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Overcast's Sales Numbers (iOS)


#1

Marco Arment has just posted Overcasts sales numbers for 2014 http://www.marco.org/2015/01/15/overcast-sales-numbers - they make fascinating reading as it’s a moderately successful iOS application by an indie developer.

I know a lot of people here are SaaS orientated - but personally I prefer the connivence of an App store, never mind that it what I prefer to build.


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#2

Interesting.

His family’s health insurance is nearly $1,500 per month? Wow.


#3

I’ll take my Class 2 NIC’s any day of the week over that.


#4

http://www.upbeat.it/2015/01/16/putting-marcos-numbers-in-perspective/ provides some context for why his launch success with Overcast is built on his previous successes.


#5

Yeah, maybe it would have been better to link to this piece https://medium.com/@carlosribas/how-hourstracker-earns-five-figures-a-month-on-the-app-store-85a20bb972eb and not had the discussion about the impact of launching to an audience.

The upbeat.it post doesn’t mention the baby feed timer or bugsnap(?) that Marco Arment also launched on top of the pervious successes but didn’t make any money. I think a generic podcasting app would have gone the same way too.

Instead, he managed to build an app with new, useful features and sold that to the audience. Yeah the audience helps, but it’s still very nice to see indies still making it in the iOS world. Since Marcos blog post there have been a few more of this style post from people I’ve never heard of - and who are making a living.


#6

[quote=“jnye131, post:5, topic:2559”]Yeah, maybe it would have been better to link to this piece […] and not had the discussion about the impact of launching to an audience.[/quote]I wasn’t posting as a rebuttal to yours; I think it’s all facets of the same topic. Building an audience is part of building an online/app business, and why bootstrappers are encouraged to put up product websites/start a mailing list/blog/etc. before they have built a product.

[quote]The upbeat.it post doesn’t mention the baby feed timer or bugsnap(?) that Marco Arment also launched on top of the pervious successes but didn’t make any money. I think a generic podcasting app would have gone the same way too.[/quote]I will disagree on this point; I think those apps made/would have made much more money than if someone less well known launched them. Casey’s Fast Text made the vast majority of it’s lifetime earnings after it was discussed on ATP, for example. http://www.caseyliss.com/2014/12/15/fast-text-financials “In 2013 and 2014 both, Fast Text was mentioned on ATP. That led to huge spikes in downloads […] I didn’t market the app outside of a couple mentions on ATP.” ATP is one of the biggest podcasts for Apple folks: http://standard.fm/


Manual (camera app) sales numbers:


#7

Has anyone aggregated all these number together in one place?


#8

Good point, well made. :cap_dofficon:

Another good point about FastText - ATP must be quite the platform to promote things on. As those other apps made similar numbers to what I would expect (and have generated) from an app.

I saw a tweet yesterday asking why anyone would build a business on a platform that requires a dependence on Features and Top Charts (can’t remember who - I was almost asleep). For most of us iOS developers we’re making the £££ through a portfolio and consulting - especially while the rates are still good.


#9

Thanks; this is a good discussion.

I would be curious if the apps you’re using for comparison came out in earlier years. One of the things which makes App Store Kremlinology so hard is that it changes over time, with the general trend of the big hits making way more money and everything else making less, so it’s hard to compare 2011 releases to 2013 releases, for example. The length of time an app is in the store also seems to factor into its search rank, which improves discoverability and sales.

There’s an interesting blog post using Marco’s post as a starting point:
http://metakite.com/blog/2015/01/the-shape-of-the-app-store/ ‘The “head” of the App Store, those 870 top grossing apps that make up 0.07% of the App Store population, collect over 40% of the App Store revenue that’s paid out.’

ETA:
http://metakite.com/blog/2015/01/the-shape-of-the-app-store-redux/ Some less-detailed data showing roughly the same steep curve.

More about Marco’s audience (and the value of it): http://benedictfritz.com/blog/2015/1/16/overcast-sales-and-building-an-audience


#10

At a similar time to these applications - also a similar level of utility. Personally I consider them a success as my ROI was positive after 12 months.

What amazed me at the time of Overcasts launch was the amount of press coverage that it received. I’d like to see a summary of the press coverage that it received - as I think this is far more important then Marcos personal audience. I can’t think of a major apple site that didn’t do a full product review of the application in the first week of launch.

In the revenue chart in the original article there is a significant bump in revenue in early November that corresponds with a sponsorship of the Serial podcast (I assume this as it is only mentioned in passing).


#11

Interesting your apps had similar performance. I guess that makes sense as we keep hearing about new “developers you’ve never heard of” making a living in the App Store.

[quote=“jnye131, post:10, topic:2559”]
What amazed me at the time of Overcasts launch was the amount of press coverage that it received. I’d like to see a summary of the press coverage that it received - as I think this is far more important then Marcos personal audience. I can’t think of a major apple site that didn’t do a full product review of the application in the first week of launch.[/quote]I know he had an extensive beta program for it; presumably a number of the Apple press were in it. Beyond that, anything Marco does in the Apple space is potentially newsworthy as far as the Apple press goes.


#12

(My first time posting here. Just a lurker until now.)

I posted some thoughts spurred by these numbers, and shared our own iOS sales numbers too:

figure53.com/notes/2015-01-26-the-iou-of-ios/

(As a new user it won’t let me make that a link.)

And Andy, yeah, our per-employee family health insurance costs are similar to Marco’s. Hooray for the U.S. health care system.


#13

@Chris_Ashworth’s article linked: figure53.com/notes/2015-01-26-the-iou-of-ios/


#14

A week a go my biz partner and I actually recorded a podcast about that and other indie app developer sales numbers, along with our own. We’ve been doing mobile apps on the side for years and it doesn’t feel like an even remotely sustainable model to us.

Marco’s numbers are awesome, but he has a huge audience that is predisposed to buy an app like this. Also, a disproportionate amount of the income in any of these mobile apps that does well is when they launch and hit some top list. After that, they trail off very quickly.

To me, this means if you don’t have a killer launch, you don’t have a killer app and your effort is basically wasted. Even then, it doesn’t feel like a sustainable biz model compared to other software business models.

Here’s the episode if you want to listen: http://retromocha.com/show/4/


#15

[quote=“brianknapp, post:14, topic:2559”]
[…] a disproportionate amount of the income in any of these mobile apps that does well is when they launch and hit some top list. After that, they trail off very quickly.

To me, this means if you don’t have a killer launch, you don’t have a killer app and your effort is basically wasted. Even then, it doesn’t feel like a sustainable biz model compared to other software business models.[/quote]

I wonder how much of a truism this is. I suspect it is certainly the case for apps which are not marketed much after their launch, unlike products in the real world.1 We’ve all seen sales charts showing a big launch, then a steep drop off, with a spike or two from when the app was featured or mentioned somewhere. I would like to see the sales curves for paid apps which had a targeted marketing/sales effort for 6+ months after launch. I suspect sharing features and user retention also make big differences in how well an app does after launch, as both are also likely to increase other people hearing about the app.

1 An Apple/Samsung advertising article states “Apple, on the other hand, spent around $351 million on phone advertising in 2013, up 5 percent from $333 million in the previous year. As a side note, Apple spent more on TV ads in 2013 than it spent on all advertising in 2012.” If Apple has to advertise, app developers have to advertise.


#16

I think there isn’t much room to market apps post-launch because the revenue model doesn’t allow it in a meaningful way. When you are selling a $1-2 app without recurring revenue or In App Purchase the LTV of a customer is too low to do ongoing marketing in another medium in a profitable way.


#17

[quote=“brianknapp, post:16, topic:2559”]I think there isn’t much room to market apps post-launch because the revenue model doesn’t allow it in a meaningful way. When you are selling a $1-2 app without recurring revenue or In App Purchase the LTV of a customer is too low to do ongoing marketing in another medium in a profitable way.[/quote]I may be reading too much in this, but it seems like there’s a passiveness and an incorrect expectation in it. Just because one can price an app for $2 and not do any marketing after putting the app on the store doesn’t mean doing so is a viable business model, or that it’s anyone’s responsibility to make it so. Find cheap ways to market the app, target customers with money and charge more, find additional revenue opportunities, etc. etc.

Release Notes is a podcast by two guys making money on the App Store using some of the above methods; if you’ve not listened it’s worth a try.

Also: Build a Great App but Don’t Forget about Marketing


#18

The key word there is “ongoing” marketing (as opposed to initial). I think you should definitely budget for (at least) some initial marketing and spend it as wisely as you are able.

I think that if you only budget to build and release the app, you’re leaving too much to the gods of chance, who for most people are terrible gods and typically grant you a loss for the whole initiative, not including opportunity cost and potentially affecting your relationships while you tinker. You should probably rather focus on an activity that has a higher likelihood of success.

At this point in my life I’d only consider an app that is part of a larger ecosystem that delivers value and charges for it, preferably monthly. I’ve ignored common wisdom before and while it was a financial, emotional and learning success it ate up a lot of time.

Alternative view: @andrey , who releases quickly and often and therefore raises his odds. Still, seems like the best payback has been from recurring revenue via the spam filter?

(Disclaimer. I know nothing about the app stores. I’ve been building a customer app using Xamarin and an app of my own in Java that is Android-only, but my actual experience of the app business is zero.)