Back in June, I made my mac app Covered free. As you can see from the image above, this caused a not-insignificant spike in downloads from the Mac App Store. According to my website stats, most of this was due to being featured on the top of the 'Apps gone free' list on AppShopper for a couple of days.
When the app was on sale for 99c I struggled to get any coverage online and considered every sale a blessing and while 10,000 times nothing is still, well... nothing, getting this much attention was certainly an exhilarating experience for me.
Thankfully, I don't do this for a living, I only recently began to learn how to code and subsequently create Covered as a hobby. I was 'scratching an itch' as they say. That said, it still costs $100 a year to be a registered Mac developer and the various books and other resources required aren't cheap either so it would certainly be nice to at least cover these costs. The countless hours involved are simply chalked up to geeky enjoyment.
So how do you make money giving something away for free?
There are certainly many ways to do this, advertising being the most obvious, but for me the best answer for Covered was 'Affiliate linking'. When I released v1.2 I included a 'View in iTunes' button under the downloaded artwork and clicking on this link would take you to the iTunes store listing for the selected item. This is useful for viewing the associated metadata and related content but also entitles me to a 7% commission on any subsequent purchases you make on the iTunes store for the next 24 hours. Think of it as Apple's way of saying thanks for driving traffic to their store. I hoped that this would be a way to share covered with a wider audience while still keeping it simple, elegant and financially viable.
Above is a graph of the Affiliate clicks registered by my app. At first glance, seeing the sharp drop in clicks I began to think that this was a failed experiment but it now seems that was a false assumption. I can only reason that the thousands of people who first downloaded my app for free and subsequently clicked the affiliate link must rarely buy anything because very few of these initial clicks translated to sales and no such drop has occurred in my commissions.
In contrast, above is a graph of my commissions for the same period. Note that as the clicks graph gets lower, the commissions graph continues to get higher and while I am certainly not about to quit my day job I can happily report that Covered will now remain free for the foreseeable future.