So That’s Why It Was Called Pinprick!

Just over a year ago, I wrote a long post, primarily about my experience placing KIT (now Together) in a super-cheap bundle with MacZOT, and some other stuff that was going on at the time. Having a fairly modest blog readership and seldom any comments, I didn’t know the post would become so popular. That only happened when John Gruber quoted a section of it on Daring Fireball in a piece entitled Pinprick.

The aim of my post was to examine whether the MacZOT promotion had been worthwhile from my perspective as a developer, amongst other things. This issue was one of many that were hot potatoes at the time and thankfully seem irrelevant now. However, I intend to revisit the bundle matter, as I have the final piece of the jigsaw to put in place.

The Story So Far

A quick recap is needed. I had been approached by MacZOT, through a friend, to include KIT in a bundle, having recently re-launched the app after an 18-month break (due to the overwhelming popularity of my other app, Feeder). The StoryZOT promotion was a week-long mystery bundle of three applications to be identified on the final day. These were rooSwitch from roobasoft (which won an Apple Design Award at this year’s WWDC), hawkeye from nito and my own KIT. Purchased together, these three apps would normally have cost $69.85, but the bundle was priced at just $5.95.

That price should make it obvious that the point is not so much to make lots of money from the bundle itself, but to use the promotion as a way to gain exposure for the applications involved; to put them on the map, as it were. Regular sales should improve as a result of increased coverage and recognition. Many such bundle deals had been run over the course of that year, so one would presume they were successful.

In total, 1536 bundles were sold and I was paid a flat fee of around $1000 (I’m converting from British Pounds), roughly 65 cents per copy. The developers negotiated their terms individually, so I cannot say how much of each $5.95 sale went to them, but I understand my payment was typical.

KIT (including its successor, Together) is one of those applications that gets a lot of feedback, partly because its scope is broad but also because its users are enthusiastic. It took around 6 weeks to clear the feedback aftermath from MacZOT and the whole experience had devoured some two months of my time. As I said in the original post, regular sales of KIT remained constant. The objective, to gain exposure and thus increase sales, failed. In fact, sales only rose some 6 months later, when I released version 1.3 as part of its normal revision cycle.

Having gained nothing in material terms, the final argument in favour of massively cheap bundles was that it’s an investment of sorts. While not all users will stick with the application, many will potentially upgrade in the future.

KIT 1.2 was pretty fresh at the time, being one month old. I didn’t go into MacZOT with the mindset of finding future upgraders, as a paid upgrade was a long way off. I continued with my original plans, released KIT 1.3 and set about developing the 2.0 version for Leopard, which I renamed to Together.

One Year Later…

I released that last month, some 14 months after the StoryZOT. Together’s reception exceeded my expectations. I am always pessimistically optimistic about major releases; no wild sales projections, but vaguely confident that it’ll be worth my time. I had worked hard to prioritise the most-wanted feature requests and combine those with my own original ideas to create what I hoped would be an application with broad appeal that lost none of KIT’s original purpose or simplicity.

Having put the best part of this year into that version it is a relief that every user I’ve heard from tells me that even if it’s not perfect, it’s a very capable application and a compelling upgrade. The only irresolvable complaints have come from a couple of individuals upset that Together is a Leopard-only application. And on that subject, it’s important to consider that Leopard is not even two months old, which impacts sales figures somewhat.

I don’t collect data about which versions of Mac OS X my apps are running on, but on Dec 15th (the one month milestone), Omni Group’s statistics shows that Leopard accounts for 21% of their user base and Adium’s Sparkle+ statistics shows 25% of users on Leopard. If Leopard follows the trend of previous versions shown on Omni’s site, within 6 months around 90% of users will have moved to the new OS.

As I said, Together exceeded my expectations. Some 23% of KIT users that originally paid full-price have upgraded to Together 2.0 in the month since its launch on November 15. That 23% is pretty impressive considering it matches the number of users on Leopard, according to the mean average of the above statistics. I thought upgrades wouldn’t reach the 20% mark for a few months, due to the various factors involved.

The answer to the ultimate question is 0.65104167 2.669270834. That is the percentage of MacZOT users that have upgraded to Together in the month since its release. To put it another way, that’s 10 41 sales (at $14.95 each) out of the 1,536 total. It’s a small percentage, but I am grateful for every single one. I actually know a lot of my users by name and recognise many of these as enthusiastic KIT users.

The total made as a result of the bundle deal so far, before fees, is around $1150 $1613. One could argue that this is money I wouldn’t have earned otherwise, but it doesn’t exactly cover those two months of work. That time could have been used to produce the 1.3 version (that actually did increase sales) much sooner. This situation also snowballs, because the longer an app does not have a certain feature, the more you hear about it.

Some Things Work

MacZOT hasn’t run one of those super-cheap bundles for a while and they are a world apart from their regular promotions or the kind that MacUpdate runs on a daily basis, offering around 40% off where the developer receives the majority percentage of each discounted sale. I did one of those with KIT on MacUpdate’s Promo back in May and was happy with the results. Mind, that came about because KIT had been voted for by MacUpdate users who wanted to see it featured, so it’s not like they didn’t know about it already.

Likewise, MacSanta’s no-nonsense (and no middle-man) discounts and other well-priced promotions, where users can see what they’re getting and developers receive a fair cut of sales, can be an excellent way for buyers of software to save money while developers to make a little extra and gain some exposure for their applications. I actually made more from the main day of MacSanta with the 20% discount than I did from that week-long StoryZOT, with no noticeable increase in support emails. Give Good Food to your Mac has been fine too.

As for the super-cheap mystery bundles, a little arithmetic will show they are certainly good for the promoters. Judging by the upgrade figures, one has to wonder if they are any good for those who buy the bundles, but at least the outlay is minimal. As for whether these sorts of promotions are good for developers, even in the long run, based on this particular experience I really don’t think that is the case.

Update: Oops, I messed up a bit. I noticed this when zenrain posted a comment below and I didn’t see his name on the list. The actual figure is 41 (or 2.67%) not 10. Still poor, but not as dire. I’ve updated the above accordingly. Sorry about that.

(Technical explanation: turns out some records on the database had trailing whitespace/newlines, which caused them not to match, I ran the query again and double-checked with text files and grep).

24 Responses to “So That’s Why It Was Called Pinprick!”

  1. zenrain Says:

    “one has to wonder if they are any good for those who buy the bundles, but at least the outlay is minimal.”

    Well at least it was in this case. I originally purchased KIT as part of a bundle (I think it was the super cheap bundle but it was a while ago, so it’s all a little fuzzy now).
    At the time, I was pretty apathetic about KIT. I was using another program, and it was too simple for my needs.
    A year later and Together was released. I read the release notes, became fairly interested and knew I had a registration code lying around somewhere. After downloading it and trying it, I’d realized I’d found my new document organizing application, and immediately upgraded.

    I would not have noticed the new release if I hadn’t had some exposure to KIT from the bundle. Just thought you might want to hear from the 0.65104167 percent. :)

  2. david Says:

    I was another of the MacZot buyers. I was totally uninterested in rooSwitch but now use it on a weekly basis. Great for making the Address Book do what I want it, among other things. I didn’t care about Hawk in the least. I was enthusiastic about KIT but as time went on became less enthusiastic as its shortcomings became obvious and development lapsed. As I became more frustrated by my inability to make it work for me the way I wanted, I took a look at Yojimbo and eventually bought it. Had you not become sidetracked by other ventures and continued developing and refining KIT I probably would still be using it. I wonder how many others had similar experiences.

  3. Robb Irrgang Says:

    Let’s try and get all 10 bundle buyers to post a comment. I’m number two after zenrain. I’m sure Daring Fireball is driving traffic here. Two down, eight to go.

    When Together came out I eagerly upgraded. Kudos on the hard work… I barely recognize it as the same application. KIT definitely didn’t blow me away – to be honest, I saw it as a cheap alternative to Yojimbo, which, considering the bundle price, wasn’t that weird an observation. Together’s gotten things to, well, come together. Feels more cohesive.

  4. sally Says:

    I also got this bundle. KIT Is the only app from it that I ever used. However, it turned out to not suit my needs as well as Yojimbo, which I discovered later and of which I am a faithful user. Because I found Yojimbo in the meantime I won’t be paying $15 to update to Together at this point.

    I’m sure it’s a great app because even as I used it the periodic updates enhanced it greatly. Sorry the Maczot thing didn’t work out for you. It doesn’t work out for a lot of buyers, either. I’m over MacZot and am very skeptical of all of these bundles since Zot and Heist.

  5. Tom Reeves Says:

    I know this pain well of promises of riches to come. I posted detailed comments on your blog post on my blog (www.pwnership.com). Thanks for the details of the history. Best of success.

  6. Soukyan Says:

    I also purchased KIT as part of the bundle from MacZOT! I still check MacZOT and Mupromo for deals, but more often than not, it just isn’t worth it. The Give Good Food to your Mac is useful if you need a glut of apps, but quite frankly, I needed one from the entire list, and even that wasn’t a “need”. It might be better for new Mac users. As to the MacSanta promotion, again, it is probably better for new Mac users as I have already previously purchased most other applications and have what I need. Still, 20% isn’t bad, but I like a good bargain to get me hooked, which is why I purchased the MacZOT deal and which brings me back to K.I.T.

    At first, I used it daily and it functioned well. I had to adapt my style to it, but felt comfortable using it. What bothered me was that development seemed to slow to a halt for quite some time. I realize that you were preparing the 2.0 release, but this is the problem with small developers. My license entitles me to 1.x upgrades for free, but the paradigm in software has become, release, upgrades to release.5 at the most, and then do a new release and charge for the upgrade. Whatever the reasoning behind it, I don’t mind, but I do mind when the developer seems to drop off the face of the earth. The tells me that I cannot rely on the software to be maintained for the long term.

    Because of the lapse, I started looking for a replacement and ended up with two. I switched to DevonTHINK Pro for research and work, and Journler for personal writings. Of course, on a feature by feature comparison, those two don’t necessarily sit in the same application space, but I found that I was using K.I.T. for the sake of using it, and not because it served me. In any case, I downloaded the Together upgrade and will be giving it a trial to see what it has to offer, but I cannot guarantee an upgrade purchase. What I can guarantee is that my choice not to upgrade has nothing to do with MacZOT! and everything to do with the application and developer.

    I do understand your point that MacZOT! did not benefit you as you thought it would, but it isn’t entirely their fault or the audience of consumers that they attracted. I think as a whole, the bundle promotions seem to be disappearing. Of course, MacUpdate has been running a MUPromo for, what, two weeks now selling a bundle of almost $700 for $49.95, so I wouldn’t be so quick to suggest that MacUpdate isn’t guilty of the same sort of thing. Whatever the reasons may be, ultimately, the best developers and software will bubble to the top, discounted or not. Good luck and be well.

  7. robrob Says:

    getting linked by DF should drive way more sales than any shady promo “heist”.
    I had never heard of Together, but it looks cool and I’m checking out the demo.
    Keep writing good insightful blog posts that get sent around and linked about, and I bet you’ll make up those 2 missing months in no time.

  8. Dan Ridley Says:

    Hello! I’m one of the 97.33 percent. KIT was interesting to me, and caused me to rethink how I was handling a certain portion of my data, but the road that KIT put me on actually led me to buy DevonThink Pro Office in the end. $5.95 turned into $150, but KIT and the MacZot bundle led me to discover a whole class of software I’d been neglecting, so even had it just been KIT, the StoryZot was worth it for me as a consumer. (As it turns out, I use rooSwitch every day and I’m thrilled with it. Hawkeye was not useful to me.)

    I have sent a few people to check out KIT, though I don’t know if any of them bought it (I can think off the top of my head of three people to whom I suggested KIT, and I know one settled on DevonThink; I don’t know what the other two decided on). I view it positively and plan to keep an eye on what else Reinvented offers in the future.

    There were a few apps from the bundle Zots that I ended up using and upgrading (or will upgrade if new versions are released), mainly Soulver, MenuCalendarClock and Pzizz (and, as mentioned, rooSwitch). But I soured on MacZot after hearing about what happened with Garrett Murray and xPad, and I haven’t bought from them since then.

  9. Josh Says:

    Count me as another MacZOT KIT user that upgraded to Together. At first, I couldn’t figure out how to use KIT, not the physical application, but how *I* could use it. It was basically a solution looking for a problem. I wound up using it once in a while for specific “projects” I was tooling around with. I started using it more and more and leaving it open all the time within the past two to three months. When I saw that Together came out, and the changes/advances it had, I upgraded immediately because I knew that I would definitely use at least three of the major new features.

  10. Arash Says:

    Yeah, I’m one of the original MacZot bundle buyers. I actually did upgrade to Together, but by buying it from the Give Good Food promotion. It was cheaper that way. Does that count for anything?

    Now, now, I know what you’re thinking, and before you judge me as a frugal bastard too soon, I’ll have you know I bought two Feeder licenses.

    So there. That should easily pay for Mr. Harris’s Porsche.

  11. Dave Says:

    I’m another MacZOT purchaser and do use KIT. I think something that skews the data is that when we purchased, it was a real mystery- I wasn’t after a program like KIT (and had never heard of it), but of the three apps in that bundle it’s the only one that has proven useful to me. When you announced the upgrade I did some investigating and I really really liked what you’ve done in 2.0. But it just wasn’t for me. It’s not criticism of your design- I just wasn’t looking for a system-wide approach to everything. When you have people that buy something without knowing what it is, you’re going to get people that aren’t committed to your product. It’d be interesting if you were in a different MacZot promo where people knew they’d get your product to compare the upgrade rate.

  12. Tod Says:

    I originally purchased KIT through a MU promo in May. Like some, it was an application looking for a solution. However, I slowly began to use it on a daily basis. Then it became a “several times a day” necessity. I had several questions and Steve was very responsive and helpful in all cases. (This is one reason I really like buying from shareware developers. You start corresponding and you become “colleagues” of a sort.) When Together was announced, I jumped at it immediately, not because it fixed anything or because of a “gotta-have” new feature, but because it was a natural progression from KIT. I’m very pleased with it and am finding all sorts of new ways to use it. I was especially intrigued by Steve’s Tips series on this blog as it opened my eyes to potentials that I didn’t know I needed or existed.

    Incidentally, I’m retired and don’t need something like KIT/Together to hold a business together so I’m probably using for different things than many of you younger business/project-oriented users.

  13. Curt Says:

    Ummm, I also got via MacZot and upgraded. I didn’t use KIT much, as I found Yojimbo more useful. I upgraded, because I like some things about Together, yet I don’t find myself using it much yet. The ability to include media files is something that Yojimbo doesn’t do (except images), but Together lacks passwords and licenses – so I’m sticking with Yojimbo. I also can’t sync Together between my machines (though it doesn’t work well with Yojimbo at this point).

    But I’m not regretting my upgrade purchase of Together, because it’s a nice app and I want to support your efforts. I may yet integrate it in the future, so gambatte!

    MacZot didn’t make you much money, but it did give you exposure. I would note that MacZot does charge more for its sales recently – so maybe they will make some developers more than in the past.

    BTW, please correct Gruber as he used your old figures for % users upgrading.

  14. LKM Says:

    I got the app from MacZot, run Tiger, use the app almost every day, and have not yet updated; mainly because I did not have the time to check the update out. One of the reasons I haven’t downloaded the update yet is that the update is delivered with the normal update process, which I assume will replace my current version of the application, leaving me with no working version should I not find the update worth its price.

  15. Steve Harris Says:

    @Curt – I notified Gruber of my error at the time I posted the correction, so hopefully that will get updated.

    @LKM – FYI, the upgrade isn’t installed via the normal update process and the app was renamed, there’s no risk of overwrite your existing version. There are also measures to ensure your KIT library isn’t affected.

    More info here:
    http://reinventedsoftware.com/blog/2007/11/16/together-20-notes-for-kit-upgraders/

    Also, KIT is still available for download, links on the Together pages.

  16. Dance Says:

    [from DF, not familiar with KIT] I think 41 out of 1536 is a bit misleading…. Lots of the 1536 probably never used your program and didn’t affect your bottom line at all–they didn’t increase your support costs, and they didn’t wipe out a higher-priced sale you might have had otherwise. Can you track how many people contacted you for support on the bundle licenses, or how many of the bundle licenses bothered to download updates to KIT? Then you’ll have a better sense of the true impact. Especially if you can measure upgraders against people who increased your support costs.

    Great post, though, it’s really nice to hear about the developer perspective like this. The comments, too, are really enlightening about the habits of software buyers.

    I love bundles–I’ve bought three (not including yours), largely on spec, because I’m a cheapskate who likes to hoard software. I frequently don’t use the software, so I’ve had no positive or negative effect on most of the developers (in my view, anyhow). One thing I have noticed–I’m much more willing to invest the time to set up a specialized program and see how it works, when I’ve already bought the program and I’m not on a time limit. I download a lot of trial versions that I never get around to installing. I also have a lot of non-bundled-paid-for software that I wind up not making full (or sometimes even partial) use of.

    But if I’m contacting support at all (and I try to read Help first), I’m equally as demanding whether I’m on a trial version or a licensed version.

  17. Victor Cajiao Says:

    I just upgraded from a MacZot deal. Nto because of them but becaue your software has been great. I simply had not taken the time to do so. This story made me get it together and take the time. I love your stuff and have said so many times on the podcast. Rock on!

  18. TommyW Says:

    Another MacZot purchaser who upgraded to Together.

    KIT did answer my needs for a while but it wasn’t the program that I really needed and right now I feel pretty good that Together will grow to be just that.

    I’ve purchased a lot of info managers, DTPO, VoodooPad, Notebook… I tried Yojimbo but given that I owned KIT I felt no need to transfer and my experience with Mailsmith had made me wary of the developer, no updates in years…

    Together is a marvellous update. I love the drop tab and the pop out drawer. That, the tagging and the landscape view… perfect for what I want. I’ve a few things I’d like to see but in time I guess.

    I think developers don’t need MacZot or the like. Banding together a la MacSanta is definitely the way to go. No harm in the odd promotion but no need for it to benefit a third party to the extent that MZ set up.

  19. Harvard Irving Says:

    So, how many of that 2.6% of upgraders would have purchased together if they hadn’t been exposed to KIT in the first place because of the MacZot promotion?

  20. Harvard Irving Says:

    I do find Gruber’s position on this issue to be very strange. He screams bloody murder about MacHeist and MacZot – but then he promotes MUpromo and MacSanta on his site.

    Why the double standard? Does he just have sand in his vagina?

  21. Justin D. Morgan Says:

    I’m yet another macZOT purchaser that has upgraded to Together.

    I had never heard of KIT before StoryZOT, and I am not sure if I would have tried KIT otherwise. You see, I had just paid around $25 to upgrade to the latest version of a competing product (that I had only tried due to a .Mac promotion the year before). But since that company’s technical support was imploding, and their product kept crashing even after several updates, I tried KIT and never looked back.

  22. blogjunkie Says:

    Hi! First of all I want to say that John Gruber has some amazing powers. He mentions this blog and a obscure promo from last year and almost everyone who bought KIT is here and commenting.

    Well I’m another one of those people who bought the MacZOT bundle and subsequently upgraded to Together. I use it often to keep track of all my passwords and software registration codes.

    The fact is that for users outside of US and UK, your software prices are 4 to 7 times in our respective currencies. I guess I just have to live with it, but that means that I’m much much more selective about what software I try out and then eventually buy.

    While I think the MacZOT guys may be more interested in making money for themselves, you have to give them credit for achieving your original intention when participating in the bundle – promotion and publicity.

    I would not have heard about KIT if it had not been on MacZOT. And I would not have then have upgraded to Together. Having considered Yojimbo and all the related junk drawer apps, I would probably have not bought ANY of them (including Together) if I didn’t get to try them out in a bundle like MacZOT.

    Anyway Steve, thanks for a great piece of software like Together. I really want to support you and the rest of the indie Mac developers, so I wish you all the best. Merry Christmas!

  23. corsa Says:

    Hi! I got KIT as part of the MacZOT bundle too, but I haven’t upgraded yet. I found that I didn’t really use KIT too much, mainly because I couldn’t get into the habit of being more organized. :) Quite some time after getting KIT, I tried out Journler, but also stopped using that after a couple of days.

    However, I’m now dedicated to using some sort of personal info manager, and I’ve narrowed it down to Together and Yojimbo. I just downloaded the trials of both over the weekend, and there are things about both that I like. So far, I prefer Together, but I really like the .mac sync ability in Yojimbo (although I haven’t tried it yet.)

    Anyway, you’ll probably have another upgrader here in the next week or so.

  24. Jim Huls Says:

    Just checked this blog for the first time. I’m another one of the MacZOT bundle buyers. This really sounds like a therapy session…yes, I purchased KIT through MacZOT. ;) Anyways I loved the app and still do. That bundle was absolutely one of my, if not best purchase, on MacZOT ever. KIT and Rooswitch were great apps in that bundle that I will honestly say should have made that bundle cost more. After I received them and tried them out I really couldn’t understand why the price had been so cheap. I love bargains but that one was literally a steal.

    Now as for the app itself I have to admit that I barely use it. My problem is time, what I do and how I do it…not the app. When I saw Together was released, it was all I could do to not upgrade. Not because I can’t use it but because of timing and xmas approaching. I tend to buy quite a bit of shareware and with knowing MacHeist2 was coming and then there was MacUpdate’s deal not to mention the occassional gem on MacZOT and MacUpdate’s daily promo, I decided to wait. Soon though, I’ll be getting it. I tried out the demo and really liked what I saw.

    As someone who’s considering to eventually get into the shareware thing as both a for fun thing with a little money out of it, I’m kinda curious how many hours a week you put into everything(programming, support, etc). Do you do this as a fulltime thing or are you a programmer in the “real life” world?