App maker Fotopedia released a new title Wednesday, Fotopedia Paris, which takes users on a virtual tour of the City of Lights. The idea is that it’s a vacation on your iPhone or iPad, with no passport required. Fotopedia already has some noteworthy success under its belt, and a former Apple executive at the helm (Fotopedia CEO Jean-Marie Hullot was the CTO of Apple’s Applications Division), so is it on to something with the idea of travel-less trips?
The success of Fotopedia’s earlier apps in this genre seem to suggest that consumers are attracted to the idea of virtual vacations. The company’s prior titles: Memory of Colors, Heritage and National Parks (each of which presents a photo exhibit around a particular set of locations or themes) have been downloaded more than 2 million times to date, and the apps attract around 600,000 unique visitors each month. And Fotopedia Senior Vice President Christophe Daligualt thinks those visitors are spending quality time with the app.
“People spend on average 22 minutes per session in our apps,” Daligault says. “This tells us there is huge potential. Think of it as entertainment. Not as addictive as games but probably more satisfying and certainly less frustrating.” Fotopedia’s worldwide appeal is fairly broad, too, with nearly even distribution across North America (32 percent), Europe (33 percent) and Asia (23 percent).
But the new Fotopedia Paris app is different. While it resembles the others in interface and layout, this time around you can choose from a number of pre-selected tours or build your own “excursions” by selecting your favorite photos. The app then builds an interactive map that provides some geographical perspective of your virtual tour, which is handy in case you ever want to make the trip for real. And Paris is only the start. Daligault explained that “Paris is only the first city,” and that Fotopedia has plans to “expand in ways most people would not expect.” When asked about additional possible social features, such as the ability to share directly through the app, Daligault admitted this is an option they’re pursuing, but that Fotopedia wants to be very particular about the way it works that angle:
Saying that there are many photo sharing apps today would be an understatement. The questions we are trying to answer is what is it that is so personally relevant to you that you’d want to share it with the world, what is it that you’d really want to see from others and how to make that interaction smooth and satisfying without merely replicating things that already exist.
As with the company’s previous apps, the photography in Fotopedia’s apps is top-notch. You can also share photos (outwards only, unlike the features Daligault hints at above) from the app to your contacts via email, Facebook and Twitter, and save them to your device in the Photos app for use as wallpaper or however else you wish to use it. That assumes, of course, you respect the Creative Commons license that governs the use of each photo featured in the app. All images featured in the app are contributed by people through Fotopedia.com, which offers open community photo sharing. Daligault says that Fotopedia is hoping users who enjoy the Paris app will be inspired to join up and “contribute photos of their own city, neighborhood or country and share their favorite spots and sights.”
Positioning the iPad as a coffee table book replacement is an easy sell, and Fotopedia’s apps work very well in that capacity. But the iPhone and iPad are more than just digital book replacements, and Daligault is quick to point out why they represent the perfect platform for Fotopedia’s apps:
We are building a brand, we care a lot about all the interactions people will have with our apps. Apple gets media, they are driving profound changes throughout all the media industries and everything is very well thought through. This is the ideal platform. The quality of the display and the touch interface are superb. But it’s not just the OS or the devices, it is the entire eco-system and customer experience, from the Apple store, to the App Store.
Daligault admits that the Fotopedia team is a bunch of “fan boys,” and that a number of other former Apple staffers are among their ranks, in addition to ex-CTO Hullot, but the fact remains that iOS devices are still the best way to reach audiences. And the revenue potential that represents is not something that’s lost on Daligault, either. He closed our email interview with a few words regarding the company’s business model, by noting that Fotopedia’s audience is “becoming very appealing for certain brands,” and that the company is “currently exploring different possibilities for partnerships and sponsoring but we are very careful as we want to do it right.”