of mobile apps. On 4 February 2019, he will be releasing Centr, an app featuring workouts, meal plans and mindfulness exercises that the actor has been fortunate enough to learn from world-class experts. Following in Hemsworth’s footsteps is Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, who is also launching a health and fitness app in the coming months.
This year the mobile app market has also received the blessing of none other than Pope Francis, who is revolutionising prayer with his new interactive app, Click To Pray. Available on both Android and iOS in six languages, the app enables Catholics across the world to join the Pope in prayer. Since its launch on 20 January 2019, the app has already amassed 377,000 downloads.
It’s near impossible to predict what app will manage to vault its way to the top of the app charts next. However, with celebrities becoming increasingly more tech-savvy, in 2019 we may see a pending influx of Hollywood names under the Games and Lifestyle categories of the app stores.