Fabien-Pierre Nicolas

Head of Global Growth

Q&A with Fabien-Pierre

Read Fabien-Pierre’s blog post about marketing a news app in the Age of Trump.

Fabien-Pierre is the Head of Global Growth at SmartNews, where he is responsible for marketing strategy, UA, user engagement & onboarding, product marketing, ASO, creative and ad monetization. He joined SmartNews with a wealth of mobile marketing experience. Previous roles included VP of Marketing at App Annie, as well as a string of marketing roles at various mobile app companies.

In your own words, tell us about the app that you manage?

Our goal with SmartNews is to eliminate the filter bubble created by news reading on Twitter or Facebook: you will get the news from both sides, not just the news your friends are sharing.

What drove you to get started in mobile marketing?

I love two things about mobile marketing since I joined this industry late 2011:

  • You get a very rapid feedback loop between starting a campaign and whether it resonates or not with your target audience. Back in my days marketing physical goods at L’Oreal or Ubisoft, a brand manager needed months before their efforts came to fruition with the product announcement or product launch.
  • The second rewarding aspect of this job is how closely product and marketing can and should work together to be successful. It’s actually a critical success factor to ensure your mobile marketing works: understand the post-install user experience and help to harmonize the flow from the top of the funnel to this early user experience.

What do you like most about mobile marketing?

The constant innovation and experimentation. “Always be testing” should be your team motto with at least 20% of your time dedicated to try new channels, new creatives, new targeting or bidding mechanisms.

What does it take to succeed in mobile marketing?

Team spirit is probably the best quality you can have as well as a healthy dose of humility. If you can make product, user acquisition & creative talents work together, you will succeed. But this requires not thinking you know all the answers.


What does a quality mobile user look like to you?

Someone who retains and engages with our app by opening it several times per day. Time is our currency since we monetize with advertising. Adeed, who leads our paid UA, found a strong correlation between the number of articles someone will read in their first day within our app and the retention level within the first 90 days. Getting this early signal helps us act faster than our usual D7 and D14 retention & engagement targets.

What strategies work best to convert installs into engaged users?

In our business, bringing users in during a busy news cycle like today is way better to help them become engaged app users, but it’s specific to the news segment. The second aspect is of course getting a user to commit early to opt-in to our breaking news push notifications. We are seeing a big difference between the users who opt out and the ones who opt in.

What have you done in the past year to help better monetize your app?

Beyond using Liftoff? Think long and hard about your target audience: for SmartNews, it’s mostly people aged 30-65 with a solid education (bachelors degree+). We had this hypothesis, now confirmed, that they will still be playing games but not Subway Surfers, Candy Crush or Clash Royale. Instead, they love Words with Friends or other word games. The other logical conclusion is that news junkies are plentiful on Twitter so Twitter is actually a more efficient channel for us compared to Facebook.

What is the biggest challenge in marketing your apps?

The incredible polarization of the political discourse or, to speak more plainly, having a President attacking center-right, center or center-left media and accusing them of being “fake news.” His followers are rejecting the overall media landscape, except for Fox News (one of our partners), and are rating apps like ours providing an overview of the full political spectrum of news with 1 star reviews.

It’s sad to see this level of hate against the free press in a country that provided, early on, the right for free speech compared to Europe or Asia. I hope we find a common ground to make this country less polarized in the future.

How do you stay ahead of changes in technology?

Interesting question. To state the obvious first: I hire smart, talented, dynamic people keeping up with technology and listen to what they bring to the table. This is always the best way to learn what works (or doesn’t).

From the mobile marketing perspective, I reassess my tech stack every 12 months and review alternative options for the main vendors (mobile attribution, data viz, mobile engagement, growth accounting, analytics…). Finally, I’m an avid user of LinkedIn, Twitter and SmartNews to keep up with some of the latests posts from influencers I follow and journalists I respect.

What do you see as the next big thing in mobile marketing?

The current cost per engaged user for paid online channels and market saturation on many segments are making offline channels like TV, podcasts, radio or offline events more and more appealing for mobile apps. Which, in turn, requires a more diverse array of talents: very quantitative and focused on process optimization talent for your UA/paid team and solid strategic creative thinkers in tune with the target audience in your product marketing team with both sides having a great capability to communicate.

Do you run re-engagement campaigns? If so, can you share a strategy that worked well for you?

Yes, but at a small scale for our most valued customers. We have found that re-engagement campaigns only make sense if you are able to bring customers back to a different, improved experience. We try free new machine promos or level unlocks. First we use free channels: push and email. And if that doesn’t work, then we advertise to them with Facebook or a DSP.