Today Kyle Newsome and I are starting our awareness campaign for a new free app marketing service called App Rewards Club, which is replacing freeAppCalendar.com. This new service will be launching in full force within a few weeks with an iOS app and several other new features. You can learn more by reading on and by visiting our new App Rewards Club Blog site.
We felt it was important to speak from our own hearts candidly prior to unifying our voice through App Rewards Club. What follows below is a description of my motivation for starting this service. You can also read Kyle’s personal blog entry here.
The App Store “Gold Rush”
You’ve probably read several times over the past year that the App Store “Gold Rush” is over, but apparently these sorts of stories haven’t had the effect of slowing down the efforts of developers.
As evidence of this, in June 2012, Apple received an average of 774 app & game submissions per day (Source: 148apps.biz), which clearly indicates that developers still think that there’s “gold in them thar hills”.
The fact is that they’re right. There are millions and millions to be made by the top-selling apps in the App Store. Articles such as this, and this, which tell of the massive monthly revenues being made be some companies, continue to fuel developers’ dreams of striking it rich.
What’s changed since the initial “Gold Rush” is that there are now more of us than ever competing for those dollars. It’s harder than ever to stand out and be noticed, even with a good app.
One bit of good news is that the total revenue generated by the App Store has also massively increased. This increase has been driven by the amazing sales of the latest iPhones and iPads. Thousands of new users are flooding into the iOS ecosystem daily.
What this means to developers, if some of these articles are to be believed, is that it’s possible to earn a decent living even without having a top 200 hit on your hands.
The Rise of Free
One of the tactics some developers have used to get more attention, especially over the past year or so, is giving their games away for free. Changing a paid app to free can generate thousands of new downloads in a single day with very little marketing effort.
Unfortunately, a few thousand downloads isn’t enough to get your app noticed. Although it’s hard to get accurate numbers, it’s estimated that you need to have well over 100,000 downloads in a day to hit #1 on the Free Apps chart in the U.S.
If you can achieve that kind of exposure, and if your app is good, you have the best chance of a striking gold. Apps that have hit the top 10 in the Free Apps chart have frequently gone on to see a massive increase in sales after they return back to paid.
In addition, apps that have in app purchases (IAPs), especially consumable IAPs, are able to monetize during the free feature.
Either way, going free can be an excellent way of increasing your app’s exposure and increasing your revenue.
Many developers, including me, have tried making their apps free on their own. In general, this is a bad idea and results in little increase in revenue for the developer. You simply can’t generate enough exposure on your own.
You need to work with a partner who will promote your app when it goes free in order to generate the massive numbers of downloads required to get your app noticed by the masses.
The question for many developers has now become, “What can I do to generate massive downloads of my app when I switch it to free?”
The freeAppCalendar.com Experiment
As some of you may already know, I started freeAppCalendar.com a little over two years ago to help answer that question. Although the site enjoyed some early success, including pushing an app to the #1 position in the Free Apps chart, it never took off the way I had hoped. In retrospect, the main mistake I made with freeAppCalendar was to focus too much initially on the developers and not enough on the visitors.
I invested development resources in a highly automated backend system that let developers register with the site, purchase ads and upload their apps to the system to be considered for a feature.
As you may have figured out, what I should have focused on was providing a site that visitors would want to return to every day so I could build up a huge audience. I’m pretty sure most developers would prefer to have a huge audience rather than an automated back end.
The other reason I created freeAppCalendar was in response to another “free app” site that had just recently launched. I wasn’t really sure about their business model at the time, and I had major issues with what I perceived as their lack of ethics and the dishonest way they presented themselves to developers and users of their site.
Time has proven that the business model is sound, if done ethically. Charging developers to give massive exposure to their games makes perfect sense, especially in the era of freemium.
Since I started freeAppCalendar, many other “free app” sites have sprung up, but unfortunately, rather than offering a good service for a fair price, many of these sites saw an opportunity to make a quick buck by gouging desperate developers for their service.
Some of the problems I see with some of the other sites are that:
- They negotiate prices starting at ridiculously high rates and try to squeeze every last dollar out of every developer.
- Every developer gets a different deal, depending on their negotiating skills.
- They are not open & honest with developers about the number of users they can deliver or the typical results an app can expect.
- They do not offer users a compelling reason to return to the site every day, resulting in unpredictable results for developers.
Earlier this year, I was considering selling freeAppCalendar.com. It had been around for nearly two years at that point, and due to other commitments, I hadn’t been able to devote the time required to make it more successful.
I posted to Twitter and a few other places that I was interested in selling the site. I got an email from Kyle Newsome of BitWit.ca expressing interest.
We had a series of email exchanges where we discussed my motivations for creating freeAppCalendar and his motivations for being interested in possibly taking over the site and enhancing it.
It quickly became apparent that we had similar feelings about the current state of the existing “free app” sites, and we shared a common vision for how things could be improved. My discussions with Kyle reignited my interest in the “free app” site concept and we began to move forward with creating a new site as partners.
The new creative partnership generated all sorts of great ideas for features to add to the site. It quickly became apparent though, that the new site was going to go well beyond the original vision for freeAppCalendar, and that it would not be well suited to the “freeAppCalendar” name. So it was that AppRewardsClub.com was born!
Goals of AppRewardsClub.com
In a nutshell, our goals with the new site are to:
- Offer one of the most effective app promotion services in the world.
- Publish a simple, clear and fair price structure on our website.
- Ensure that everyone pays the same price for the same services.
- Provide historical statistics to show the effectiveness of our service (we are partnering with appFigures.com to help with this).
- Give site visitors and app users a reason to come back every day through various games and rewards.
- Treat Developers with respect.
You might notice that “Make tons of money!” is not one of the goals listed above. Interestingly, when I launched freeAppCalendar.com, there were some people who questioned my motives for creating the site. They said they were more comfortable with someone whose main goal was to make money than with someone who wanted to do business ethically.
What they seemed to fail to understand though was that the extra money being made was coming from their own pockets and they were massively overpaying and often getting little to no results.
Now this doesn’t mean that we’re not interested in making money with the site; we’re just interested in doing so fairly. Developers shouldn’t be taken advantage of in the process.
We believe that how you do business is just as important as the results you deliver.
The AppRewardsClub App
In addition to the App Rewards Club (ARC) website, we have developed an associated app. People using the app get access to the daily free app, but they also have the opportunity share their opinion on the app, and play daily games in the app itself, including a slot machine.
It’s All About the Visitors
I mentioned above the importance of having visitors return to the site and app every day. So why exactly would visitors want to come back every day?
THEY CAN WIN LOTS OF FREE STUFF!
We are currently able to deliver the following rewards to visitors:
- RewardsDen.com– RewardsDen provides a point-based rewards system. Visitors collect points and redeem them for gift cards to all sorts of online stores such as 1-800-flowers and eBags.com. Visitors earn rewards points for things like:
- Visiting the site every day
- Downloading the featured app
- Sharing their opinion on the day’s free app on Facebook or Twitter (in their own words)
- Playing the ARC slot machine and memory game
- Kiip.com – Kiip offers instant rewards, including gift certificates to some of your favorite coffee shops, restaurants and online stores. These rewards are initially available in the ARC app only, but we are working towards adding them to the website as well.
- Paid Apps – We are working on the ability to give paid apps to visitors as additional rewards. The ARC blog will have more on this topic soon. Winning visitors will get to choose their dream app and get it for free.
How Can I Get Involved?
We are planning the official launch for the website and the associated app in 3 weeks if all goes according to plan.
As part of our launch, we are looking for 14 developers to work with us and feature their apps on our new site, making them free on the selected feature day. You’ll be helping us build up a site that will be able to help you better promote your apps in the future, and best of all, for the first two weeks, we will promote your apps for FREE while we build up the site traffic.
Your app and/or company/name (at your discretion) will also be promoted in our initial press release as one of the participating developers.
If you are a developer and you’re interested in being featured during our launch period, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let us know who you are and which app you would like to feature. Check out our ‘Developers Wanted’ blog post for some additional information on how to participate.
We’re really looking forward to launching this new service and we hope you’ll be a part of it!