Podcast sponsorship - an experiment

I’m an iOS developer in my spare time. You know, on evenings, and weekends. I recently launched an app called Memories. I created the app mainly because it was an app that I wanted to have. I thought that if I wanted to use an app like this (and I use it every day), then maybe other people would like an app like that too. The app replicates a feature found in cloud photo services like Everpix (RIP) and Picturelife that shows you all the photos you took on a certain date (usually today) in previous years. However, Apple’s iCloud Photo Library or Photos app do not have this feature 1. When I switched to iCloud Photo Library from Picturelife I really missed the feature, so that’s what led to my Memories app.

I launched the app at the start of the year. I tried, and failed, to get some well known Apple bloggers to mention the app. I did eventually get a mention in the MacStories newsletter sent only to subscribers. I was getting roughly 5 downloads a day. It steamed right into the App Store Top 10,000. Still, I made the app for myself, right? So what’s the problem? Well, I always had this nagging sensation that, if I like the app and use it every day, maybe other people would too, if they only knew it existed. So I weighed up possible ways to promote the app and settled on podcast sponsorship as probably the best option.

So, which podcast? It had to be one that I listened to and those include ATP, The Talk Show, Connected, Mobile Couch, Under the Radar, Reconcilable Differences and a few others. ATP and The Talk Show have by far the largest audiences, but their sponsorship rates are also way beyond what I can afford. The rates for Connected are much more reasonable and the podcast also has a history of discussing photo management in the context of Apple devices, especially in its previous incarnation as The Prompt. It seemed like the perfect fit. I had also recently heard a spot for James Thompson’s PCalc on Connected. I was originally going to go for a single spot, but Stephen Hackett convinced me to go for three for a total that was within what I had budgeted for promoting the app. Without knowing how this would go, I had mentally written off that money, I had to be prepared to not make back a single penny of it.

It’s a good thing I had mentally written off the money. Because, well, I had to actually write off the money!

Prior to the sponsorship, I was getting 100-150 downloads a month, of which 10% went on to buy the $2 In App Purchase to unlock all the features of the app. During April, when I had sponsorship spots on two consecutive episodes of Connected, I got 450 downloads, of which 25% of users went on to buy the In App Purchase.

So, I got a three fold increase in downloads, from people much more likely to buy the In App Purchase. Sounds pretty good, right? Well no, not really. Connected gets roughly 18,000 downloads per episode. Only around 5% of listeners looked at the app on the app store, about half of those installed it, and about a quarter of those bought the in app purchase. At best I only got back about $200 of what the sponsorship cost me (a lot more).

You hear a lot about podcast sponsorship, and that it really works. Well, it doesn’t always work. I’m fortunate that I was able to afford trying it out and failing. But let this be a warning that podcast sponsorship is not the silver bullet to make your app a success.

My app is highly rated on the app store and all the feedback I’ve had from users is extremely positive, so it’s not that the app isn’t any good. It implements a feature that a lot of people clearly want and that Apple themselves are putting into Photos in iOS 10, so it’s not that no one wants this. The app also only has one direct competitor on the app store that I know of. So, what gives? Well, I really don’t know. If you have ideas I’d love to hear from you on twitter.

  1. Looks like Apple sherlocked me in iOS 10. They even chose exactly the same name! ↩︎