It's a well-known fact that there are more than 700,000 iOS apps in the Apple App store today. Whether you are a developer working on your own project, or working for a client, or a full-time employee working on what the company tells you to work on, you need to figure out how to make money in a very crowded environment.
Before we begin
Don't be discouraged even though you may have a right to be. As Lucky Frame's Yann Seznec points out, no one cares about your app and it won't be a hit. But then again, what does Yann know about your app and the work you put into it? A hit is definitely a challenge, but you can still make money if you've done your homework.
Before you write your app have a business plan that identifies your customers, costs, and competition. Have a strategy and a business model built around your customers. Next, try to match your customers with the kinds of apps that generate the most money. Consider where your app will belong in a business landscape where communications and social networking apps generate the most revenue. This article by Andreas Pappas may help you in that regard.
Ads are the most obvious way to monetize a mobile app and the first place an iOS developer will generally go is to the Apple iAd network. There are several excellent tutorials on the web on how to incorporate iAd ads into your app. But before you do that, compare with the other ad networks out there and determine which one is best for you.
According to http://topmobileadnetworks.com the top iOS ad networks are:
I won't recommend any ad network over the others, instead I'll leave it to you to do the research. But here are a few important things to look for when you making a decision:
- Fill Rate - percentage of times a user opens your app and sees an ad.
- Click Through Rate - percentage of times a user clicks on the ad (CTR).
- Effective Cost per Mille - amount of money paid per 1000 impressions (eCPM).
- Customer service - how responsive the network is to requests and questions.
Other criteria you may want to consider, depending on your app, are ad formats, features like mediation, and how well businesses in your local area are serviced.
You probably won't find all the data you need to make a decision on which network to use, so I recommend trying out the top two or three in your list until a choice is clear. Focus on Fill rate and CTR because these depend on how well the ads target your customers. You can evaluate how well the ad network targets your customers because you know who your customers are.
Most apps are offered for free on the App store simply because most people don't mind trying something out if it's free, or throwing it away if it doesn't appeal to them. However, because you have a great app, it is used again and again, and you now you have some loyal customers. If they like the app enough they'll be willing to buy a new feature, upgrade, or content.
With in-app purchases the customer pays to update your app and you can push new features and content to the app this way on a regular basis (they better be good updates!). This aligns with an agile development model of continuous updates and deployments replacing major releases.
This suggestion is about monetizing your backend service rather than your app. If you have a mobile app that packages and displays unique information, that information could be valuable (think quality not quantity). Why not sell access to that information as a web service API?
There are tools and services, such as Apigee, that will help you create a REST-full web service API that will scale. You also must decide on the best revenue model for this API, and a service like Apigee can help, but this is outside the scope of this article.
Mobile App, Web App
The Facebook app extends its huge web presence to the mobile Internet. Why not do something similar, like extend your presence on the mobile Internet to the web? Use the web to draw customers to your mobile app and vice versa.
These are just a few suggestions that should point you in the right direction and help get you started with your own research into monetizing your app. However, as I'm sure you know by now, there is no guarantee of success without hard work.
Gerald McCobb first worked on mobile phone technology in 1998 while at IBM. Since then he has been the IBM representative to the W3 multimodal working group and Technical Director of multimodal technology at Openstream, Inc. He is currently working on developing mobile applications for West Interactive. He holds a masters degree in Computer Science from the University of Miami.