Freemium won't solve your problems magically

Freemium is said to be a popular way out of the iOS App Store underground. Make your app freemium and skyrocket your downloads. Then sell cool stuff from within the app to unlock more features or buy expendable contents and services.

This doesn’t work for all things on the market, of course.

Shuveb Hussain wrote about his own freemium experiments and that he considers it a failure in his case.

Why did Shuveb’s app make less money with freemium than with a paid-up-front sales model? That’s hard to find out without more experiments, but unlike in science, I guess you can only have that many trials in the App Store before users stop to trust you.

Shuveb himself said multiple times that his app is really really niche-specific. His freemium model allows people to convert one article to Kindle per day for free; more cost money. Maybe his users need no more than one article per day, maybe often times even less. That’s possible but hard to say without analytics about usage patterns from within the app.

Even with app analytics, how can you find out usage patterns if people know they have only one shot per day and probably don’t open the app more often than that?

You can only compare to data from the less limited intro phase. Do users stop opening the app regularly after they converted their first 3 articles?

growing money
Photo credit: Euro Money in Pots by Images Money. License: CC-BY 2.0

Read Stuart Hall’s experiments with the vastly more successful 7-Minutes workout app. He switched to In-App Purchases and people loved it. He found folks liked buying features less than buying additional content. I try to keep that in mind because it makes sense, but then again, I’m probably biased towards the good story.

Finding out how to make money with iOS apps is pretty hard. Actually making money is easier if you have a huge following of people you can market to. It’s easier with a network of bloggers and journalists. It’s easy when your app doesn’t actually suck.

Well, of course it’s easier if it isn’t hard.

I believe in value of the craft. I have to in order to stay sane. But crafting alone doesn’t feed hungry mouths. It merely keeps me happy. We need a market, and we need to reach it, and we need to deliver timely. There’s a lot of uncertainty and pressure. Making apps freemium from the get-go might not solve any of our problems. We have to think twice about it, you and I and all the other indie app devs. And maybe hope for a niche of professionals who are willing to pay more. (Which is the other popular promise how to become successful.)