Developing Perspective

#139: Transferring Apps and Affiliate Linking.


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective, developing perspective as a podcast discussing

00:00:04   news of note in iOS development, Apple and the like.

00:00:07   I'm your host, David Smith.

00:00:08   I'm an independent iOS and Mac developer based in Herne, Virginia.

00:00:10   This is show number 139.

00:00:14   Today is Wednesday, August 21st.

00:00:16   Development Perspective was never longer than 15 minutes, so let's get started.

00:00:19   All right, two quick topics today, fairly technical or I guess maybe not technical,

00:00:23   but in the weeds a little bit.

00:00:25   I'm going to talk about transferring apps, a new ability that Apple has added to iTunes

00:00:29   Connect as well as the new affiliate program that Apple rolled out earlier this week.

00:00:35   I'll go through them in that order.

00:00:37   So first, I'm just going to talk a little bit about this is transferring apps.

00:00:40   And so what I'm talking about here, and this is something that Apple released at WWDC this

00:00:45   past June, is for a long time, and I actually did an episode about this if you're curious

00:00:49   for this time in the backstory, back in episode 72 I talked about what you used to be able

00:00:53   to do in terms of transferring an app. And when I say transfer, I mean when an app gets

00:00:57   acquired, sold, a company dies and, you know, its assets are being split up, whatever, some

00:01:03   kind of situation where you want to change the legal ownership of an application that's

00:01:07   listed in one of the app stores. Before, you had very few options with this. Initially,

00:01:12   you had no options. And then I think Apple gradually expanded that out to give you a

00:01:15   few options that if it was an individual account, you could have a corporation sort of take

00:01:20   that over and acquire it, which could or could not be the same as the person owned by the

00:01:25   person who was the individual, which is one way to do it, or you could just have them

00:01:29   buy the entire company.

00:01:31   So in my case, a lot of maps are like Feed Wrangler, for example, is owned by Developing

00:01:35   Perspective LLC, which is a Virginia corporation, which is where I live.

00:01:41   And in order for someone to acquire Feed Wrangler, they would have had to have purchased the

00:01:46   actual company from me and to deal with all of the legal implications of that, the tax

00:01:50   implications.

00:01:51   There's a lot that would have gone into it.

00:01:53   And so it's a bit complicated.

00:01:54   And so in June, Apple sort of made this a little bit easier on developers and they've

00:01:58   changed it so that there's now a built-in mechanism for transferring applications.

00:02:03   And basically what this allows you to do is to, within iTunes Connect, to take an application

00:02:08   and remove it from your list of apps, send it to someone else's and have them become

00:02:12   a little part of their apps and do it in a way that retains all the customer history,

00:02:17   all the reviews, all the rank in the store, all the parts of it that you really would

00:02:20   care about when you do that transfer. Because obviously before you could have just deleted

00:02:24   the app from one account and sort of relaunched on the other, but you lose a lot of history

00:02:27   and you lose a lot of customers that way. So it was always a bit awkward. So they added

00:02:31   this ability. It's not all perfect. There's a couple of limitations on what your apps

00:02:37   be transferred, which is a little bit awkward. And specifically, there's one that I think

00:02:43   is probably most problematic for most people, and that is an app that uses an iCloud entitlement

00:02:48   is not eligible for transfer. And this is something that I'll have a link to the relevant

00:02:53   documentation page in the iTunes Connect Developer Guide, or you can kind of see this in more

00:02:58   detail. But if you have an--if you use iCloud, if you use Passbook, you can't transfer the

00:03:03   app. There's a few things that you have to--that has to be in a good state in terms of it has

00:03:06   to be, have been approved once, it has to not be in, you know, your account has to be

00:03:11   in good standing, all kind of the things you would expect. But the most problematic and

00:03:15   the ones that I think will catch most apps out is that you can't transfer an app that

00:03:19   has an iCloud entitlement or a user-based entry means that it uses iCloud. When I saw

00:03:25   that initially at WWDC, I went and talked to some people at Apple and the general indication

00:03:30   I got was that that's not a--that's a little bit of a--that's the way it is now that may

00:03:36   change in the future. And so the recommendation that I got and which I think I'll pass on

00:03:41   to everybody, if that's important to you, make sure you let Apple know that that's something

00:03:45   that is problematic, that's something that you'd like changed. Because with most things

00:03:48   with Apple, it definitely feels a little bit like a black box. It's usually like file a

00:03:51   radar and it kind of goes off somewhere. But everything I hear is that on the back end,

00:03:55   all those types of things and those business justifications are very helpful. So file a

00:03:58   radar, take that same complaint and probably send it off to developer relations, just kind

00:04:04   of let them know this is the situation I'm in, this is why it would be helpful. Because

00:04:08   usually I think what they really need is business specifications in order to prioritize those

00:04:12   features. So definitely if that's important to you or you think it could be important,

00:04:15   make sure you let them know that you'd like to see that change. Otherwise the actual transfer

00:04:20   process, and this is something that I went through this morning, is actually incredibly

00:04:23   straightforward. The reason I'm doing it is, so I think I've mentioned I'm launching a

00:04:27   app called PodWrangler, which is a podcast client. And it's going to be related to FeedWrangler.

00:04:32   And so, however, I also, in probably about two and a half years ago, I'd launched an

00:04:37   app called SimpleCasts, which is a podcast app that I had built back then. It never took

00:04:41   off. I had very limited success with it. And at one point, I just made it free because,

00:04:45   you know, it still worked, but it was kind of just -- it wasn't something that I wanted

00:04:49   to focus on. I didn't want to have quite the same mobile customer expectation. So I have

00:04:54   that app that's been out there for quite a-- for two and a

00:04:57   half years, and actually has a fair number of downloads on it.

00:05:00   And so my idea that I'll probably end up doing is that

00:05:03   Pod Wrangler will launch as a replacement to Simplecast.

00:05:06   It's sort of a major upgrade if you could

00:05:08   look at it that way.

00:05:10   It'll be a little bit different, interact with Feed

00:05:11   Wrangler on the thinking side and so on.

00:05:14   But for both in terms of taking all the people who have

00:05:18   been using Simplecast and moving them forward onto

00:05:20   something better, as well as to potentially help with

00:05:24   things like search rank in the App Store, which is really problematic, but it seems

00:05:28   to have a lot of benefits to having older apps in terms of, with large numbers of downloads.

00:05:31   So I'll be transferring it over and then I'll be replacing it.

00:05:35   So basically the process is actually really straightforward. You just go into iTunes Connect

00:05:38   on the, I guess the sending account, you log in, or you have the person who you're acquiring

00:05:44   the app from log in. You find the app in iTunes Connect under the manage app section, you

00:05:48   hit transfer app, and you need to essentially put in the Apple ID and the team ID for the

00:05:54   person that you're sending it to. And you have to do this to the team agent, which is

00:05:57   their, Apple's fancy term, for the head honcho, like the core admin account for that person.

00:06:02   You put in the information, you hit send. Or and then you sort of agree to a, as usual

00:06:08   there's always some legal disclaimer that you'll have to sign. And then they'll get

00:06:12   a notification that says there's a transfer pending. They go into iTunes Connect, they

00:06:15   log in, they'll see that it's pending in their contracts area. They'll say accept, agree

00:06:19   to a contract and then the app essentially will go into a transferring state. This will

00:06:26   take, I think they say, a couple of days to actually transfer. So you want to make sure

00:06:30   if that's important to you that you do this as early as possible. And then the app just

00:06:33   appears in the new, the receiver's iTunes Connect account and they can go and submit

00:06:38   updates and do all things as normal. One thing to note, the app ID will remain the same and

00:06:45   so this is just something that you'll just, it may end up looking a little funny down

00:06:49   the road, since most app names tend to be reversed domains, so com.developingperspective.podrangler

00:06:57   is for example the app ID I'd probably have used, but I'll be able to do b.simplecasts

00:07:02   even though the name's changing, the app ID won't. But otherwise, that's all there is

00:07:06   to it. It was pretty straightforward and I definitely am thankful that Apple did this

00:07:09   because I think it gives developers, indie developers especially, a lot more options

00:07:14   with applications down the road.

00:07:16   That it means that you don't have to either keep working

00:07:19   on the same app forever or just abandon it.

00:07:23   It gives you this option where if you've

00:07:25   gotten to a point that working on an app no longer makes sense,

00:07:28   you can potentially sell it.

00:07:30   You can potentially just give it away.

00:07:31   You can transfer to someone else who potentially

00:07:34   will take better care of it.

00:07:36   And so that's just really encouraging.

00:07:37   And I'm just so thankful that Apple actually did this.

00:07:40   I said it'd be great if you could do iCloud-enabled apps

00:07:43   as well.

00:07:44   So write your congressman, talk to Apple about that,

00:07:47   make sure that they know if that's important to you.

00:07:49   Because I think for a lot of apps,

00:07:50   Apple's been really pushing to include iCloud support.

00:07:53   And so it's a bit of a bummer that doing that will cut out

00:07:57   this whole range of possibilities from you.

00:07:59   But that's it, and it's pretty cool.

00:08:01   And I've been excited about it.

00:08:02   I decided to try it out this morning.

00:08:04   Worked great, worked right off the bat.

00:08:05   I was down for a little bit during the App Developer Center

00:08:08   outage, so that's why I hadn't talked about it until now.

00:08:11   But I came back last night, and so exciting.

00:08:14   Alright, the next thing I'm going to talk about, and I have a link in the show notes

00:08:18   to this, Apple recently overhauled their affiliate program. And so I have a blog post where I

00:08:26   kind of walk through all the sort of the nuts and bolts of this, and I'll lightly do that

00:08:30   here, but I'll also just kind of talk at a higher level about why the affiliate program

00:08:34   is important for developers and why you should be using it. So at a high level, the affiliate

00:08:39   program is something that Apple does where you can sign up for an account with a third

00:08:44   party that allows you to make a small commission on the sales that you generate in the store,

00:08:52   essentially. So you create a link, you add a magic sort of code to it, and that link

00:08:58   then gets tied to purchases made by people who've clicked that link and go to the store.

00:09:02   You get a commission on that. And Apple used to do this through a company called LinkShare,

00:09:06   and they recently changed to a company called PHG. The exact details of the two different

00:09:11   I don't think it's particularly relevant.

00:09:13   But there are a couple of changes

00:09:14   with this move that make it so much better to use

00:09:17   and give us as developers a lot of options

00:09:20   that I think are really exciting.

00:09:21   The first, there's a couple things.

00:09:23   PhD's links have a broader geographical footprint.

00:09:27   Essentially, outside of Europe and South America,

00:09:29   the same link will work for sales all over the world, which

00:09:32   is kind of exciting.

00:09:33   The sort of commission program changed slightly.

00:09:37   And it used to be, I think, 5% on sales for three days

00:09:39   after someone clicks a link, now it's 7%, but the window is now reduced to 24 hours.

00:09:46   Overall, I'll take that. I think the higher percentage on a shorter period is probably

00:09:51   better for most people for what they're actually, the purpose of what they're linking to is

00:09:55   because you're going to get the sale of the thing that you're linking to in that window

00:09:59   and you get a higher percentage of it. And they've changed some of the actual formatting

00:10:03   things on the links, which is kind of exciting. They made it really easy, basically, like

00:10:07   Like I said, there's a link in the show notes to exactly all of the nuts and bolts.

00:10:10   But basically once you've signed up for an account and been approved, you get an affiliate

00:10:13   token which you can just append to any URL and it'll be associated with your affiliate

00:10:22   account which is great.

00:10:23   And you can also now do something called campaign tokens which is just basically you can take

00:10:27   any 45 characters, add it to the string, add it to the end of your affiliate link and then

00:10:32   get that access to that in your reports, which is exciting because it gives you a lot of

00:10:38   options. And this is where I kind of, mostly what I'll focus on for the next few minutes,

00:10:42   is it gives you a lot of options as a developer for kind of trying to get some indication

00:10:47   of where sales are coming from. You can get some indication of how effective your marketing

00:10:52   is. For example, say you run a podcast sponsorship. Say you ran a banner advertising sponsorship.

00:11:01   can now easily tag that sponsorship and say, "This was such and such campaign," or you

00:11:07   give it a number or whatever you want to do. And you can then track directly how many sales

00:11:12   came from that. Obviously, there potentially could be sales for things that aren't your

00:11:16   app, but overall you can kind of get a sense of how many people clicked on that link and

00:11:20   then of those people who clicked on it, how many people went and bought something. And

00:11:25   often you can kind of work out and reverse engineer exactly what it was they bought.

00:11:29   generally speaking, it gives you a lot of flexibility there. You can do the same thing

00:11:32   when you post to Twitter. You can add a campaign tag for Twitter links. You can post one on

00:11:37   your website. You can use the same thing in your smart app banner and you can track how

00:11:40   many sales are coming from your smart app banners. And in aggregate, I think that gives

00:11:45   you a lot of flexibility and a lot of visibility into kind of where, what kind of marketing

00:11:49   you're doing is actually being effective. It was in theory possible to do this before

00:11:54   with Linkshare. I remember playing around with, I think they had a thing called Signature

00:11:58   links which you could create and generate and it would sort of do the same thing. But

00:12:02   this is a much, much simpler way to be able to do it and it's much more flexible. You

00:12:05   just add some text to the end of the link, you know, with a certain parameter and it

00:12:11   just works. You know, I've tried it out and it works great in terms of you can just easily

00:12:14   just add these and build up whatever makes sense for you. It's just kind of up to you

00:12:18   to manage. And so I was kind of excited about that. And I'll definitely encourage people

00:12:23   to generally to use these. If not for the percentage, I mean, the 7% is nice. You know,

00:12:27   I've been doing this for a long time and I get a reasonable amount of revenue from LinkShare.

00:12:32   I mean, it's certainly not something that is earth-shattering.

00:12:35   You know, I mean, it's because you're making a small percent of a small number of sales

00:12:39   potentially.

00:12:40   But it's just, it's certainly nice.

00:12:41   You know, it probably pays for my, you know, pays for some of my test devices or things

00:12:45   like that.

00:12:46   So it's nice.

00:12:47   I'll definitely take it.

00:12:48   But some of this new stuff with the affiliate campaign token stuff is very exciting.

00:12:53   I think I'll be using that a lot.

00:12:54   So just to kind of get a sense of like, did that work?

00:12:57   If I put a sponsorship somewhere,

00:12:58   did that actually go anywhere?

00:13:00   Am I making-- you can kind of track back that money from that.

00:13:03   So if you run a campaign, for example,

00:13:05   to-- you do a paid advertising.

00:13:10   You spend $1,000 on a particular promotion.

00:13:13   If you have that thing point directly to the App Store

00:13:16   to download your app with the campaign token,

00:13:18   in your affiliate report, you'll have a pretty good sense

00:13:21   of the amount of traffic that generated

00:13:23   and the amount of revenue that generated, which is something

00:13:25   that otherwise you have almost no visibility into the App

00:13:27   Store.

00:13:27   All we get is total sales.

00:13:29   So we don't know-- you still don't know things

00:13:30   like how many people found it from the top list,

00:13:32   how many people found it from the searches,

00:13:34   how many found it from direct linking, which would be awesome

00:13:36   if we could ever get that at some point.

00:13:39   But until then, this is a reasonable thing

00:13:41   that we can do in the near term to hopefully bridge that gap

00:13:44   and hopefully help developers just make better decisions

00:13:48   about their promotion, their advertising,

00:13:50   and also just to get a good sense.

00:13:52   I'm a bit of a numbers geek, and I just like to be able to see where sales are coming from,

00:13:56   how effective different sites are.

00:13:58   It's like, are people coming at it from my Smart App banner, or are they clicking on

00:14:02   the actual link on the page even?

00:14:04   Those kinds of things are just interesting to know, and to really do it at the source

00:14:07   rather than through some kind of weird third-party thing like Google Analytics.

00:14:10   All right, so that's it for today's show.

00:14:13   As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns, complaints, I'm on Twitter @_davidsmith.

00:14:17   If you want to email me, david@developingperspective.com.

00:14:21   Otherwise, hope you have a good week.

00:14:22   Happy coding and good luck with all your iOS 7 updates.

00:14:24   It seems like we're getting close now.

00:14:25   I think my tentative date puts it at something like 10 business days away now or something

00:14:31   for being conservative guests.

00:14:33   So stay at it.

00:14:34   It's fun.

00:14:35   And I look forward to seeing all your apps.

00:14:36   Bye.

00:14:36   Bye.