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).