The following is a guest post by my pal Sascha Fast, with whom I also work on the Zettelkasten Method project. Because of recent events in the Apple app ecosystem, he figured it's time for uncovering the truth behind popular arguments for subscription-based pricing. So, please warmly welcome Sascha! 👏
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I participate in this year's BundleHunt "Holiday Bundle" (running until January). I submitted both the Word Counter and TableFlip – mostly to see what happens.
The Bundle Experiment
I'll disclose the details of my calculation later. This is an experiment: does presence in a bundle with so many hundreds of thousands of subscribers affect my regular sales and visibility? Being part of the bundle is like advertising, only I don't really pay anything, I just make a lot less money when somebody buys the app from the bundle ($0.60 per license sold, or 97% discount for an app priced at $19.99). If the bundle sells 5000 times and 50% of bundles include one of my apps, that's about $47,000 I will thus have "spent" on marketing. Imagine that. What a crazy number!
"These 2500 people could've paid you $20 instead and you'd be rich!" – Not quite.
My tools are targeted at users with very specific needs. The bundle is mostly targeted at folks wanting to make a deal. It's people I may usually not attract at all. So even if I sell 2500 licenses through the bundle, I bet most of the customers will be people who wouldn't have bought the apps without the bundle. I don't really lose money if that's true.
Part of the experiment is to find out what kind of people are going to buy the bundle.
Bundle Customer Ethics
I said this sometime in the past already: if you care about 1 app in a bundle of 10 and don't want or need the other 9, contact the developer directly and ask for a discount. If MyDreamApp costs $50 and is part of a bundle for $20, ask the developer to buy the app directly for $20. This way they will make 10x more than from the bundle alone (ignoring bundle fees). That's infinitely more % than not having you as a customer at all. It's a good deal for everybody.
If you really do want to buy the BundleHunt Holiday Bundle because of the great offer, use this link and I'll get $5 extra as an affiliate. Merci beaucoup!
Last week, Red Queen Coder's blog post about iOS job interviews was discussed a lot. The interviewers asked her to sketch how to implement a linked list on a whiteboard. She couldn't. And thinks it is pointless. (I agree.) But then people on social media responded that she should just learn (that is: memorize) that kind of stuff to get a good job. Read her transcript, it's a well-written story of how a job interview and the onslaught by narrow-minded people who defend the status quo (and their own status as the establishment) made her wonder what's wrong with the community at large.
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So now you can place ads for your app to pop up in search results.
I don't like this move. Because it changes the chances of developers to make it in the list of search results. The App Store's aren't a great place to discover a fitting solution. Now, the search results aren't even guaranteed to be 100% relevant.
If I had the money, I'd use Search Ads to try to increase my revenue. Without money, you're screwed, though.
At least the pricing sounds good: you pay for a tap and you can put a daily cap on your ad budget. So literally everyone can try to use Search Ads to increase the odds. The thing is that each tap is priced according to the market, though. If your competitors are willing to spend a lot more than you, chances are a limited budget will not make it:
You determine the maximum amount you are willing to pay for a tap on your ad. Using a second price auction, Search Ads calculates the actual cost of a tap based on what your nearest competitor is willing to pay for a tap on their ad, up to your maximum cost-per-tap bid, so you’ll always pay a fair market price. (Source)
Apart from the amount of fairness of pricing and other technical details, I find the very move to place Search Ads in the App Stores troubling in itself.
For some reason, I couldn't find or load Dave Winer's comments, so I decided to blog about it instead: Dave reported that after announcing to shutdown of his outliner Fargo in 9 months, now users just get in touch with him for the first time.
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I found this on Seth Godin's Blog: A dollar more (vs. a dollar less): But what happens if Lyft (or your project) decides to race to the top instead? What if they say, "we're always a dollar more than Uber"?
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It started innocently enough, with a customer being confused about paying for "the same app" twice. Now I wonder if the traditional pricing strategy for software is obsolete. I found this on Twitter, and then I got hooked: @fehnman @ulyssesapp like I said, it's how you choose to sell it. +£50 for an app is pushing it.
—@eatmorefish (9:35 AM - 31 Jul 2016)
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David Sparks and Jason Snell started a new podcast about going indie in general called Free Agents. The first episode, The Temptation of Yes, is so packed with good stuff that I recommend you listen to these guys for 35 minutes.
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I was confused about the term "to hustle" for quite a while, probably because I'm non-native. I found it in various books about startups and solopreneurship, and from the context I deduced it might have something to do with marketing. Shawn Blanc was the first to make sense of this: it usually means to do a lot of work. To break a sweat working towards your goals.
Now there's nothing wrong with this. "If you want to succeed as hard as you want to breathe, then you will succeed." That should by no means entail you stop sleeping at all and wear your body down. After all, you and your body are one.
That's why I'd like to add a few items to Shawn's list:
- Start eating real food and stop swallowing garbage.
- Give yourself the chance to detox; remove everything that may affect your brain for a while – porn, social media, coffee, tea, sugar.
- Exercise and move every day. Walk for 30 mins if you can't muster the strength for anything else.
A lot of people I met in tech are interested in body-hacking, life-hacking, and the like. Optimizing sleep for example. Or ditching processed food because, you know, better focus and stuff. This is the search for technical solutions (stuff you set up once and then do it like an automaton) when the underlying challenges are those a corporeal life itself presents.
The fundamentals are the same no matter if you want to be a healthy over-performer in tech or a professional athlete: push your limits and swing the pendulum back and forth from stress to relaxation: Fast and eat; exercise and rest; work and meditate. Your performance is not only about how quick you can throw together a working app. It's also about how long you can excel at what you do before wearing out.
So take care, don't overwork, don't underwork, and push yourself on all frontiers in life at once.
As you may know, I'm totally immersed in getting TableFlip ready to ship. By some random circumstance, I recently stumbled upon Paul Jarvis's getting started post about online businesses.
I already read the hip books about startups: Startup Owner's Manual (meh), Lean Startup (ok), $100 Startup (inspiring), Lean Entrepreneur (meh), Running Lean (good one) – you name it. I still found Paul's action-oriented collection valuable to get started. It's the little first steps that matter which I tend to forget sometimes.
With TableFlip, I wanted to know if a visual Markdown table editor would be something people liked. So I put together a landing page for it and asked around. By sheer luck I managed to get 300 subscribers in about a month. I'm excited to show them the first test build. – Sadly, I cannot say that I have any fancy techniques to share. Being connected to other people that love to re-tweet your announcements or post links to their blogs helps a lot. Nothing else has had any effect for me, like, ever.
I posted a link to Joa Allen's recommendation to get in touch with truly loyal people with a free app MVP that solves 80% of their problems already.
The bottom line of all this is: Just. Do. It. You need feedback, so get something out as quickly as possible. Then you may be able to fend off starvation in the long run.
[U]nless your talent and skills absolutely dwarf those of your competition, the deep workers among them will outproduce you.
—Cal Newport, Deep Work
(via Shawn Blanc)
This is super relevant if you're on your own or even starting to pursue a career in programming. It doesn't matter how much time you spend. The intensity of focus counts. Call it myelin or what else you will: only deliberate practice will make you better. "Deliberate" means it's challenging. And that you pay attention to the challenge. That you elaborate why you failed. All of this takes a bit of extra time, but the result is so much better than simply dashing through and hoping for the best.
It's easy to leave the StackOverflow copy & paste \"\"coders\"\" behind.
That's why I find Khuong's 100 Swift projects or Patrick Bellot's experiments in Swift so impressive. Everyone can do that.
I know for sure that I need to pick up a book on Core Image and Core Animation sometime, soon, because I have no clue how to use these frameworks. It's not a blind spot. It's a known weakness. Doing a challenging project in these areas will catapult my skill further towards mastering the craft.
Here's my invitation to you: take a minute to evaluate where you stand. What does make you uncomfortable? Take note of that. Make these things projects. Then do or plan some research for each to find out how to tackle these known unknowns. Then execute.