New Path 3.0, New Path to Monetization

Path today announced Path 3.0, featuring a much-anticipated private message functionality and a pretty little in-app ‘Shop’.

path shop

Also, Path’s CEO Dave Morin in an interview with The Next Web, revealed that a premium subscription service is coming. Path is really speeding up on further monetizing their 6 million subscriber base.

To keep it short, here’s a list of current and possible monetization venues for Path:

1. Stickers (Current)

path stickers

Crafted by celebrity designers, Path Shop now offers a variety of emoticon-like images called ‘Stickers’ that users can post on their private message with friends to express emotions. This isn’t a brand new idea, but it’s executed quite well. From the introduction of designers to add credibility, to the fine skeuomorphism style Shop UI design, the shopping experience is well polished and streamlined.

2. Filters for Photo and Videos(Current)

Photo Mar 07, 10 24 17 AM

Photo and Video filters have been Path’s major ‘in-app purchase’ for some time now. Integrating it into the Path 3.0’s new ‘Shop’ experience is natural and seamless. One thing worth noticing is the UI design for the filter. It’s clean and effortlessly shows the ‘before and after’ comparison using a realistic lens filter shape (with filtered part of the image inside) on top of a non-filtered photo, instantly demonstrating the difference it makes.

3. Theme (Potential)

Path’s UI has always been praised and well accepted as the yardstick of mobile app design. There are many users (me included) love to play with new apps just because we love the designs and polished themes. Being able to customize the app I love to the color and style I prefer has great value. What if Path unleashes their design power and develop 10 different themes that user can choose freely (after purchase of course)? This could involve some app infrastructure upgrade to support themes personalization but hey, when the money starts to roll in, it will be worth it, right?

Essentially, by doing this, Path can turn UI from infrastructure to digital goods, at the same time offering better user experience by enabling customization.

This is not a new idea either. Some Asian apps are already doing this, and Path seems to get some of their inspirations from Asian anyway.

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4. Premium Membership (Potential)

Path is already planning it, and supposed to launch it first half of this year. We don’t know about details of what’s in the premium package. But if I’m allowed to guess, it would be dedicated member filters, stickers and maybe even some cloud space for photos and videos. This would be interesting to watch.

5. Avatars (Potential)

Currently, Path lets you choose your photo and slap it in a simple circle as your avatar. The thing is, not all the people feels comfortable or wants to use their photos as avatars, some prefer their hobbies (golf ball anyone?), some may like a super hero character from his favorite comic. Being able to offer more avatar choices will definitely add value (and revenue also). Also this goes with Path’s private social network positioning well, imagine a cubic engineer chooses an Amazon warrior as his avatar, well I’d say it’s very private…

Amazon-GameArt

Summary

Path has always been my favorite social network app. Its polished design, smooth interaction and minimalism design all set them apart from the pack. It’s great to see them making steady progress on bring in more revenues also. What other ways can they monetize? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Why Path Is Gaining Traction in China

 

 

Path-App

In an interview TechCrunch had with Path’s CEO and co-founder Dave Morin, Dave mentioned that China is the top 5 area for Path on subscribers. Yet he isn’t quite sure about why. His answer is ‘One of the biggest segments of our users is family, and that is a big part of China’s culture.’ This answer is logical, but to a Chinese immigrant that has worked in both places like me, it’s much deeper than that. Let me explain.

I have been using Path for some time. Mainly because that Path’s user interface is very well designed and have some unique patterns and I’m a user interface guy, I have a good appetite for great UI. Since Path is a social network app focusing on private, intimate experience, I started to build up my Path ‘Friend list’. Very quickly, I found that most of my friends that using Path are from China. Being an 1st generation immigrant in US, I still has some friends in China. Usually on new apps fronts, since I’m closer to the ‘creative engine’, I used to be the early adopter. But not this time, this time there is already a small community building up around Path. It intrigued me. What did Path did right to gain this kind of early traction in China?

1. Early Adopters, wall-climbing clan?

It is quite interesting, that many early adopters of Path use it for purely one reason: It allows them to bypass Chinese ‘Great Firewall’ and actually gain access to Facebook, Foursquare and other social networks. People in China might not as informed as the rest of the world due to censorship, but the urge to know more and have free access to information is all the same. There are a lot of people, especially those work in IT industry, that are tech savvy and have access to Internet from very young age. They have access to websites, services and apps normal Chinese don’t know or care, and they don’t want to lose those. Censorship was getting in their way to web service like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. So like all the courageous frontiers do, they start to figure out different ways to ‘climb the (fire)wall’. Path, happened to be one of the ways. Visiting Facebook or Twitter via web or iOS app is totally blocked, but Path, since it’s a niche product, wasn’t on the radar. People can still share their status, check-ins in Facebook or Foursquare via Path. This is not really the kind of story of glory on Path’s side, but being a niche player as it was then really gave them some advantage.

2. Growing subscriber base, rooting for the elites.

Path always has a focus on family and closed friends. Different from Facebook’s open and everybody style, Path is more about intimate and close relationship, about sharing moments with yourself and your close circles. Like I said earlier, it’s logical to say that because Chinese has a strong focus on family, Path will naturally rooting for them. In reality, Path actually roots for the young elites of the society. Yes, Chinese has a focus on family, but there is a very big generation gap between the young generations and the old, much bigger than in US. Chinese’s Internet development just caught up these decade or so, before that, a lot of people haven’t even used a computer. So the old generation don’t really get to learn how to use Internet, let along mobile apps. Even now most city families in China own 1 or more computers, the old generations still are not comfortable to use it. (But they are getting more used to use iPhone or Android phones now, cause it’s easier for them. More on this point later). The young generations, however, grew up with Internet. Even their family can’t afford a computer and Internet access, there are Internet Cafes everywhere.  They are the main Internet content consumers in China. They spend money on apps and buy virtual goods on ‘Kaixin Farm’ (Equivalent of Farmville in China). They are the ones to support the phenomenon financial success of some Chinese Internet companies. They usually are young professionals (a lot of them works in IT or design industry), live in big city, drive their own car, and enjoy modern life just like the rest of the world. They are kind of the ‘elite’ group in China, they want to be unique, to be different, and feel good about it. Being a niche product, having a unique UI, and only runs on iPhone (at that time a symbol of fashion and coolness in China) , Path is a perfect fit for them. I think they are now the biggest demographic of Path.

3. Crossing the chasm, leverage the coolness.

So what could be the best strategy for Path if they want to expand their niche presence in China and become the mainstream? I have a fairly simple answer: Go after the ‘coolness’ and grab the young generation. Social status and peer pressure is very important in China and coolness has a price. You’ll be surprised how much money people are willing to pay just to look cool. If all the cool kid is using Path in school, then the rest will follow. If some young celebrities are using Path, fans will use the app just to follow their idol. If the young professionals are all using Path to exchange ideas, sharing photos, then you’ll have to use it to get into their circle. Some PR campaigns would also help, like sponsoring the biggest match making show ‘You are the one‘ by live blogging via Path(again Path makes the show looking cool) etc.

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Image: by Apple China

Don’t worry about the older generations though. If the sons and daughters are using it, the parents will use it eventually. Family is still the core value of Chinese society after all, and cool kids will still teach their parents how to use it. (An advantage for Path is, their user interface are quite simple and intuitive, which will make the learning curve for the parents less steeper. ) The old generations will be told: ‘Mom, Dad, you really have to learn how to use this app, or risking not seeing all the update photos we took of your grandson.’

Mon and Dad will learn, oh they sure will.