Hot or Not? The “chosen few” of the iTunes App Store

8. March 2011 § Leave a comment

So, have you ever wondered how Apple decides about what apps to feature on the iTunes App Store’s main page? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Nobody really knows, but observation teaches that an app fulfilling one or more of the following criteria is promoted more easily than others (though this is not based on a thorough scientific evaluation):

  • It introduces cutting-edge features (such as live translation etc)
  • It makes users’ professional or private lives more productive
  • It is published by a major media company
  • It is a money maker (for Apple and the publishers, by nature)
  • It is a game (app store marketing people seem to be big gamers)

Even if you think you’re doing great in some of them, there’s never a guarantee that you’ll show up in one of the big promotional spots on top (“iPhone/iPad App of the Week), in the “New & Newsworthy”, the “What’s Hot” or the “Staff Favorites” section. But one thing is certain: If you do, it will boost your app into perviously unknown territory. At the recent TOC Conference in New York, O’Reilly’s Ben Lorica presented data gathered during the first 30 months of the U.S. iTunes App Store. Some of his findings from data mining and interviews with app publishers:

  • Being featured by Apple is the greatest contributor to spiking sales
  • Shortly after being featured by Apple, most apps enter the Top 100
  • Across all categories, showing up in “New and Noteworthy” provided the biggest gains (+60 % for apps in the “book” category, even more in “education” and “travel”)
  • News apps benefit strongly from nominations under “What’s hot”
  • Filing a comprehensive update can help to get you into one of these lists

Looking at the much better relative performance of free versus paid apps (featured or not), Lorica recommended to give away your app for free and rather use the “in-app” purchase API to deliver paid content. You can find the entire presentation here.

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