Developing Perspective

#44: Free as in Beer


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective. Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing

00:00:05   news of note in iOS, Apple, and the like. I'm your host, David Smith. I'm an independent

00:00:09   iOS developer based in Herndon, Virginia. Today is Thursday, May 10th. This is show

00:00:14   number 44. Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's get started.

00:00:18   All right, firstly, a little bit of housekeeping, a little bit of sort of a discussion of sort

00:00:23   of where the show is going and how I'm taking it. So if you've been following from the beginning

00:00:29   for, I think it's almost been a year now that I've been doing the show.

00:00:32   You're kind of probably familiar with some of the, you know, sort of the various

00:00:35   oscillations it's gone through. It started off as a daily kind of a news show.

00:00:39   It moved into kind of a periodical

00:00:42   topical show and that's kind of where it is now. And you may have also noticed that

00:00:46   recently I've been able to do it a lot more.

00:00:48   And that's a direct result of people talking about it and letting me know that

00:00:52   they enjoy it, that they find it useful, that it

00:00:55   has some value to you. And so that's what I'm kind of continuing to do.

00:00:58   Hopefully doing it as often as I'm doing it isn't problematic

00:01:02   or overwhelming to you. Certainly view it as something that you can

00:01:06   kind of pick up and put down and

00:01:09   certainly the way that I do it, making each show fifteen minutes

00:01:12   rather than making it sort of a big hour long or hour and a half long show once a week

00:01:17   is to kind of make it so that you can listen to it when you're driving to work. You can just

00:01:20   sort of pick up and listen to it while you're loading the dishwasher or whatever. You know, it's just

00:01:24   something that you can kind of

00:01:26   uh...

00:01:27   get a quick hit i have no problem if you want to listen at your two x or three

00:01:30   x or whatever you like

00:01:32   you could probably pared down to just enough by five six seven eight minutes

00:01:35   if u

00:01:36   really wanted to push it in some of the podcasting applications

00:01:39   and

00:01:40   you know that that's kind of where i'm heading on the hoping to come to keep

00:01:43   keep that up and

00:01:45   you know probably maybe three or four times a week

00:01:47   summer in that range to pay on my schedule depending what's going on if

00:01:50   there's more news there's more stuff going on

00:01:53   And honestly, if there's more kind of questions and things that people are having and asking me,

00:01:57   I'm happy to kind of deal with that and talk about it.

00:02:00   So that's kind of just some book housekeeping. Hopefully that's useful.

00:02:05   And if you have any feedback on that, just always let me know. I'll give you my contact information

00:02:09   at the end, like always.

00:02:10   But for today's show, I have two sort of concepts that I'm going to be talking about.

00:02:14   One is the role of free in the App Store.

00:02:17   And the second is going to be user-friendly affiliate links.

00:02:22   So the first one about the role of free, and this is kind of related to an experiment that

00:02:26   I've been running recently over the last couple of days that reinforces something that I've

00:02:31   known for quite a while but I didn't have as much sort of data on.

00:02:35   And so about two or three days ago I put SimpleCasts, which is my podcast management app that I

00:02:41   wrote just for myself initially because I'm a big fan of the 5x5 shows and I wanted a

00:02:49   way to listen to them

00:02:50   and serve on my phone and i didn't like the way that any of the existing apps

00:02:54   that at the time worked and this was probably about a year ago

00:02:57   originally it was kind of like a five by five app that i just kind of wrote

00:03:00   that only did those shows and yet the time i

00:03:03   pitch that

00:03:05   today and benjamin said hey this is in the arrows views

00:03:08   do this to be cool is a call

00:03:10   you know working on my own thing so if you

00:03:12   you know so so

00:03:13   and i don't really work to five by five that but you know

00:03:17   you know, good luck with it. And so I took it and made it a bit more general purpose, so it does other shows

00:03:21   and so on, and

00:03:23   then released it to the store.

00:03:26   And then it kind of just fell flat. I mean, the podcast app in this sort of

00:03:30   area is very, very competitive. There's lots and lots of apps. There's the

00:03:33   sort of the most popular ones, Downcast, Instacast,

00:03:37   Podcaster, I think there's one they're called that. There's

00:03:41   Aw man, there's all kinds of ones that I'm forgetting. You know, it's a pretty

00:03:44   crowded space and especially the...

00:03:48   all of the competition does things sort of way more and way better than a lot of things

00:03:51   that I do because

00:03:53   Simplecast is written for my tastes, for my preferences. It's designed to be incredibly simple.

00:03:57   You just kind of pick your shows and it just sort of does the rest and turns it into kind of this

00:04:00   continuous radio.

00:04:02   And I'm pretty sure I was the first

00:04:03   one of the podcasting applications to kind of do that of

00:04:06   having a concept of continuous play, which is kind of how I like to listen to it.

00:04:10   You know, I get in the car, I hit play.

00:04:12   when one show finishes the next one starts and

00:04:15   that was kind of the concept that I came up with and

00:04:17   that's the way I implemented it.

00:04:20   Now, the app did horribly from a sales perspective, I think, over its entire

00:04:24   lifespan

00:04:26   of almost a year. It's made me about

00:04:28   thirty five, forty, fifty dollars, something like that.

00:04:31   But it's actually an app that I continue to invest in, that I continue to change and

00:04:34   improve and update

00:04:35   and that's just because I use it on a daily basis. It's the app I use to listen

00:04:40   to podcasts and I listen to a lot of podcasts. And so

00:04:44   it's something that I've then kind of, you know, I've kept up to date and been working on

00:04:48   rather than some of my apps when I launch and they do, you know, they kind of fall flat.

00:04:51   It's like, "Okay, well, that was a bad idea," and move on. But it kind of always was

00:04:55   nagging at me that, you know, this app is pretty good, but it has such a small

00:04:59   audience and I think a lot of that's just, you know, it's just, it's a very

00:05:02   competitive space. And so what I was recently kind of struck by is, "Well,

00:05:06   what if I just take it and make it free and see what happens?" You know, see if

00:05:10   people like it and if they find it useful, and kind of find other ways to

00:05:13   repurpose that concept into

00:05:17   sort of make use of that in a way that will benefit me in ways that perhaps are not

00:05:20   monetary directly. It's not selling it in the store, it

00:05:24   has other benefits. And so I did that a couple days ago, and the result is kind of

00:05:28   remarkable.

00:05:29   Like I said, it sold something like 50 copies

00:05:32   for its entire lifespan before a couple of days ago, and

00:05:36   now it's up to almost 1300

00:05:39   and that's with no publicity, no talking about it anywhere, just kind of, I just made it free

00:05:44   in the store, just went into iTunes Connect and said "Hey, make the app free"

00:05:47   and you know, the app sales increased, I think if I'm looking at the report right, it went up 123,000% or something

00:05:55   which is, you know, it's just insane, it's

00:05:57   the power of making something free that when people now go into the store and say

00:06:00   "Hey, I want to look at a, you know, I want a podcast manager"

00:06:03   it shows up

00:06:05   Now, you know, it's so, so high, you know, and then I think about, you know, so how's

00:06:08   that, how's that benefiting me? Well, for one thing, I sell an app, and this is where

00:06:12   most of my money comes from, that is very similar to podcasting in terms of it manages,

00:06:16   it's for listening to audiobooks. Those are kind of overlapping worlds, so there may be

00:06:20   some kind of cross-promotion that I can do there, and I think in my next, you know, I'll

00:06:23   make sure that in the next version of SimpleCasts that I update, I'll have kind of, you know,

00:06:26   maybe in the settings screen a link to, "Hey, if you like this, maybe you'll like audiobooks."

00:06:31   And also, I thought of it as an interesting way to potentially promote this show, to make

00:06:35   it accessible to a wider group of people.

00:06:39   And so in the app's directory where you're looking for different shows, I promote developing

00:06:46   perspective in a lot of different places.

00:06:48   And it's kind of interesting when I look at the download stats for the show, and for the

00:06:54   last couple of days, the percentage of users who are using Simplecast to listen to my show

00:06:59   has gone up dramatically.

00:07:00   It used to be kind of like one or two, and now it's probably maybe 15, 20, 30 percent

00:07:07   of the people who listen to it in there.

00:07:11   And if you exclude people who are listening in iTunes, which is the majority, it's probably

00:07:15   even more than that.

00:07:17   Maybe it's up to 40, 50 percent of my users are using it now.

00:07:21   I discovered the show and are listening it through my app, and that's great for me.

00:07:25   It's kind of a good way, and it's good for them because they've got a free nice podcasting

00:07:29   app that they can use for all kinds of shows. But it's kind of an interesting concept that

00:07:32   I was thinking about of kind of finding a way to use existing assets for benefits to

00:07:39   yourself that aren't necessarily kind of obvious. It's not just like, "Well, I'll sell it."

00:07:42   Well, that didn't work. I made 50 bucks in, you know, over a year. That's hardly sort

00:07:47   of worthwhile at that point. It's an app that doesn't have any back end or anything sort

00:07:51   of, it costs per user for me. So, you know, so that's kind of where I'm going with that.

00:07:56   And the only kind of downside of it, and it's something that I kind of struggled with, is

00:08:01   by doing that, am I kind of undercutting my competition in a way that's not necessarily

00:08:05   constructive for the ecosystem?

00:08:06   But I thought, you know, it's like, "Oh, well, why would anyone buy Instacast if they can

00:08:12   get something else for free?"

00:08:13   And it's like, well, not really.

00:08:15   I mean, those apps are so much more robust in feature and capability than what Simplecast

00:08:22   does that it seems only... I think the kind of people who are going to be downloading

00:08:27   them aren't necessarily the kind of people who would be picking up my app for free. And

00:08:34   I could see a lot of people who say, "You get SimpleCasts and find that it's an interesting

00:08:39   sort of way to..." "Oh, I didn't think that I could listen to podcasts outside of iTunes.

00:08:43   That's great." And then look for something a bit more robust and featured, and it may

00:08:47   actually even help them in terms of sort of drawing people into the concept. It's kind

00:08:51   of like how reading lists, the new feature that was added in Lion and iOS 5 for doing

00:08:58   kind of offline reading or organizing articles to read later, may have potentially helped

00:09:04   Instapaper readability and Pocket in terms of it kind of exposes people to the concept.

00:09:10   So maybe I'm just justifying my actions in an unfair way, but that's kind of how I'm

00:09:17   thinking about it now and that's seems to be the case and it's not like I've

00:09:21   as you know

00:09:22   the hundreds and hundreds of people that have downloaded

00:09:25   simple cast of the last couple of days it doesn't seem like any of the other podcast apps

00:09:28   are like falling in the ranks or anything so

00:09:31   I just have some thoughts I had

00:09:33   and moreover I'm just kind of pointing that out to

00:09:36   show that if you're an independent developer you can really

00:09:40   kind of find

00:09:41   a different audience and expand it

00:09:43   with the power because they're making use of free because there just seems like there are

00:09:47   thousands and thousands of people

00:09:49   who just love free apps who

00:09:52   are trying to... who are never going to buy an app.

00:09:55   So they're not really part of your

00:09:57   market in that way, but you can kind of market to them in a different way more directly.

00:10:01   So, just some thoughts.

00:10:03   Alright, moving on to user-friendly affiliate links.

00:10:06   And this is something that I've talked about I think before on the show, but it's been

00:10:10   a while, but it's something that I keep running into over and over again. So I'm going to bring it up

00:10:13   because it's kind of a pet peeve of mine.

00:10:15   And so, this is related to an article that I wrote quite a while ago

00:10:20   about making user-friendly iTunes affiliate links. And so an iTunes affiliate link is

00:10:24   basically a system they have

00:10:26   where you can

00:10:27   sign up for an account with a company called LinkShare in the United States.

00:10:31   And LinkShare is just sort of a middleman that lets you

00:10:35   sort of monetize linking to the iTunes store. You can link to apps, you can link to books,

00:10:40   you can link to music, videos, whatever.

00:10:42   And for every time you drive someone to the store and they buy something, you get 5% of

00:10:47   commission back from that from Apple.

00:10:49   So say you send someone to your app with an affiliate link, they buy it, it was 99 cents,

00:10:53   you get 5 cents back.

00:10:55   Simple as that.

00:10:57   Now, the default way that Linkshare is set up in the US is you end up with these huge

00:11:02   nasty links when you say, "I want to link to a particular app," or "If you want to link

00:11:05   to any app," you end up with these big nasty links that you get that start with something

00:11:10   like link synergy dot link share dot com slash you know sort of 80 to 90 characters of gibberish.

00:11:21   And for me that just looks terrible. And as a user I always hate clicking on those links.

00:11:25   Not necessarily, and at this point I know where they're going, but as a user typically

00:11:29   I don't like clicking on a link where I don't know what the target is, where sort of what

00:11:33   the ultimate result of that is. And I'm trying to go to the app store so I'm looking for

00:11:38   an iTunes link and here's this thing, you know, click dot link synergy or something

00:11:43   strange. And so what I spent some time doing is working on a way to actually make what

00:11:48   I call a short link. And, you know, this is all supported and managed inside of iTunes.

00:11:52   It's not like I'm going around or hacking anything. It's, you know, all available in

00:11:55   the documentation. But there's a way and if you link to any store apps in the store, any

00:12:01   content in the iTunes store, I strongly urge you to kind of follow this guide. It's in

00:12:05   the show notes. And basically you end up with a little suffix that you can add to any iTunes

00:12:10   link that turns it into an affiliate link. Basically you're going to add something that

00:12:13   says like "Site ID" and "Partner ID", these two little parameters to the link. And the

00:12:20   prefix will be exactly unchanged. It will be iTunes.com/app/audiobook/id number and

00:12:26   then you just add your suffix to it. And it works great. You can apply it to anything,

00:12:30   you'll still get your money. The only downside is you won't get click-through tracking, which

00:12:36   is a little bit of a bummer, but I've never found the data to be particularly helpful.

00:12:41   I mean, really, I'm using an affiliate link not to track links to find--I'm using an affiliate

00:12:47   link in order to make money, in order to make a little bit when I'm recommending something

00:12:50   or it links to my own apps on my own site. It's a nice way to kind of get an extra 5%,

00:12:55   So Apple gets sort of 25% and you get 75 rather than normal 70/30 split.

00:13:00   So that's just something I mention here.

00:13:03   It's a pet peeve.

00:13:04   Whenever I'm looking around on a developer site and I see this big nasty link synergy

00:13:08   link, it's like it just drives me crazy.

00:13:10   It's like just spend the time.

00:13:11   It doesn't take a long time to make that a short link.

00:13:13   Make it something that's user friendly and something that people are going to really

00:13:16   want to click on.

00:13:17   I mean, especially if you think about something in something like Twitter where often just

00:13:22   the beginning of a link is shown.

00:13:24   in a lot of Twitter clients you'll see the first 10, 15 characters of a link. If that's

00:13:29   this weird, nasty thing that doesn't mean anything, I'm far less likely to, and I think

00:13:34   many users are far less likely to click on that, than if it says iTunes.Apple.com. That

00:13:39   kind of feels natural, it feels safe, and so I think you'll have an even better conversion

00:13:44   with that. And just a little note, you can also do it with what they call signature links,

00:13:48   which lets you track specific conversions from different places, which I never really

00:13:52   get into, but if you really want to do that, so you can create a signature link based for

00:13:57   your... this is the link from my landing page, this is the link from Twitter, this is the

00:14:02   link from this review that happened, or this promotional campaign I ran. You can kind of

00:14:06   track conversions that way, looking through the link share reports. So there's something

00:14:10   else that you can do and keep in mind. Anyway, just kind of a pet peeve of mine that I just

00:14:14   wanted to push again. So again, just look in the show notes, there's an article on my

00:14:16   blog that walks you through that process. Please, please do that. Anyway, so that's

00:14:20   That's it for today's show. Hope you find it useful, hope it's interesting. As always,

00:14:23   if you have questions, comments, concerns, hit me up on Twitter. I'm @_davidsmith. You

00:14:31   can also find me at my blog, david-smith.org. And otherwise, hope you have a good day, happy

00:14:37   coding, and I'll talk to you later. Bye!