Tag Archives: marketing

Advertising your iApp

My iPhone application, Yummy, has been on sale in iTunes for a couple of months now and, as a number of other developers have noted, after the initial launch sales figures take a significant nose dive very quickly. I’ve been trying to think of ways to increase visibility without taking too much time away from actually making enhancements to the software.

As luck would have it, I got a “free trial” of Google AdWords and thought I would give that a try. Results have been… well, not exactly what I was expecting.

The way AdWords works is that you give it a bunch of search terms and when someone enters those terms you go into an auction with other advertisers with the same terms. You can set a maximum bid and a maximum per day. I confess that these are not values that I have played around much with; I stuck with the defaults. You then get charged when someone clicks on your advert, not just when it’s put in front of someone.

It turns out that with my choice of words I was averaging £0.33 per click. If we assume that every click results in a sale then I would say that this is on the high side of acceptable. Yummy retails for £1.19 in the UK, with Apple getting 30% and the tax man another chunk.

However that’s not necessarily a good assumption. In fact, I have no real idea of how good or bad it is. Using Google Analytics and AdWords’ built-in statistics I can see how many people visited Yummy’s website and I can see how many people clicked the link to the App Store. What I can’t see is the number of people who clicked on the ad that ended up buying a copy.

But the cost of attracting customers and the inability to track the effectiveness of the campaign was nothing compared with my frustration in penning a suitable advert. I started with the following text:

Delicious on your iPhone
Search and edit your delicious.com
bookmarks in one app on your iPhone

Sure, I’m not going to make a living as a copywriter any time soon, but given the space constraints I didn’t think it was too bad.

However after a couple of days my campaign was suspended because I’d used a trademark in my text. Now I’m no expert on trademarks, but I really don’t see the problem here. I’m not trying to sell dodgy iPhones; I’m not passing myself off as Apple; and I’m not selling a competitor, indeed all Yummy users are already Apple customers.

Writing about an application that runs on an iPhone without mentioning Apple or iPhone is not easy. I ended up with:

Delicious.com on the move
Search, add, edit and delete your
Delicious bookmarks in one iApp

They have not suspend that yet, but I think it’s a substantially less compelling advert.

So overall, it was certainly worth a try — I had nothing to lose — but for the price-point of Yummy I don’t think it’s worth paying for AdWords once my trial funds expire.

What Price?

This originally started as a question on Apple’s support boards:

With the current AppStore model (which seems to be a money machine for developers) I do not understand why anyone would give away their applications. At least charge $0.99 and get something back for your hard work.

So, why do you give away your apps?

With the caveat that I have not actually submitted anything yet…

My motivation in writing an application was entirely for the pleasure of doing it. If I never do anything with it once it’s “finished” my goals have been achieved. So my only objective in pushing it to the AppStore is for other people to get some benefit from using it too. There is little incremental cost in doing so and zero cost means that it gets the widest possible distribution.

There are also disadvantages to charging for it. Firstly, by paying something for software users expect more. They want support and bug fixes and enhancements. Maybe they want those same things with free software but there’s less obligation. Also as a non-US citizen there are complications in getting paid the full amount due.

That’s not to say that I won’t charge for it. At the very least I would like to be able to cover my costs. By which I mean the iPhone Developer Program fee, the $99 they charge you for the privilege of deploying your own software on your own phone.

But there are complications in pricing any iPhone program.

The first obstacle is that pricing has not stabilised yet. Disregarding the loss-leaders such as the NYT reader and the Facebook program, there is still a wide variation in cost. Consider something as trivial as a tip calculator. I only had a quick look, but I found half a dozen and they ranged from free to £1.19 with most at the 59p level. I found significant variations in costs for pretty much every category I looked in.

Now the app that I’m writing is a good deal more sophisticated than a tip calculator. My initial assumption was that people would be loathe to pay for it but if others can sell a tip calculator — something you can do using the built-in calculator program — for £1.19 and still garner good reviews then surely I am undercutting myself?

But it’s also easy to price too high. As Daniel Jalkut said, “We hope to hit ‘pretty much on target’ from the start, to avoid embarrassment and second-guessing. If you price too low, you?ll have a hard time imposing a major increase.”

Another popular option is to have a paid-for version and a more limited, free version. The problem I have with that is you have to decide which features would be worth paying for without making the free version so limited that people just bin straight away. I’m not sure that there is an obvious dividing line with my application. Plus I like the simplicity of having a single version. I think it makes the “message” easier to explain — think the single version Mac OS X versus the half-dozen versions of Windows Vista — and, as an added bonus, is much easier for me to administer. I don’t have an economics background, but Joel Spolsky tells me that this is called segmentation.

There also seem to be a few cases where people are offering advert supported free versions. This is not a solution that I am entertaining. As a user I object to precious screen real-estate being taken up by an advert. As a developer I object to the extra work, uncertain income stream and the likelihood of introducing new bugs in a non-critical area of code.

In summary: the more I think about this, the more I get confused.

My del.icio.us bookmarks for January 29th through February 3rd

Double Standards?

Microsoft have been getting lots of press recently because of their new Zune music player. One of its major features is its wireless interface that lets you share music; even most of the advertising talks about the social implications1. But let’s have a quick look at that functionality in more detail.

If I decide that I want to expend an hour of battery life in order to see other Zunes in the area, what can I do? Most famously you can transfer songs. As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, there are limits. When I receive a song, I can play it three times or hang onto it for three days2 but after that all I get is an electronic post-it note reminding me about it. Clearly a lot of thought and a lot of engineering effort has gone into these limitations.

What about movies? Sorry, bad news here. You can’t transmit them at all.

Zune can also store pictures. What limits have Microsoft provided to protect photographers?

The answer, it turns out, is none. You can transfer as many pictures as you like to as many people as you like. Once transferred, they are visible indefinitely and can even be copied to further Zunes.

Er, hello? Double standards?

I imagine that the main argument is that most people don’t have a bunch of professional photographs on their computers but do have commercial music. How far can we get with that line of thinking? Well, in fact, there is a certain logic in that. Most people don’t write their own music, even with relatively simple to use applications like Garageband, but they do have large collections of holiday snaps.

However the argument starts to fall down when you start to think about movies. Do people have only commercial movies and nothing personal? I don’t think so. While it is possible to rip a DVD and put it on your iPod it’s legally dubious, non-trivial (because of the CSS scrambling scheme) and time consuming (transcoding to MP4 takes a long time even on quick machines). Even if you use P2P software to download an illegal copy it’s likely to be is DivX format which cannot be used directly by the Zune, so that time-consuming transcoding step returns. My guess is that people are, in fact, much more likely to have home movies. Of course, if you made the movie you’ll also own the copyright for and are quite likely to want to send to friends and family. Certainly my wedding video has done the rounds and my attempts on a Segway has been distributed fairly widely.

That being the case, then why are the limitations on distributing movies even more severe than that for music? There’s a definite mismatch between desired usage patterns and the programmed restrictions.

So where have the restrictions come from and why do they vary so widely? Maybe a clue can be found in the fact that Microsoft are paying the RIAA $1 for each Zune sold.

Why would Microsoft do that? Clearly, in the US, the RIAA, for music, and the MPAA, for movies, hold a lot of sway. But for photographers? I’m not aware of a single organisation that has the same level of influence.

I’m sure Reuters and PA protect the copyright of their own images, but who protects everyone else? Perhaps this is because while movies and music require large teams, photography is more often a solo activity but certainly it has no relation to the value of the medium.

Ultimately I think this is another strike against the draconian DRM measures that are currently being applied to movies and music. I have nothing against digital rights management in the abstract, but implementations that restrict or remove rights that you already have by law just make the music labels and movie distributors look like money-grabbing opportunists.

  1. It amuses me that with all the money that Microsoft has, the best their marketing people can come up with to describe this is “squirting.” At best that sounds comic, at worst somewhat rude. What were they thinking? []
  2. Even this, it turns out, is a simplification. At least one of the major record labels has forbidden wireless sharing of their music entirely. Unfortunately they don’t tell you about this until you actually try to transfer the file yourself. Is this legal? Is it not a case of adding restrictions after the sale? []