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August 2, 2011

143

Amazon App Store: Rotten To The Core

by shiftyjelly

About 3 months ago, we set off on a little experiment into the world of the Amazon App Store. Back then people were hailing it as the solution to the problems with the Google Market, industry pundits like Andy Ihnatko called it ‘An Excellent Work in Progress‘.

Amazon’s biggest feature by far, has been their Free App Of The Day promotion. Publicly their terms say that they pay developers 20% of the asking price of an app, even when they give it away free. To both consumers and naive developers alike, this seems like a big chance to make something rare in the Android world: real money. But here’s the dirty secret Amazon don’t want you to know, they don’t pay developers a single cent. Before being featured by Amazon, you get an email like this one:

As you may already know, the Free App of the Day offer placement is one of the most visible and valuable spaces on the Amazon Appstore. We would like to include your app “[name removed]” in our Free App of the Day calendar. We have seen tremendous results from this promotion spot and believe it will bring you a great deal of positive reviews and traffic. It is an opportunity to build your brand especially in association with a brand like Amazon’s. The current price of this placement is at 0% rev share for that one day you are placed.

The emphasis there was actually added by them in their email. So we asked them to confirm, what seemed a ridiculous proposition:

Thanks for emailing us. If I read this correctly you’d like to give away our application for free, and pay us nothing? That’s very generous of you, but we like being paid for our work. I appreciate that Amazon is trying to build up it’s store, and get more users, but the problem is at the moment you have the reputation of being ‘The place where I get my free apps’ and for a developer like us who doesn’t put advertising into our applications, that can only be a bad thing.

We’d be happy to reconsider if you decided to pay us the 20% that we agreed to in our original developer agreement, but this new one seems to favour only you, at the expense of us?

To which they responded:

Thanks for your response. The Free App of the Day promotion is the most valuable and visible spot in the store. It hosted the launch of the likes of Angry Birds Rio, Plants v. Zombies and more. Amazon will not receive any sales rev share from the Free App of the Day; and in fact, with as the Free of the Day for one day, you will receive a subsequent Appstore main page placement for the following 14 days.

All these highly valuable placements are at no cost to you. We want to promote your app and in exchange of the placements, at the 0% rev share for one day only.

All this seemed way too one sided to us, Amazon is being predatory here, and asking developers (who are often desperate for exposure) to give away their app, in order to promote Amazon. A heated debate broke out in our office about whether we should or not. I was firmly against, my business partner for. In the end we agreed that we had entered the world of Android development as an experiment, and it would seem silly not to add more data to the experiment we were conducting. The day of our promotion came:

That’s right, Amazon gave away 101,491 copies of our app! At this point, we had a few seconds of excitement as well, had we mis-read the email and really earned $54,800 in one day? We would have done if our public agreement was in place, but we can now confirm that thanks to Amazon’s secret back-door deals, we made $0 on that day. That’s right, over 100,000 apps given away, $0 made. Did the exposure count for much in the days afterwards? That’s also a big no, the day after saw a blip in sales, followed by things going back to exactly where we started, selling a few apps a day. In fact Amazon decided to rub salt in the wounds a little further by discounting our app to 99 cents for a few days after the free promotion. All we got was about 300 emails a day to answer over the space of a few weeks, that left us tired and burnt out. For all we know most of the people who wanted our application, now have it. To add insult to injury Pocket Casts relies on a server to parse podcast feeds (allowing instant updates on your phone), and all these new users forced us to buy more hardware just to meet demand. Hardware that we are going to have to support indefinitely at our own cost.

What makes us mad though is the public perception that Amazon pays developers to be featured. Every single person we asked on Twitter or via email thought they were helping developers out, and getting a free application. Amazon does nothing to dispel these rumours, in fact they put really restrictive clauses at the bottom of their emails, saying that no one is even allowed to discuss these back door deals they are doing. But that’s not our only beef with Amazon:

  • Lengthy review times of anywhere up to 2 weeks (I’ve lost count of the amount of emails from people asking why our Google Market app is newer)
  • Amazon gets to set the price of your app to whatever they want, without any input from you, or even the chance to reject their price
  • Amazon re-writes your description, and in ours they even made up things like ‘add up to 100 podcasts’. No idea where on earth they got that number from
  • Amazon don’t provide error reports like Google do making it hard to fix errors
  • They don’t yet support Google’s new multiple APK initiative
  • Amazon pays far later than Google does, and to date we haven’t received any cheques from them, even though we are listed as being ‘payed’
  • US Only
  • Much less real-time sales information than Google
  • Update: (and this one surprised us) you can’t remove apps from their store! You have to ask them for permission via an email. Every other store lets you remove apps from sale.
Add these things up, and we were starting to ask ourselves, why on earth are we in business with these guys?

We can see the counter argument here, that we agreed to Amazon’s terms, even if they were underhanded and secret, so we deserve everything we got. Perhaps. I guess it’s just lucky for us that this was an experiment, and that we don’t make our full time income from selling Android apps, but rather from developing for iOS. That said, we want to make a clear stand here, so that Amazon doesn’t take advantage of those less fortunate than us.

So today we’re making a stand. Effective immediately we are removing ourselves from the Amazon Store. We’re not the only ones doing this.

To anyone who paid for our app in the Amazon Store (yes all 200 or so of you!), we apologise for the inconvenience. If you choose to come and join us in the Google Market, and want a refund for that purchase, we will be more than happy to oblige. Contact us for more details. To those who got the app free from Amazon, we’re sorry to say there won’t be any more updates. We won’t cripple your app in any way, it will continue to work…but then if you like it that much, you could do worse than throw $2 our way ;)

Update 2

  • We’ve turned off comments because they were getting to hard to moderate, plus I think we’ve pretty much got all the point of views now. We enjoyed the feedback though, good and bad :)
  • Yes we got what we signed up for, that’s not our beef. This article sums up our contention better than we perhaps did: http://techcrunch.com/2011/08/02/amazons-appstore-youll-make-0-when-we-give-your-app-away-and-youll-like-it/
  • Our app status in Amazon now says ‘suppressed’ no idea what that means, but it does sound a bit comical/sinister ;)
  • My personal favourites are the conspiracy theorists “BUT YOU DIDN’T SHOW SALES AFTERWARDS, YOU GUYS MUST HAVE MADE MILLIONS”. I was almost tempted to post “Dang nab it, you caught us red handed” as a joke, but no doubt that would just get out of hand. Here you go July sales (we were featured on the 27th of June, -10 points if you ask for June 28-30th, now you’re just being silly ;-P):

143 Comments
  1. Aug 2 2011

    Thank you for the insight here. Most of this I was already aware of, but I hadn’t seen real numbers confirming this. Too bad the app wasn’t ad supported, at least some of the revenue might have been recoverable over the long run.

  2. Aug 2 2011

    After reading your article, the least I could do was buy your app but not from the Google Marketplace. Bought it from the iTunes app store and it’s working great on my iPhone although my iPad is crying 2x pixelated tears – is a universal app in the works? We of the Apple realm are more than willing to pay for apps of good quality.

  3. Can you please make very very certain that you are not going to be paid that $54,805.14? As someone who runs an app store (and therefore am deeply embedded in “the lingo”), I think you are misinterpreting every quote and screenshot you have provided from Amazon. If not, then Amazon is being /incredibly confusing/ and that is a serious issue that should be frowned at.

    Starting, Amazon said that the “price” of the placement is a “0% revshare”: I interpret that as meaning that they are going to /take/, for them, 0%, instead of their normal 30% revshare; this is backed up by their later phrasing “Amazon will not receive any sales rev share” and “at no cost to you”.

    They then provided you a statement that claims that “sales” were $0, which is correct (the copies were all free), but the /”earnings”/ were $54k. This $54k is in the same column as the other parts of that table for “money the developer earned”, and simply would have no reason to be calculated in the first place if they were intending on giving you $0.

    Finally, if we work the math out from that chart, we get that you normally get $1.89 per sale, making your normal sales price $2.70. On that day, however, for the 101,491 free copies, you got $54,805.14, which just so happens to exactly work out to 20% of that normal sales price, which is what everyone seemed to believe is what Amazon normally distributes.

    To me, the way this reads is that normally they will give you a crazy placement on their site, but only if you pay them something: maybe if you give them 5% revshare (in addition to their normal 30%) they will elevate your product with “main page placement”. However, as the Free App of the Day, they do this for 0%: something they consider so important that their e-mail makes it bold.

    So, really: are you 100% certain that you are not going to be paid that $54k? If so, Amazon really needs to get their wording more clear. Can you please please verify this?

  4. Aug 2 2011

    We are 100% certain yes, that’s why we waited for their payment report to confirm, which we received last night. It clearly shows our exact earnings, and $0 for that day, as they stated in their email.

    I suspect that their admin area simply reflects their public agreement, but when it comes time to pay they make the required adjustments based on their private one. As someone who works a lot with software, I can tell you that this kind of thing happens in admin areas all the time, since it can be hard to change. When it comes time to pay up though, and provide payment reports, not paying that money out makes for great incentive ;)

  5. Ok, then that is really really confusing, and I’m certain it causes a /lot/ of unneeded confusion. :( In my admin area I show this field “pending earnings”, which developers stare at for purposes of knowing “how much money am I making”, and if I started showing “$54,000″ in that field when I wasn’t actually intending to give people that much money it would certainly cause a ton of hate mail, especially when we had only had some sketchy email conversation up until that point to discuss what was going on.

  6. Aug 2 2011

    Dangling 54k that doesn’t exist in front of you seems a bit stupid, as is the fact you don’t keep control over your own price and description. (Have to say 2 week review time doesn’t seem that bad, coming from iOS…)

    Also getting 0% when the app is free is what I’d have expected – if you go free for a day on iPhone you don’t get any money from it (you just hope you get lots of players who will convince their friends to buy it).

    However, like you I’m going to stay well away from the Amazon store (at least unless they change their policies):

    1. They featured you really early – and you don’t get to choose the time of going free… no time to do your own marketing/build your own sales there.
    2. You DO get 14 days homepage placement – this should be brilliant for your sales, woohoo! except…
    3. That is where the 20% thing comes in – For those 14 days of “featured” amazon will take 80% of the revenue for your game… (rather than the usual 30%) and by the sounds of it they’ll discount you to the floor to make those sales. Please correct me if I’m wrong here…

    If it makes you feel any better, I suspect of those 100k that got the app for free, maybe 150 would have paid for the game if you’d had the same exposure but not free (extrapolating from http://www.gamesbrief.com/2011/08/go-free-spread-the-word/ they were getting 650 times the downloads as they were getting sales for their free day, but they didn’t also have app store placement)

  7. Justin
    Aug 2 2011

    Thanks for the info. I will never purchase from the amazon store again. As an aside, thanks for producing quality applications for android. It’s a great but occasionally rough around the edges platform, and developers like yourselves improve it.

  8. Aug 2 2011

    Haven’t been a big fan of the Amazon offerings so far, not that I do a huge amount in Android anyway but this makes me even more disinterested. Although I just updated an app which was live in 3 days so sometimes they get it right (although it took 3 moths to get it into the store)

  9. Aug 2 2011

    @Fraser I was comparing the 2 weeks to Google’s instant approval. It’s very refreshing, you press publish, and BAM people have your app. Agreed it’s on par with Apple, but in Apple land they are the only game in town, so people don’t accuse you of not releasing things to them on time ;)

    As for the exposure, it’s true that it’s not all bad, it has gotten awareness up, but a podcasting app like ours is a bit more niche than a game.

    @saurik I totally agree, and good work on the Cydia thing btw! That’s the ‘benefit’ of being a big company, you don’t have to care about those kind of details.

  10. Anthony
    Aug 2 2011

    Wow. Great article and useful info. So sad that so many people want your app but won’t pay a small $2 (not even a cup of coffee or coke).

    Whilst Apple cops alot of stick, they have a pretty good balance between themselves, devs and consumers.

  11. Aug 2 2011

    Can people stop b*tching about the Apple app store now? The grass on the other (Android) side of the fence is wilted and dying.

  12. Aug 2 2011

    Wow that really does suck. I had not heard of your app before so I purchased it for my iPhone great app by the way. I hope something good comes out of this and you can cover the costs of the extra hardware if nothing else you can get some exposure I linked here from John Gruber’s blog.

    It’s rough being an independent dev I’ve been there before, I’ve not created any apps for phones just yet but I’m sure it can be tough ecspecially running hardware to handle your apps.

    Good luck and I look forward to checking out the rest of your apps.

  13. Chris
    Aug 2 2011

    The fundamental problem here is that you don’t sell an app but a webservice where handling out the client acts as a “ticket” sale. You should sell ongoing subscriptions, not a one-time ticket for a never-ending concert. The Amazon promotion is not designed for such a thing, it’s meant for “real” apps, where boosting adoption rate would be a good thing in itself. Amazones style her is surely slimey to say the least, but that doesn’t save your business model.

  14. Aug 2 2011

    @Chris what you’re saying might make sense under the old way of doing things, but we’ve been doing that with our Australian Weather app for 3 years now (on iOS). Once off sale, no ongoing price. It’s been very successful. People will happily pay once, getting them to pay every year is an entirely different proposition. Using the much maligned long-tail thing actually works sometimes ;)

  15. PimpLucious
    Aug 2 2011

    I would like to see some sales data of your App in the iOS market for a little perspective.

  16. kent
    Aug 2 2011

    Well, there is one positive here. You can take that $54,000, categorize it as marketing expense and offset income you earn from iOS on your taxes. If it offsets more than your income, you can take the rest and use it as loss carry forward on future years taxes.

  17. Jack Dusseldorf
    Aug 2 2011

    This is pathetic. You agree to give your app away for free on Amazon, and now you are removing support for those customers. Seems like someone simply made a bad choice and doesn’t want to live with the consequences.

  18. Don
    Aug 2 2011

    Regarding the questions about the $55k in earnings showing up, and then in another report they get balanced out to $0 — I would make a cash bet that part of this is accounting shenanigans on the reporting side. I.e., they can now claim that $55k to shareholders (well, and to other app developers) in their “we generated $XXXX” stats… They don’t (legally) have to disclose the $55k “cost” you paid for that “service”.

    Given the number of news reports lately about states attorneys looking hard at amazon’s hiring, firing and tax practices, one should not be surprised with this behavior towards developers.

  19. Aug 2 2011

    Just bought your app from App Store for my iPhone to support you.

  20. Ted T.
    Aug 2 2011

    My question is, why are you even bothering with the Android version of your app when you still don’t have one universal/native for the iPad? Have you looked at app purchase statistics by iPad users lately?

    Personally this is exactly the app I could have used on my iPad while in Italy where we had excellent and essentially unlimited 3G, but no WiFi in sight anywhere — ideal for downloading > 20MB podcasts, which most 5by5 episodes are, not to mention basically any video podcast.

  21. Aug 2 2011

    @Jack how exactly have we stopped supporting them? We’ve given them 2 updates since the free promotion, and have explained that their version of the app will keep working. As I said in the post, we knew people would have the reaction you did, we expect it, but it’s unfair to think that we knew the extent of how many downloads we’d get, since it wasn’t documented anywhere else. We’re making a stand against Amazon’s policies, not our customers. They are more than welcome to join us in the Google Market.

  22. Aug 2 2011

    What about updating only the Amazon app to include Ads? I’m not sure what the state of in-app purchases is on Android, but it should be possible to add this to remove those adds, and give your 200 customers that already payed for it a coupon, code or smth else to disable them from the start…

    Seems like a nice way to actually let you make some money from this clusterfuck…

    Just my 2 cents

  23. Aug 2 2011

    I’m going to side with Amazon on this one. I’ve participated in Free App campaigns on iOS previously and therefore when I got an Android feature from Amazon I knew what to expect. We had a similar story with our app when they promoted us (tons of downloads, they showed it as earnings, my coder and I got confused) but the expectation on our end was that we would not be making a cent from a free promotion.

    In the end I am happy to have raised my profile considerably, and it’s got me a lot of extremely positive side-effects as a result. I’m not going to come in here and kiss Amazon’s Ass, but I see no reason to join in the hate parade either. Their store (like much of the Android, even mobile-in-general, culture) is still brand-new and it’s to our advantage as tiny developers to try to establish meaningful relationships with them as this early phase, for reasons which should be obvious. Expecting much otherwise (instant gratification) is simply going to result in a lot of heartache.

  24. Kiz
    Aug 2 2011

    OK based on what I understood:
    1: Amazon said you weren’t going to earn any money from the promotion
    2: You agreed
    3: You didn’t earn any money

    How is this Amazon’s fault?
    Showing the price that you would have earned is a nasty bug but it doesn’t really mean anything – it’s not like all those people were going to pay for the app so the money wasn’t ‘lost’.

  25. Justin
    Aug 2 2011

    Wow, really sorry to hear about your experience. I feel good now that a friend referred me to your app in the Android Market and I happily purchased it there so you get at least a little money from me for all your hard work.

    Love your app! It’s made my podcast listening experience a real pleasure, thousands of times better than the other options out there for Android! I didn’t even know there was an iOS version of it too, so I’m off to purchase that now as well!

  26. Aug 2 2011

    FWIW, I download almost every free app of the day, and I use almost none of them… in fact I couldn’t tell you one, besides Angry Birds, that I’ve touched more than once. I didn’t bother with Pocket Cast as I haven’t listened to a single podcast in my life.

    Having said that, my assumption has always been that the developers get nothing other than the exposure, and that developers had to request to be the free app of the day. I thought if Amazon were going to pay anything at all it would be more along the lines of 1c per download at most.

    I found it surprising that Amazon sets the pricing. I figured you had no control over when they’d discount it, but not what your regular price is. In hindsight this explains some of the rather goofy pricing that I’ve noticed.

    Anyway, the next time I’m browsing through Google’s marketplace, I’ll pick up a copy of Pocket Weather AU.

  27. Aug 2 2011

    +1 for the comment from @Kiz . They presented terms that were not very agreeable to you, you went ahead and agreed anyway, and now you’re unhappy with the consequences. That is your fault, not theirs.

    By the way, I have had no assumptions as to whether Amazon pays developers featured on the store, and I’ve never seen any misleading public claims from them. So using terms like “underhanded” and “back door deals” are a bit unfair, in my opinion.

    Some of your other criticisms of how they run their app store (e.g., modifying the app description, no crash reports) are fair and valid — and would concern me both as a consumer and as an app developer.

  28. Stationstops
    Aug 2 2011

    The free giveaway is a perfectly legitimate and quality promotion – for the right apps …but from what I understand, it was optional, as is participation in that App Store.

    That doesnt make Amazon ‘rotten’…Android paid app sell-through is relatively dissapointing compared to iOS. Many would agree that the Android Marketplace approach is at least part of the problem. Amazon is taking a different approach based on years of experience to change that, which is why Google allows different app stores. It isnt for everyone, and thats OK.

  29. twri
    Aug 2 2011

    In number of apps, Amazon’s appstore has been growing slowly.

    http://www.simplerna.com/2011/07/amazon-tablet-amazon-appstore-ready_14.html

    Is the curation process slow?

  30. Aug 2 2011

    As we said in our post, we deserved what we got, because we did indeed agree to it. The email we got from Amazon though is not public knowledge, in fact at the bottom it says it’s not to be shared. How is that not a private deal?

    We’ve talked to a good 50 people via email and Twitter before posting this. Not a single one of them knew that developers didn’t get paid, and most assumed the 20% thing, which was widely touted by Amazon when they first launched the program. That’s not a statistically significant number of people of course, but it did lead us to believe that’s what people were genuinely thinking.

    You’ll also notice we didn’t blame Amazon for what they did to us, we’re blaming Amazon for how they are treating ALL app developers. Sending them private agreements, and altering their public terms. Then making the developers keep those agreements private so they can build their app store off these hard working developers backs. If that doesn’t outrage you, then fine, but it angers us to no end.

    In other news: thanks to all your kind words of support via Twitter and email. This really is a genuine attempt by us to change how Amazon operates, and to raise awareness, and we mean what we said about refunding the purchase price of any of our paid Amazon customers who switch to Google.

  31. dado
    Aug 2 2011

    this makes some sense if Amazon is counting on the people that like the app spread the word about the app…but in that case they have to be clear about their intentions.

  32. Aug 2 2011

    Just switched over to the Google Market version. I love the app, and please keep supporting Android!

  33. Dan Cummins
    Aug 2 2011

    If Amazon paid you a $54k commission for your content for that one-day free promo during which they took in nothing from the end user, I would sell my AMZN shares if I were a shareholder. You develepers are partners with Amazon on their app store, and you all bear the costs of promoting it. Are you somehow upset that 100k customers have your content and didn’t pay you? They didn’t pay Amazon either.

  34. Aug 2 2011

    @shiftyjelly : You acknowledge that “perhaps” you deserve what you got, but you refer to that as a “counterargument.” And this point is one sentence at the end of your long criticism of Amazon. I took this at a point to head off and defuse that response, rather than as a statement of what you truly believe.

    As I said, I think several of the overall criticisms of the App Store are valid. But unless we’re talking about a monopoly situation, I’m not outraged by a scenario where a party knowingly enters into a contract that includes up-front terms that are disagreeable to them.

  35. Dan Cummins
    Aug 2 2011

    I should have added: I totally get that Amazon is an under-regulated near-monopoly in the U.S. As a citizen and taxpayer, I want them taken down. I am not a developer and I have never walked a mile or even to the bus stop in your shoes. There is no percentage for typical or even above-average-capable small businesses competing with or partnering with large multinationals, of that I am pretty confident.

  36. Aug 2 2011

    I feel double bad here. I am one of the 100k who downloaded your app the day it was the app of the day. I had (and am currently) using a different podcast app, but was hoping for something a little better at managing feeds. I was mostly pleased with what I had and had paid for it. So I wasn’t actively looking for a new app. I thought I’d try out Pocket Casts. I found the interface excellently designed. I did however have trouble with it running on my OG Droid. I even submitted one of the hundreds of emails thinking the feedback would be useful.

    The first reason I feel bad is that I was going with the assumption that Amazon would pay a percentage of the cost of the free app of the day to the developers. It was a bit of a stretch, but at the same time I figure Amazon could take a small bite for each app and that they would probably be raking in loads of $$$ from overall sales. That was a bit optimistic on my part I guess. I didn’t bother to investigate further.

    The second reason I feel bad is that since I was never able to get it to work I removed it.

    I will check back occasionally to see if the issues have been worked out for the Droid though.

  37. Aug 2 2011

    Also, I’m ditching the Amazon app store.

  38. Aug 2 2011

    Well, try FreeAppADay for the iOS AppStore – They *charge* you USD 3000 to make your app free for a day.

  39. Dan
    Aug 2 2011

    I don’t get it. You were selling 0-20 copies a day and then received free advertising which saw 100,000+ people being exposed to your app and you are complaining? If just 50 of those 100,000 people give your app a good comment or mention it on a forum, or do a review, your sales will go up much more than it had prior to the App of the Day blowout.

    If you had been selling hundreds of thousands of copies already, then you would see no real value in giving your app away – then again, the creators of Angry Birds aren’t complaining.

  40. skylark
    Aug 2 2011

    Wow, the Amazon fanboys are frothing at the mouth, their inability to parse the context you explicated explains a lot.

  41. Aug 2 2011

    So basically somebody at Amazon heard the old joke “Yeah, we lose money with every sale, but we make it up in volume!” and decided to let publishers on their app store do that. :-)

  42. Aug 3 2011

    @shiftyjelly: “Not a single one of them knew that developers didn’t get paid, and most assumed the 20% thing, which was widely touted by Amazon when they first launched the program.”

    The people you talk to probably aren’t your typical Amazon or Android users. This post is the first time I’ve heard of this 20% deal, I had assumed developers got no money.

    @Dan Cummins: “I totally get that Amazon is an under-regulated near-monopoly in the U.S.”

    Near-monopoly of what exactly?

  43. Aug 3 2011

    “…then again, the creators of Angry Birds aren’t complaining.”

    @Dan : I would be surprised if the “free for today” Angry Birds promotion took place on the same terms as the app discussed here; I’m sure Amazon had to pay them a pretty penny for that deal, and did so for the promotional value associated with giving away such a well-known and high-profile app. Similar what what they did with their 99 cent promotion of Lady Gaga’s album recently: http://popcrush.com/lady-gaga-promotion-cost-amazon-3-million/

  44. ryanhosmer
    Aug 3 2011

    Bought your app for iPhone. Well done guys.

  45. Aug 3 2011

    May we see the followup numbers for the 2 weeks of the promo? “Blip” isn’t enough to base a real opinion on. If your sales went from 20 a day to 2000 – well, that’s a different matter than if they went from 20 to 40 then back to 20. Without those numbers, to be blunt, this smells more like a rant than an exposé.

    It is a pity that your app has backend scalability concerns; it means the 100k ‘sold’ on the free day have a real cost to you, which kinda screws up this sort of deal.

    It’s disappointing (but not surprising) to hear of the heavy-handedness of the rest of the amazon rules – but I can see, from their POV why most of them are there. Suddenly the Apple App Store isn’t looking so bad…

  46. Aug 3 2011

    Wow. IMHO, you should strongly consider a lawsuit.

    I have no idea why anyone would assume devs get no money; the “free app of the day” promotions are purely for the benefit of the store, just like “free album” promotions. You think Lady Gaga got no money?

    “A heated debate broke out in our office about whether we should or not. I was firmly against, my business partner for. In the end we agreed that we had entered the world of Android development as an experiment, and it would seem silly not to add more data to the experiment we were conducting.”

    Really unclear to me how you lost this argument, but I think you’ve earned the right to tell your partner “pay me $54k and we’ll do it your way” for a couple years at least.

  47. benjamin
    Aug 3 2011

    Amazon’s OMGFREEAPPZWHOA approach has always struck me as being a lot like Denny’s free pancake day: sure, maybe the concept is good, but then the reality sinks in and you start rethinking things. I have to admit, I buy a *ton* of stuff via Amazon, but this kind of thing starts making me think I should reconsider.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed your article and appreciate that sticking your neck out like this might draw the ire of Amazon. Like others have said, I bought Pocket Casts off of iTunes both to say thanks and, of course, because I enjoy podcasts.

    Best of luck to you and your team.

  48. Jacob
    Aug 3 2011

    Lol, don’t blame amazon because you guys were morons!

  49. Randy
    Aug 3 2011

    I’m confused.

    “The current price of this placement is at 0% rev share for that one day you are placed.”

    If that sentence is intended to mean that you will not receive any revenue, Amazon needs to hire some English speakers to write their emails.

    Of course: “We want to promote your app and in exchange of the placements, at the 0% rev share for one day only.” isn’t really a sentence at all…so it’s hard to tell what they are trying to say.

    I haven’t seen the developer agreement you signed, so I don’t know what special usage it might make of the terms involved, but emails talking about the “price of placement” being “0%” (of zero dollars?) don’t make a clear case for you here. Why would you expect the “price of placement” to refer to your cut in the deal?

    When I re-read all the material above, it looks to me like Amazon is planning to pay you. –but that would be insane! Pay out your profit share for a free promotion as if the customers had paid full price? Why would they do that?

    I don’t see a clear case for ire against Amazon here–just one company who sends poorly worded emails being railed against by another who writes poorly argued blog posts. I’ll reserve any emotional reaction until we see some good evidence and some solid reasoning -one way or the other.

  50. GQB
    Aug 3 2011

    Guys…
    I’ve been using your iPhone version of Pocket Casts (as have most of my friends, to whom I’ve recommended you) and think its flat out the bast podcast listener out there.
    So I’m sad that I now have to share your bandwidth with 100,000 freeloaders, and I’m very sympathetic about the scam you’ve endured.
    That said, you KNEW you were dealing with an environment built on entitlement and ‘free’. Why are you surprised that you’re getting dirty rolling around in the mud with them?

  51. Alleagra
    Aug 3 2011

    “I appreciate that Amazon is trying to build up it’s store:”
    No, it’s “its store”.
    It’s can only ever mean either “it is” or “it has”.

  52. JazzWar
    Aug 3 2011

    As much as I love BUYING from Amazon, they really screw the people who PRODUCE content for them to sell.

    While they pay content developers UP TO 70%, they pay some as little as 30%. They take 70%!!!! Yes, they provide a nice store, but they do this at scale. It’s not sustainable for the content producers to participate in a marketplace like this.

  53. AJ
    Aug 3 2011

    Thanks for posting this article. I am also a developer and was under the impression that when your app is free you get 20% of the sale price. Honestly I haven’t been impressed with the Amazon app store. My sales have been dismal compared to the Android Market. I’ve only had the review process go smoothly once for updates. It usually takes 2-3 weeks to have an update become live on the website. I also had a lot of problems getting the application submitted initially. It took about 4 months to get it live. When you factor in the annual $99 developer fee I would be losing money. I plan on leaving the Amazon app store after hearing this.

  54. Joe
    Aug 3 2011

    Great post. Just bought iOS Pocket Weather World. Nice app.

  55. Riyad
    Aug 3 2011

    I am of the opinion that you may be looking at this experience from the wrong angle:

    http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2837439

    (didn’t want to copy-paste here)

  56. Eric
    Aug 3 2011

    @shiftyjelly I’m someone who got your app for free from Amazon. I love it and want to buy it from the Marketplace. How is that going to work? Will buying it from the Market replace the Amazon version? If not, is there a way to avoid losing all my subscriptions?

    Thanks for building Pocket Casts, it’s so much better than Google Listen and well worth buying.

  57. Adam Dawson
    Aug 3 2011

    From what I see, most of the free apps get their ratings and reviews destroyed. People download a free app thinking it does something totally different and review it poorly. With that volume, the rating could probably never recover when it’s back on normal sales.

    They approved one of my apps back in April and I’m still waiting for it to go live. They say they have a backed up log for the in page live app process they use for some apps. Meanwhile, I’ve released many updates to the normal market version. When they ever do release my app, it’ll be so old. Very poor process for something I had high hopes for before.

  58. sydd
    Aug 3 2011

    Are you sure you came out so bad from this business?
    What happened on the 14 days after the free day? That statistic would be interesting to see – If you see increased revenue in the following 14 days, then it means, it was a good promo.

  59. Aug 3 2011

    While I agree that it was a crap deal, you can’t really bitch about having to pay for new server hardware. You knew what you were getting into – a *really* expensive way to collect more data.

  60. Ryan
    Aug 3 2011

    What Amazon does is petty freeloading on other people’s work. It’s worth documenting on the web that this is how Free App Of The Day actually works (for the small guys at least). What I find hard to believe, however, is that supposedly there was no visible positive impact on sales afterwards. You claim that there are about 200 users who paid for your application. Seeing ~40 sales prior to the FAOTD I find that very hard to believe. It’s even muddier since you’ve decided to cut the screenshot right after the FAOTD. :S

  61. Aug 3 2011

    I will not buy anything for app store. This hype about app store is unbelievable. Or wait to price little go down.

  62. Mike D.
    Aug 3 2011

    Guys,

    If you want to make money, please go to Apple App Store. If you want to make FREE, ad supported apps, remain in all Android stores. Please keep Android as FREE as possible!

    I know some might think that mine is an extreme view but it’s not really. Look at Marketplace… it’s mostly free apps and no developer can sustain themselves by making Android apps.

    So I implore you: KEEP ANDROID APPS FREE!!!!!!!!!!

    Mike

  63. Aug 3 2011

    Can’t believe it mentions $54,000 and you are actually getting nothing at all.

    I think people need to tell them how misleading this is, even though they probably know what they are doing is wrong.

  64. otakucode
    Aug 3 2011

    The app market is really a disgusting place. Developers do all of the work, and yet distributors still think they are entitled to a significant share of the revenue. They are not. Anyone can do distribution. Distribution used to be extremely valuable, but with the Internet it is completely worthless. An organization running an app store should be entitled to a 10% ‘finders fee’ (hooking up a buyer and a seller, this is a fair amount that has been used literally for thousands of years) and maybe another 10% for their services as an aggregation service, reviews, and things like that. But by no means should they ever be making more off of a sale than a developer. The developers are the ones providing the value that the users actually want to pay for, not the distributors. The distributors are filling a tiny role that almost anyone in the world could step up and do just as well for much less.

    Amazon is a public company. They are beholden to Goldman Sachs to produce unsustainable, ridiculous short-term gains. As a reasonable business or independent developer, you just want to be paid fairly. That puts you at odds with them. Their goal is to make sure that you are not paid fairly, and that they receive the largest cut, regardless of what impact that has on their future business. $1 today is better than $100,000 in 6 months to public companies. They have to bring in their quarterly results or else their shares get dumped and their companies value gets crashed overnight by Goldman Sachs. Don’t let that bullshit affect you, just don’t do business with Amazon. There is no reason why a competent app store should be run by such a large company with all kinds of overhead, conflicting agendas, etc. I don’t know if anyone is offering a reasonable store, but simply because the choices suck is not reason to justify you making things worse by driving more business to the bad choices.

  65. Aug 3 2011

    Amazon told you that you that they wouldn’t pay you a single cent. You agreed. Amazon’s terms may not be optimal, but in that case you just made a bad business decision. Deal with it.

  66. Bob
    Aug 3 2011

    Once I get paid (next thursday), I will re-buy from Google. I was under the impression that they paid developers for the free day. I will be removing the amazon app store as well, and rebuying everything I got through them free (Swiftkey, SoundHound Infinity and Shazam Unlimited) on Google.

  67. Aug 3 2011

    Wait… So has Amazon ever paid you anything, even for your straight up sales? If I read your post right you seem to indicate no. I still have (an uneducated) hunch that the $54k is coming your way – the 20% number matches, every other blog post, thread comment, etc… indicates this 20% payout, and as you’ve yet to be paid at all it seems as if “the check’s in the mail.” Let’s just hope that payment isn’t contingent on you remaining in the AppStore (kind of like a profit sharing payout for an employee of a company).

  68. L
    Aug 3 2011

    If I read correctly,

    Publicly amazon states that they pay developers for promotions.

    Later you mention that amazon has a public perception of paying developers.

    – which one is it? Public perception or where is the link where it states that amazon pay developers for the promotions?

  69. Michael Turmon
    Aug 3 2011

    The OP has said several times that their focus is on the phoniness of the “you get 20%” offer being made into “you get 0%”.

    Some commenters have missed this point and focused instead on the “you accepted their offer, and *now* you complain?” aspect of the story.

    I still think it’s OK to for the OP to complain. Amazon’s offer turned out to be a bad deal. It’s not totally obvious that it would be. So, let others learn from this experience to take an even more critical look at the deal.

  70. Aug 3 2011

    Please excuse me for not reading all previous posts.

    I received a free copy from the Appstore. I’m glad I found this post. I like the app and would pay for it, but I’m trying to figure out why I should give you money when you’ve shown that you don’t have any concern for your users. You’re faulting us for accepting something that you gave away for free. Now you want to have your cake and eat it too. Get Appstore publicity for $0 down, get more publicity by blogging about how crappy it is to get publicity, then ask everyone who got a free copy to pay for it.

  71. Honest john
    Aug 3 2011

    I hate to say it but 99% of those people that downloaded your app for free were never going to buy it in the first place. As a result, you now have people using your app that never would have in the first place and they are now likely to support you in the future if they enjoy your app. If they like your app, they will probably purchase it if they switch to or use another platform.

    That sucks that they didn’t pay you but you still got something valuable out of the situation. It’s similar to the argument for giving away free music online and why that works.

    Don’t mourn the loss of revenue you were likely to never receive in the first place and focus on the positive promotion and information you were able to get from the situation.

  72. Aug 3 2011

    You should instead of removing the application from Amazon, just update the Amazon version with advertisements. This will provide you with over 100,000 eyeballs on advertisements and end up giving you at least some revenue in return.

  73. ant1pathy
    Aug 3 2011

    Don’t be evil, right? I just bought your app for my iPhone. I don’t listen to podcasts. Wish you all the absolute best.

  74. Aug 3 2011

    Thanks for sharing this.
    I strongly disagree with your point of view but it’s great to have this type of information first hand.

    In the end you ran an advertising campaign that got you 100,000 downloads.

    If you cannot monetize the downloads, probably your app wasn’t a good fit for this type of promotion. The takeaway should not be that Amazon is evil for developers but that you have to be careful with the marketing you run. This just was an unprofitable campaign, something that happens all the time and it’s not fair to blame it on the publisher only.

    You are as much responsible as an advertiser.

    The way the earnings are reported by Amazon accounting is actually annoying but you should investigate if there is a chance to discount them from taxes as mktg/sales expenses.

  75. Aug 3 2011

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ve bought PocketCasts on the Market the day before this scam on Amazon happened. I’ll make sure to re post this everywhere, actually I’ve sent an email to CNET’s Buzz Out Loud Podcast, so as many as possible people hear about this.

  76. Bob Deep
    Aug 3 2011

    I believe the success of the free app of the day is highly dependent on the app. If its a game (and a cheap game at that), which has a broad audience, you should see greater success vs an app that has a limited audience like pocket casts i.e. my mom doesn’t listen to podcasts but she does play games on her phone.

    Real world example of how its suppose to work (and did work). I downloaded a game (Airportmania) as part of the free app of the day program. Loved the game, played it every chance I got for about 3 weeks. During the three weeks, I raved about it my friends who ended up buying the game. By my rough estimate they got another 17 downloads @ $.99 from me alone and that is only at the top of the pyramid (scheme).

  77. Hadn’t heard of you guys before this thing Amazon started getting blogged about. Love the idea behind Pocket Cast. Just bought it on my iPhone.

  78. Aug 3 2011

    1. Amazon can adjust price and description without developer consent.
    2. Doesn’t facilitate a path of communication between consumers and developers, crippling ability to support apps.

    These are the two biggest problems and thank you for being another voice.

    For what its worth, I am a google store purchaser that came indirectly through the free app channel. Many of android app review sites around the web just stalk the amazon free app channel and do reviews of those applications within a few days after their release. I had checked out the podcast app scene on android probably a year ago and wasn’t thrilled with the options. After seeing their favorable review of your app, I checked out your feature set and put my money down via the android market.

    For those who seem lost on how Amazon benefits from these giveaways since they don’t make direct sales money from them either, consider this: without the traffic from high quality apps being given away for free or highly discounted at their own whim, where would the amazon appstore be? They are attempting to be a compelling channel because that is a revenue source (% of sales) for them. Their investment to deliver this channel? Rework their existing web marketplace to accommodate it. So far they have diverted the advertising and promotion of their channel onto the backs of the developers who are building the apps that make the channel a viable revenue source to begin with. Again, Amazon has only reworked their existing marketplace… they haven’t even invested in the development of a consumer to developer communication platform, and so far they have been biting the hand that feeds it for its own promotion.

    Great app by the way. Really like the control and features to stream or download for later. The UI is also well thought out.

  79. Johnny
    Aug 3 2011

    i have no use your your app yet i just purchased it. go little dev teams!

  80. Aug 3 2011

    @Eric It looks like the shiftyjelly guys have gone to bed (or gave up trying to defend their position to Amazon fanboys). Here are the steps they emailed me when I asked the same question:

    We should probably document this, but until we do:
    – You jump into the settings tab, and export all your subscriptions from there (you’ll get an email with an opml file attached)
    – Once you delete the app, and re-install from Google, you can import this file straight from your mail client

    Unfortunately you’ll lose your settings, and any podcasts you’ve downloaded. They’ll still be on your SD card, but the app won’t be able to ‘see them’.

  81. Aug 3 2011

    I see a lot of pro and con Amazon statements here. Here’s my 2-cents:

    – Be aware that you’ll get +100.000 downloads if you are featured like this in their App Store. Benefiting from the aftereffects is only possible if your business model has been verified. If not, you’ll end up like ShiftyJelly.

    – Amazon is indeed gaining traction on their store at the cost of naive and over-ambitious developers. Really makes me wonder: did Amazon give an estimate on the average number of downloads when engaging ShiftyJelly?

  82. X-Money
    Aug 3 2011

    Honestly, Amazon is not worth doing business with period. I recommend Apple iOS App Store there are over 222M iOS devices sold to date. Just you got to create something unique that stands out.

  83. Aug 3 2011

    Oh, and btw, it is clear to me that if Amazon did have the “20% of the asking price” in their terms, there is nothing in the snippet of email posted in the article that would change that expectation. The line says “The current price of this placement is at 0% rev share for that one day you are placed.” Current price of placement to me means cost owed by devs to Amazon. In other words, Amazon is not going to take a share of the sales for this one day. This does NOT mean that the dev will not make money. To say “well, you knew it before you agreed” is absolutely wrong. There is no change in terms based on that excerpt.

    In addition, as SJ noted in a comment, podcasting is kind of a niche audience. People who got the app either a) got it just cause it was free, or b) got it because they have a podcast client they want to compare to (which was me). This app will not bring a lot of people into the world of podcasting, so the long term benefits are almost nill.

    In fact, When I first got the app, and saw how much better than Google Listen it was, I emailed SJ asking if I could donate or something. Their response was “As for donating, the best thing you could do is wait until the Amazon sale is over (since we make no money from that), and tell everybody you know after that”. The problem was – I don’t have any friends who listen to podcasts! I did try a few times to say things like “Dude you have to try this app…” but they just wouldn’t understand.

    It is doesn’t matter what the app is, support speaks volumes as to the success level. SJ has that in spades. I can’t wait to see the next product they produce.

  84. Meijin Ryuu
    Aug 3 2011

    Interesting…

    However, I think the only problems Amazon is doing since they’re a private business that you’re not required to associate with (I’m not even gonna apologize: freedom of association is part of the freedom of speech) are that they’re not allowing you to set your price, your description, and that not only can you not opt-out of promotional events, but that it’s a ‘default opt-in on promotion’ process.

    With that said, I hope your product endures well.

  85. Aug 3 2011

    “Did the exposure count for much in the days afterwards? That’s also a big no, the day after saw a blip in sales, followed by things going back to exactly where we started, selling a few apps a day. ”

    I smell something fishy, why don’t you put a screenshot proof of the ‘blip in sales’ afterwards? I think it would be the proper thing for people to know if you got rewarded with 10 times your normal sales the next day.

  86. Aug 3 2011

    Even if we look at this experience as the dev making a mistake, I’m struck by the implications of having a $54k “earnings” column in this case. If they quote this as earnings to anybody that is legally entitled to a reasonable answer, then that seems really crime-ish. It doesn’t seem legal for a developers to count that huge amount as a marketing cost or a loss either. The language in the email is intentionally confusing for sure, in the hopes that you will proceed with nagging hopes that that the false public impression is the correct one.

    Free download exposure is mostly a curse. The good users get drowned out by the high maintenance mob that comes with the bargain. In exchange for hitting the top of the music section, I instantly got my almost perfect rating vandalized by a mob of spoon-fed freetards who download things without reading descriptions or following provided links. The free exposure’s main usefulness is in getting hooked up to a community that will buy the next paid app.

    I personally think a bottom non-zero price should be in place in app stores (even if it comes out of a prepaid amount you have when you set the account up) so we don’t have to make this Faustian bargain. The difference between $0.01 and $0.00 is always going to a hundred-fold in downloads because of the psychological distinction of making payment; and it’s disconnected with the reality of the difference in price.

  87. Aug 3 2011

    And — Amazon is screwing up their whole recommendation engine, diluting their data with these 100k per day “purchases” of free downloads. When I go to Amazon and see the App of the Day, the section showing Customers who bought this App also purchased… shows recent Free Apps! How does this help?

  88. Tom
    Aug 3 2011

    “thanks to Amazon’s secret back-door deals, we made $0 on that day.” How could this possibly be a secret if they told you about it and you said yes? How could it even be a surprise?

    You agreed to give away a product that would cost you money to upkeep and then you’re crying.

    I also like the part where you showed your sales before the promotion then didn’t bother to show anything after, are you afraid that it might show something positive?

  89. Thomas
    Aug 3 2011

    “It is a pity that your app has backend scalability concerns”

    Every one has if their volume of traffic grows in factor of 100 000 overnight. Even on those ‘scalable’ systems.

    Claiming otherwise shows that claimer is working in sales department, not on back end systems support.

  90. jag
    Aug 3 2011

    “We would have done if our public agreement was in place”

    I’m afraid I’m not following that part of what happened. Do you just mean you would have made 54k if there were actual sales? I didn’t see anything in Amazon’s email to you that indicated you would receive any cash. Exactly as it sounded to you on first read (judging from your response to Amazon). Amazon’s second note didn’t say your interpretation was incorrect; they just reiterated their proposal.

    I feel your pain, but I don’t see where they did anything underhanded.

  91. jag
    Aug 3 2011

    Oops! Sorry; missed this line:
    “Publicly their terms say that they pay developers 20% of the asking price of an app, *even when they give it away free* [emphasis added]“

  92. Aug 3 2011

    i dunno, sounds to me like if you happen to have a valuable brand like lady gaga or angry birds, then it makes sense for amazon to pay you to get broader exposure for their marketplace. If your brand isn’t as valuable, why should amazon pay you for it?

    If you get exposure for your product/brand from the amazon free giveaway, then maybe the chances increase that 6 months, a year, or more down the road you’ll also have a brand that’s worth being paid for.

  93. ShiftyJellyLover
    Aug 3 2011

    Can you please post your sales numbers from the amazon/android market tomorrow.

    I am sure you are going ecstatic again over the number of sales.

    Great Marketing Guys! Bad Mouth Amazon for not being able to read! :D

  94. rskx
    Aug 3 2011

    So before the promotion you had 38 sales and since have a total of 200. So that is 168 sales over the proceeding 5 days. Isn’t that an acceptable increase? 100,000 extra downloads gives your app a lot of credibility it wouldn’t otherwise have gotten in such a short period of time.

  95. Adrian
    Aug 3 2011

    “Amazon is trying to build up it’s store”

    It’s “its” not “it’s”…

    Oh and please enough with the whinning, they didnt make a penny off yr app from that promo either. The promo that you willinglly agreed to, knowing (and indeed CONFIRMING) the terms before you signed up for it. In fact, it cost them money to support all those downloads of yr app and that’s what they had proposed all along: free publicity for a free app. And again, you AGREED to those terms so don’t attribute being naive on your part to malice on theirs.

  96. Aug 3 2011

    It’s a matter of supply and demand: in this case the supply of apps is greater than the demand amazon has to fill their one-app-a-day promotion. If you don’t like the terms they’ll move on to some other sucker to give their app away for free.

    And, my god, did you think for a second how expensive that would be for amazon if they actually did give 20% of the purchase price for 100,000 free copies of an app that normally moves a dozen or fewer paid copies a day? That would run into the millions of dollars annually, why would they do that?

  97. Aug 3 2011

    This is truly horrible :-(

    @Dan Ravio clearly got themselves their own deal. Angry Birds is free on the Google store anyway, they would have no reason to complain about it being free anywhere else..

  98. Aug 3 2011

    Well, first off, thanks for writing the piece. There has been a dearth of posts — good, bad or ugly — about how Amazon’s App Store is working out for developers.

    I will say, however, that choosing the title “rotten to the core” is a bit much in that it’s link-baity at best and sour grapes at worst.

    Save for the inability to remove apps (which is a shocker, if true), and what seems like double-speak by Amazon on the 20% cut, it sounds like your main quibbles are that you disagree with their approach, and the results it yields.

    That’s totally reasoned, but hardly merits a “rotten to the core” mudsling, IMHO.

  99. atc
    Aug 3 2011

    Why didn’t you post proof of the sales returning to “normal” after the free-promo-day?

  100. xmichaelx
    Aug 3 2011

    It’s difficult to see something as “predatory” when the only action you needed to take in order to opt out was “do nothing.”

    You took the Amazon gamble and lost. The free app of the day is obviously something that only benefits ad-supported apps. Why would you agree to this?

  101. RWP71
    Aug 3 2011

    Boo hoo…get over it, You got free exposure and now you are complaining…maybe next time get a lawyer to read the contract for you.

  102. JD
    Aug 3 2011

    @ Kent

    ” Well, there is one positive here. You can take that $54,000, categorize it as marketing expense and offset income you earn from iOS on your taxes. If it offsets more than your income, you can take the rest and use it as loss carry forward on future years taxes ” You are 100% dead wrong! – the 54K is not an expense! Why are you giving out incorrect info? – Tax Preparer at H&R?

  103. Aug 3 2011

    OMG! What a complete and utter rip-off! I can’t believe that Amazon thinks that controlling how much apps sell for without the approval of the developer is a good thing.

    You have every right to sue them for the money that they owe you for giving away the 100,000+ apps and not giving you the money they agreed to in the developer agreement you talked about.

    I can’t believe that Amazon has any software to put into their store with such an agreement!

    I’m really sorry that you guys were screwed that way and I hope that moving back to the Android Marketplace will get you some sales.

    I don’t own an Android phone, but I just read about your store from Daring Fireball, an Apple centric blog, but they like highlighting stories like yours.

    Good luck…
    Dave

  104. bfried2
    Aug 3 2011

    Just uninstalled my free Amazon app and bought Pocket Casts from the google market.

  105. numpty
    Aug 3 2011

    To be somewhat fair to amazon, they gave you the option of being featured, and made it pretty clear that you’d get no money that day if you agreed. So having agreed, you don’t really have any grounds for complaint… it’s entirely up to you to decide whether a day’s free publicity is worth it in the long run.

  106. Tubby Bartles
    Aug 3 2011

    The focus of your post is on something a little misleading. Amazon didn’t give away 101K downloads of an app that people would have paid for. Had Amazon not featured you that day, you would have gotten probably 20 sales, like every other day. Since that’s what your downloads returned to afterwards, your “lost revenue” was 20 * $2 = $40. (Your costs are a different story, which makes free giveaways untenable for a company like yours – many apps don’t have server side costs).

    The more balanced critique of Amazon is that the spot is worthless as marketing to “traditional apps” (social apps that can jumpstart a userbase are perhaps different).

    However, if you have no costs, given your own statement, it looks like the lost sales of people having it for free is offset by the promotions given that you settled at the same level of sales after the promotion. If you didn’t have support & server costs, it would have been 0 cost and 0 benefit.

    That still sucks, but that would have been titled “My Amazon marketing experiment that failed and what you can learn from it” rather than this intimation that Amazon is stealing things from you.

    Amazon clearly can’t pay for the spot – they’d have to allocate $18M a year if they were giving away $50K every day.

  107. Greg
    Aug 3 2011

    The biggest problem I have here is that Amazon is promoting Amazon. All the while leading consumers to believe that the developer is being paid for the sales. They end up looking like the good guy and supporting their developers. This is very misleading to consumers.

    Apple, despite some seemingly annoying policies, does support it’s developers.

  108. Aug 3 2011

    I don’t know where the Amazon App Store got this reputation as a solution to the problems with Google Market. I find the interface and features to be consistently worse than Google Market’s. The ONLY reason I ever visit the Amazon store is for the free app of the day. Any apps I’ve actually purchased have been through Google.

  109. bunny
    Aug 3 2011

    Don’t believe the Apple fanboys who claim that Apple fanboys are the only ones willing to spend cash on apps.

    I have an iPad2 and it will never have another app. It was purchased as an educational toy for my four year old and it will remain that way. I am severely displeased at the way Apple have treated my wife and I as customers, just to be allowed the “privilege” (sarcasm) of purchasing things on their iHawker market.

    I have yet to buy an Android tablet. I am looking for the software first. I am actually willing to pay $40 for an Android App that allows me to completely control windows and osx apps… One that has professional features (no, there is nothing there yet, I am currently trying to convince a few app makers to consider creating a pro version of their remote software). Once I have this “killer app” (for me it is killer, as it would make the Android tablet more useful than a $7000 custom keypad… I expect thousands of Premiere, After Effects, Nuke, Final Cut, Maya, Blender, Project Messiah, Photoshop, Davinci Resolve, Corel Painter etc. etc. etc. graphics professionals and video editors would also be willing to pay $40 for such a tool… not to mention tens of thousands of hard core gamers who use custom macros and shortcuts in game) I will purchase the tablet that runs it best, and then I want to add a series of PAID applications that will add functionality to the Android Tablet.

    Android users have cash and are willing to pay. Maybe we are not just mindless morons who impulsively buy the shiniest bauble that is shoved under our noses by a shameless iPeddler? Maybe we are just more discerning and ask for applications that are BETTER than the shiny baubles the iPusher is offering at rock bottom prices?

  110. dev
    Aug 3 2011

    Did you first read the email they sent you before you accepted the offer? It clearly stated you would be making 0% rev.

  111. bob
    Aug 3 2011
  112. Aug 3 2011

    It certainly seems like the entire “Mobile App” industry is excessively exploitative of the third party developers whom make the platform attractive in the first place. I can see the day coming (very soon in fact) where one of two things will happen:
    1) Sanctions will be placed on mobile platform providers (iOS, Android, WP7) prohibiting them from these exorbitant restrictions (and non-performance-based royalties)
    2) Developers will simply abandon mobile App development entirely, in favour of developing Web Apps instead (with no middle-man to dictate what you can and can’t do, or take an excessive chunk of your revenue)

    Personally, I opt for the latter! I’m tired of having my hands tied by so-called “publishers” who would happily steal our hard work, stick their own label on it and call it their own. Equally, I’m tired of having my hard work exploited by the publisher to my financial and creative detriment.

    I’ve always been dubious of Amazon’s Android market, ever since I was told that uninstalling their market from your Android device means that any apps you’ve purchased through it will cease to function.

  113. Aug 3 2011

    I tried pocket casts because it was free, after having given up on listening to podcasts after trying to use the abomination that is Google Listen. I wouldn’t have bought it, but since it was free I figured I’d grab it.

    It’s fantastic… it’s designed to work exactly how I want, which oddly seems really rare amongst podcast apps (which I don’t get, frankly).

    I want to support you by purchasing the app but I can’t on my device — it shows as Installed in Android Market. I also don’t want amazon app store to get in a fight with the market version. So, I’d suggest posting a little how-to so I don’t lose my subscriptions/settings. Seems like from some of the comments, other people are curious on it too.

    I’m not sure how I fully feel about your actual complaint (though I respect that you are accepting responsibility in agreeing to the terrible deal in the first place). It’d be nice if you shared your post-promotion sales, to give some idea of what you mean by ‘little bump’. (Since you’re so free with your stats otherwise).

    I’m glad you aren’t pulling support from us who got the app free, and I’d actually recommend adding a little notice / self-promoting ad just saying “no updates from amazon anymore, if you want ‘em buy the app from market”. If you can get that approved, at least.

    Anyway — tell me how to “upgrade” and I will. I want updates and I also wanted to support you for making such a great podcast app.

  114. Sam
    Aug 3 2011

    Hey, interesting post, and I just want to say it made me uninstall the free amazon market version of pocket casts and buy it off the market. Not that it really changes anything, but I do like to support developers, and that makes me mad that you actually came out with a loss on this (so far).

  115. Nick
    Aug 3 2011

    Longtime user of your app on the iPhone. It is always running in the background and is one of my most used apps. Whenever I’ve had an issue, my email gets a very quick response, even on the weekends. Keep up the great work.

  116. Aug 3 2011

    As a developer, I have been avoiding the Amazon app store for several of the reasons the you mentioned. The fact that they have the authority to set the price for developer’s apps is a deal killer for me. The incentives don’t line up, since they are interested in maximizing profit for the store as a whole, even it it is at your expense.

    That said, the free app promotion doesn’t sound like a horrible deal.

    I have run similar promotions for my iPhone apps with a site called Free App A day. You change the price of your app to free for a period of time, and then pay them to feature it on their site as the free app for the day. The promotion did a bunch to increase exposure for our app, but it cost several thousand dollars in addition to the lost revenue from making the app free for a time. My point is that other sites actually charge money to participate in a free app promotion, and in this case Amazon gave the developer the option to participate or not.

  117. mikle
    Aug 3 2011

    I was looking for a podcast catcher for the Android for a while. So maybe the Amazon sale didn’t do you any good, but this blog did. I hope it’s as good as one I would have written can be, or I’ll be sending you feature requests :)

  118. Aug 3 2011

    Have you considered a class action lawsuit?

  119. Another Amazon developer
    Aug 3 2011

    I work for a company that’s porting games to kindle. It’s just as bad on the kindle side. No control over your game description, when your product is released, and you can’t update it when you want to.

    And the big lie “this price is set by the publisher” but if you don’t set the price that Amazon wants they won’t release it. You can’t change the price without Amazon approving it.

  120. Aug 3 2011

    Seems like the move is to make a ‘Lite Version’ of your app for the Amazon store to raise awareness and upsell to the real app within the Lite App itself.

  121. Aug 3 2011

    “The day after saw a blip in sales,”

    How many were sold on that day?

  122. shaun
    Aug 3 2011

    Never heard of the software before, have bought it in response to your blog. Best of luck, I will avoid Amacon if they open up in the UK.

  123. shaun
    Aug 3 2011

    Best of luck. Have bought it and will avoid Amacon.

  124. Steve
    Aug 3 2011

    Maybe you should learn to read the terms of service before hosting your app on Amazon. This is fully the developer’s fault. Amazon has no blame here.

  125. Tadhg Kelly
    Aug 3 2011

    Um… it sounds like you’re focused on the wrong thing. Thanks to the promotion you could have access to a base of 100,000 customers, which is really cool if you know what to do with it.

    Too many developers are focused on ‘money now’ and miss the larger opportunity.

  126. Chris
    Aug 3 2011

    Seems like Amazon was pretty clear…0% or revenues on day one and that’s what you got. Seems rotten that you agreed and expected something different.

  127. P.N. Vilevac
    Aug 3 2011

    As an Android adopter, I was under the impression (clearly mistaken) that Amazon’s Free App of the Day fees would be paid from Amazon’s marketing coffers and that the developer would be paid the same commission as if the app was being sold at full price. That impression was based upon the initial release of the Amazon app store (need to find their announcement, but the essence was “Amazon is giving away [not the developer] an app a day for free as a way of promoting Amazon’s app store”. Just when I was starting to think of Amazon in a positive way.

  128. Joe
    Aug 3 2011

    Real shame that this happened shifty. Pocket Casts is an app I use daily and if given a chance I’d double buy it! IOS version BTW ;)

  129. Aug 3 2011

    While I can admit that you agreed to the 0% deal, I still think that’s pretty bad on Amazon’s part. I had always assumed developers always got the 20% at least.

    I already thought their deal was pretty shady “we price your app for lower than anywhere else and reserve the right to lower it down to the point you only get 20% of that”. The exposure aside, their variable pricing deal is far worse than the google market deal. They are using your app to advertise their store and you pay the price because the only thing it costs them to drop the price of your app is some bandwidth. As a developer myself, I always purchase from the google market because of this pricing, even though the market is more expensive.

    Thanks for bringing this to light.

  130. jon who
    Aug 3 2011

    Amazon is selling exposure with this promotion but you seem to have carefully avoided showing any sales numbers for the week following the promotion across either app store. You’re only telling half the story which makes you seem rather Shifty. :P Seriously.

  131. deleteme
    Aug 3 2011

    Your absolutely crazy not to take this promotion as a gift. 1. What is 100,000 downloads to the number of total Android activations? 2. For the “most of these people who want our app, now have it” comment, im willing to guess that < 5% knew of your app before they saw it in amazons free apps. 3. As said previously, you just got 100,000 people checking out your app and 3 days featured on the front page of Amazon with the likes of Angry Birds and whatever weird ass games. Its heard to get better promotions than that. Why do you think Groupon and sites of the like are so successful. Those are all companies taking a cut for the advertisement. If your product/service is worth a crap, word of mouth will be successful and ultimately profitable. 4. For the "Amazon re-writes your description, and in ours they even made up things like ‘add up to 100 podcasts’. No idea where on earth they got that number from" bullet, I see on your android market description "Features:- Instant refresh: Refresh 100 podcasts in the same time it takes other apps to do 1! (our server monitors your feeds, so your phone doesn't have to)". Im guessing that is where it came from, not saying they were accurate. – What you are trying to do is support an app store which should give a higher percentage of revenue back to the developer or support the developer in a better manner than the standard android market. Sometimes that support also requires commitment from the developers also.

  132. Aug 3 2011

    That blows. Try advertising on reddit. That’s how i found this post and I’ve been looking for a podcast app for android so i’ll probably be purchasing!

  133. Nargg
    Aug 3 2011

    You can always say “NO!”. Gees this post is stupid.

  134. Joel Rees
    Aug 3 2011

    Looks to me like they’re trying to use the same agreement for apps with little prior exposure, where the devs would have reason to shoulder the costs, and for apps that are already popular, where the devs would have reason to claim that Amazon gets significant value from the exposure.

    And that would be why it is so hard to parse the agreements. Definitely something they need to fix. And I must say I can’t see any reason to tell you how much money you didn’t make unless they are doing as some have suggested and creatively reporting income.

    Imaginary income. No wonder the artists’ associations are so confused about the difference between not selling a CD no one has heard of on the one hand, and not selling a thousand CDs that contained songs that had been downloaded, but then selling ten CDs to people who liked what they heard.

    I’m going to blame this mess on salesmen who can’t tell the difference between real and imaginary money.

  135. Aug 3 2011

    I came across a link to this story, and you have my sympathies. I’d buy your app, but I have no need for a podcast client on my Android. If it was something else, I’d buy a sympathy copy.

    I appreciate your support of Android, in any case, and I and many others are very much in the habit of buying Android apps.

    Good luck!

  136. Samantha Samster
    Aug 3 2011

    Have you tried WP7 yet?

  137. Aug 3 2011

    I actually grabbed your app when it was available for free, and only a week or two later decided to buy it from the Android Marketplace because I hate having to update and install through the Amazon App. Plus, I have had a lot of back-and-forth with you guys through e-mail about issues and suggestions for the app (PocketCasts), which still needs some work, but gets better and better with each update.

    Keep up the great work and you guys will definitely succeed.

  138. Dan
    Aug 3 2011

    What were the sales figures AFTER the give away? More than 20 I would guess…

  139. Johnny Confidence
    Aug 3 2011

    So they sent you a letter saying you would get $0, and you got $0, but you say their terms are secret and shady? Your upset that you got 100k+ downloads that were free, but that’s exactly what they told you would happen. How could they ever know how many you would get? Many of your complaints, about update times, and approval processes, appear valid, but your main complaint is that you rolled the dice (your words were experiment) and you believe that you lost. It’s your product, you went into it knowing that it would be free, and your server back end would need maintenance based on customer load. That’s not Amazon’s fault. That is poor vision and lack of planning on your end. In the end their letter said you would get 0 dollars, which you emailed and confirmed. You then went ahead and did it anyway and now that it hurts you are all up in arms. That’s a really sad attitude. I got your product on that promotion, and after using it recommended it to others. There is revenue that you can’t account for, word of mouth advertising. After reading this article though I’m not really interested in giving you money. I will however cease to use your app. Good luck on the iphone.

  140. kevin
    Aug 3 2011

    i will be purchasing your app via android market. thanks for the info!

  141. I don't get it
    Aug 3 2011

    I don’t get it. You knew EXACTLY what you were getting into when you agreed to give your app away for free. Amazon did not force you to do it or threaten you if you didn’t do it. So it turned out bad for you and now you are taking your ball and going home? How is Amazon supposed to stay in business if they pay every app developer 20% of something they get no revenue from? The bottom line is they gave you 20%. 20% of what they got, which was NOTHING. Stop complaining. Maybe if your app was better, word of mouth would have gotten you more sales after the free day.

  142. ondemanddesign
    Aug 3 2011

    Sure, it would be great if Amazon gave you the 20% for that day, but please see the reasoning. They are offering a deal, if they can get people sold on that deal without shelling out a dime then they are going to. If they were to do 20% to each developer each day it would quickly become a lose to the company’s revenue. Maybe a 1% or 5% might squeeze by. And it comes down to this. You are publicly complaining about a service that had full disclosure prior to an agreement. They clearly stipulated that you were to receive 0% for one day at the trade off of 100,000 people who may tell their friends about your awesome application. If even 1% of those people convince their friends to purchase your application then you will have a return of $2,700 USD. Are you so greedy and short sighted to see that this is possibly a great way to promote your product? Or is it that your application is not able to get people talking and excited? Get real, your business partner made the right decision.

  143. Aug 3 2011

    Guys cheer up and Move on, nothing in this world is Free.

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