In a Wall Street Journal article published today – Tin Pan Valley: The Coming Shakeout for App Makers (subscription required) – reporter Dennis Berman compared app developers (especially independent app developers) with early popular song writers – Tin Pan Alley in New York City. Berman stretched the analogy as far as he could – too far in my opinion.
Berman mentions, in passing, app reviews in his article. But, the primary focus of the article is on pay-for-download marketing and more shady manipulation of the app rankings. And, Berman keeps hinting at a great shakeout that’s on the horizon. Will there be a shakeout? Certainly. Will app developers who dreamed of building a viable business from their app, throw in the towel and go to work developing apps for a larger company or game studio? Without a doubt, that will happen.
But, as long as the Android and iOS ecoystems (and possibly Windows Phone) continue their growth and evolution, there will be many, many, many large media companies, independent developers, and small game or app design studios building a plethora of apps – games, productivity, camera, social networking, etc..
And, how will those developers market their apps? A variety of ways:
Pay-per-download marketing – In his article, Berman writes about pay-per-download with a tone as if there’s something dirty behind the model. Yet, if app developers want a download, and the digital advertising ecosystem has developer a cost-per-click model, it only makes sense that pay-per-download marketing exists. The publisher or ad network is delivering a result – a download – and the developer is paying for that result
The key with pay-per-download – as companies such as Fiksu has discussed – is the value of the download. Are you paying for a download from a customer who is likely to be a repeat user of your app.
Mobile-advertising marketing CPM – Beyond pay-per click, mobile advertising for apps on a CPM basis.
Price promotions – discounting the price of your app to drive downloads.
PR-earned media – Obviously, at APPetite PR we’re strong proponents of “earned media.” Not paying for app reviews, but securing genuine reviews of your app by heavily trafficked app-review sites.
And, one key area that we emphasize with app developers is what we like to refer to as “beyond the app ecosystem” PR. The readers of app-review sites are early adopters, and they’ll download and try many apps, but they’ll also quickly abandon apps. And, the reality is, those early adopters aren’t reflective of the greater app audience. To reach those potential users, you need press coverage of your app in vertical niches beyond the app-review sites.
If you’ve spent three months or longer developing a running/fitness app, you want reviews on fitness blogs and Runner’s World magazine. If you’re a movie app, you want your app written about in the entertainment section of major newspapers when they write a round-up column about the latest movie apps. If you’re a productivity app for entrepreneurs and small business owners, you want your app written about by small business and entrepreneur writers.
The Wall Street Journal article on app marketing revealed what we see every day – the path to a best-selling app is a tough road. But let’s save the doom and gloom. With the app ecosystem’s torrid growth, the future is very, very bright – for app developers large and small.
Agree with the need to get broader appeal across user related media rather than the app eco system. The problem though, as we have experienced, the 2-3 person app developer companies generally don’t have the funding to employ the PR Pros that have direct access to the relevant media. With 850 apps a day going onto the Apple app store a day press releases, videos and other marketing material seem to be pretty much ignored. There is just too much noise in the system. So a shakeout is quite possible. Just depends how long the small companies can sustain themselves with corporate type developments.
Eric, you’re right. There’s a ton of noise in the system. How do you distinguish your app? It’s a tough problem to solve.