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Activate CEO Michael J. Wolf Says Mobile Messaging Is Big -- And Getting Bigger

While the number of mobile apps has doubled since 2013, only the top 20 developers scoop up half of the revenue, he said.

Dawn Chmielewski

Mobile messaging is the fastest growing and most predominant digital vehicle ever — and it’s about to get even bigger.

Within the next three years, mobile messaging will grow faster than the Internet, adding another billion users, according to a new forecast from Activate chief executive Michael J. Wolf.

The veteran media executive and one-time Yahoo board member offered his predictions for technology and media Tuesday at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJDLive conference at The Montage in Laguna Beach, Calif.

Wolf said mobile apps in the U.S. will begin to sport some of the features already found in popular communications apps like WeChat in China, which people use for a variety of purposes, including saving money, finding jobs and hailing taxis.

“We’re seeing the first companies building apps on messaging,” Wolf said.

Wolf challenged what he called the “myth” of mobile apps as a place where the independent developer can strike it rich. While the number of apps has doubled since 2013, only the top 20 developers scoop up half of the revenue, he said.

Two of the biggest beneficiaries of the increasingly cluttered mobile app world are Facebook and Twitter, which sell ads to promote downloads, Wolf said.

The onetime MTV Networks executive challenged the contention that the future of TV will be built around apps, or that millennials will abandon pay TV en masse.

“There is this misconception that millennials aren’t watching TV. They’re watching a ton of it — more than 20 hours of TV a week,” Wolf said.

Companies looking to create a “cable killer” will need to deliver comparable content at a competitive price.

“It needs to be cheaper and have a better user experience,” Wolf said. “All it takes is writing checks. It would take very large checks.”

Update: If you’d like to check out Wolf’s full presentation, you’ll find it here:

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