Is Apple clamping down on third-party app promotion services?
Guidelines point to promo app update block
Media attention may have been focused on the launches of iPhone 5 and iOS6 – including the subsequent 'MapGate' and 'ScuffGate' backlashes – but it appears Apple itself has turned its attention to the art of app promotion.
It's already understood that the Cupertino giant is keen to limit external influencers on its app ecosystem – moves to outlaw offer-wall incentivisation of note.
Now it appears changes to Apple's App Review Guidelines could result in a further clamp down on third-party app promotion services and affiliate programs.
Tightening of the terms
Tipped off last week by a number of sources, an investigation by PocketGamer.biz has cast light on what appears to be a new clause in the guidelines that restricts apps that provide links to apps that are not your own.
The wording is typically vague, but clause 2.25 appears to give Apple carte blanche to put any app that promotes titles from a different developer out of action.
At the moment, we understand Apple's likely prime targets are pure app promotion services, such as (but not necessarily including) FreeAppADay, AppoDay, AppGratis, Daily App Dream and AppShopper, amongst others.
Such services drive considerable volumes of downloads and are relied upon by many developers as a key part of their promotion for freemium or ad-funded free apps.
However, the potential connotations are obviously far wider if this rule or further developments within the same spirit are applied towards cross-promotion/advertising plays sitting within apps.
As well as the likes of Tapjoy, Chartboost, Flurry et al - whose raison d'etre is much the same in terms of driving guaranteed downloads to affect chart position in exchange for payment or inventory – self-made indie cross-promotion agreements also risk attracting Apple's attention.
At present, this latter stage is very much speculation as there's no direct evidence that this restriction will affect SDK's or embedded solutions.
Nonetheless, it's already accepted within the iOS development community that Apple is actively seeking to restrict the influence of all such promotional tools in order to maintain the legitimacy of the App Store charts – themselves reportedly altered during the iOS 6 update to reflect app engagement over pure downloads.
Likewise, it's still too early to understand how this will pan-out in terms of the scale and rigour of enforcement - at present it appears that 'editorial-led' products and promotion services such as Pocket Gamer publisher Steel Media's Swipe magazine and Free App Alliance as well as FreeAppDaily appear to be unaffected.
Indeed, Apple's action against those apps that do fall foul of clause 2.25 hasn't been to remove the releases in question, but seemingly to prevent them from updating, potentially winding down their influence over apps in the App Store.
What's your take?
Suffice to say we'll be monitoring the situation closely and providing more information and analysis in the days and weeks to come.
Do you have something to add to this debate? Have you had an app update rejected or noticed new trends emerging in chart positions?
Mail us at keith[dot]firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be in touch.
UPDATE: We've managed to speak to some developers who have encountered Apple enforcing clause 2.25.
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Fraser Ross MacInnes | 10:37 - 1 October 2012
This is a very interesting development (and a great bit of investigative journalism!) - the change will definitely require a lot of lateral thinking in the marketing world, because the acquisition budgets out there won't disappear even if the ability to spend them is limited.
Perhaps this will be the catalyst for marketers having to do the hard thing and shift their product offerings more towards a retention model than an acquisition one. Obviously, retention is much harder than acquisition, so exactly what those marketing products will look like is interesting to consider.
I don't think the virtual goods promotion tools that forward thinking companies like Playhaven et al have will be enough. Mind you, so long as promotional SDKs are not affected, that war will continue to wage in the usual way - I wouldn't bet on that part of the marketing business remaining permanently out-with Apple's banhammer though...
Mitch (Dave Mitchell) | 14:11 - 1 October 2012
This could potentially have a really big impact on marketing of apps. The problem with Apple is they make things extremely vague and so we'll have to wait and see what the true repercussions are.
Aaron Watkins | 17:52 - 1 October 2012
Thanks for pointing this out Keith, I actually passed this one around my app promotions company Appency as it has some potentially bad connotations for some of the companies we work closely with to promote our clients apps like AppsFire, FreeAppADay, even AppAdvice the app review site has an app that shows off other apps. These are all legitimate promotional opportunities - I dont see why Apple would be cracking down on them other than to drive more people into other paid advertising such as iAd.
Aaron Watkins | 17:54 - 1 October 2012
Thanks for pointing this out Keith, I actually passed this one around my app promotions company Appency as it has some potentially bad connotations for some of the companies we work closely with to promote our clients apps like AppsFire, FreeAppADay, even AppAdvice the app review site has an app that shows off other apps. These are all legitimate promotional opportunities - I dont see why Apple would be cracking down on them other than to drive more people into other paid advertising such as iAd. One other thing - you talk about app engagement - how does app know if an app is being engaged with unless there is a tracking of what apps you are using that they have not disclosed to developers or consumers? That has privacy violation written all over it.
Magnus SÃ¶derberg | 19:35 - 1 October 2012
I think it's not that good to clamp down on these services, instead make pure downloads be less worth in what determines your place in the chart.
Fracis JOnes | 20:09 - 1 October 2012
Well Apple sure is full of itself lately
BestAppsMarket | 00:07 - 2 October 2012
Hope @Google does not try this. Go #ANDROID
Antoine GuÃ©nard | 09:32 - 2 October 2012
Here is AppGratis answer to that article: http://www.pocketgamer.biz/r/PG.Biz/AppGratis+news/news.asp?c=45412
Aron Aharonoff | 15:52 - 2 October 2012
This is a very interesting read and saw something like this happening ever since developing and marketing apps through our platform GreatApps.com.
Many developers I speak with have trouble marketing their apps and try any angle they can. Many also believe they can do it on their own and are gravely mistaken.
As Direct of Business Development at GreatApps.com, it is my job to enlighten all potential clients about the options that are out there to market their apps. Most of the options are very expensive that most cannot afford which makes it very difficult for them to get noticed.
Our platform (GreatApps.com) showcases apps to people who may have never thought to search for them.
We give an opportunity to smaller companies / developers who do not have the heavy pockets for app marketing a chance to get noticed by the public.
Keith appreciate the news on this and would love to see how all this works out moving forward into the next quarter.
If anyone has any questions please feel free to contact me at Aron@GreatApps.com.
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