Runkeeper's renewed focus on runners spurs layoffs, redesigned app

By Jonah Comstock

Runkeeper6.0Boston-based Runkeeper has laid off 30 percent of its workforce, as the company re-dedicates itself to creating digital fitness projects specifically for runners, a reorientation that also includes a major redesign.

News of the lay-offs came last week from BetaBoston, a Boston Globe blog, which reported that the cuts come from across the company. Runkeeper CEO Jason Jacobs told BetaBoston that cutting some jobs was “not an easy thing to go through as a first-time CEO, but the right move for the business, and I’m as excited as ever about the path forward.”

Fitness apps are at a major turning point as the biggest brands have been snapped up by major apparel manufacturers like Under Armour and, recently, Adidas. But Jacobs told MobiHealthNews in February that Runkeeper isn't looking to get acquired. Instead the company wants to continue being a brand in and of itself, particularly a go-to brand for an emerging community of runners.

"We’re not trying to be everything to everyone," he said at the time. "We think there’s an opportunity specifically around the sport of running to open up that sport in a way that’s accessible to everyone. If you look at running events, they’ve been growing like gangbusters. Marathon growth is pretty flat, but the growth is happening with things like color run. And 60 percent of people who do a color run have never done a 5K. Running is evolving from being a performance sport to being more of a lifestyle, and we really see our role as a company in leading that charge in running specifically."

The shift, Jacobs told BetaBoston, is from trying to get the largest possible group of users to trying to get invested users that will spend more, either on pro versions of the app or on Runkeeper-branded merchandise and apparel. That approach requires a leaner company, and that's also behind Runkeeper shutting down Breeze, the passive tracking app it launched just last year.

The focus on runners is also reinforced in a "brand refresh" which begin with the company's new shoelace logo, unveiled last month, and continued this week with a redesigned app for iOS (Android is coming soon, the company says).

"We’ve rebuilt the app from the ground up to help better embrace our mission of helping people of all levels get out the door and stick with running forever," the company wrote in a blog post. "You’ll see bright new colors (beyond the blue and green you’re used to), richer illustrations, new button styles, and other fun elements throughout, to make it easier for you to find your way around the app. You’ll even see our app icon got a facelift to reflect our more energetic and inclusive approach to running."

The biggest change is that the app is streamlined to help users launch into sticky running experiences right from the start screen. This could include setting up music with Runkeeper's new Spotify integration, setting a pace, time, or distance target run, or jumping into an automated training plan.

The brand refresh also included changing the subscription service name from "Runkeeper Elite" to "Runkeeper Go" and creating a new tagline that emphasizes inclusiveness: "Every one. Every run."

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