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April 5, 2011 / teknolog

Selling Podcatcher in the Ovi store

Late last fall when Nokia finally decided to subsidise signing of Symbian apps and drop the sign up cost for selling in the Ovi store to €50 (since dropped yet again to €1), I took the plunge and decided to try to sell my apps that I had previously been giving away for free, most importantly my premier app Podcatcher.

My reasons for doing this was as much from curiosity as anything else. Over the last two years we’ve heard about amazing success stories from the Apple App Store (TM!), and I was interested to see how well apps can do in the Ovi store.

While Podcatcher has been around a long time and has a reasonable large user base, it has always been given away for free. In fact, it is still available for free at Forum Nokia Projects, where it is doing about 1 000 downloads a month.

It took me quite a while to get Podcatcher ready for the Ovi store, but at the end of February this year Podcatcher was accepted and published. This means that I have now had the entire month of March to collect sales data, which I will share here.

So let’s cut to the chase. Below is the statistics provided by the Ovi Publisher tool.

Let’s start with total sales and income. As seen at the top of the report, throughout March I sold 1 201 copies of Podcatcher, and earned €638.48. The graph also shows daily sales and cumulative sales, as well as the most popular markets and devices.

Let’s look at some of the interesting data points:

  • Average weekly sales seem to be pretty stable over this month, so cumulative sales are rising pretty smoothly.
  • Sales vary a lot day to day.
  • Top 5 days in falling order were 11th, 15th, 17th, 16th and 28th.
  • Europe is the strong market for Symbian, which we knew.
  • But there are surprisingly sales in the US.

I’ve been trying to do som archaeology to figure out what the surges may correspond to, but so far I’ve not been successful. Interstingly, the media coverage I know of don’t show up at all. For instance, the Ovi Daily App blog on March 30th seemed to have no impact on sales. Also being featured in LadyGeekTV on the 3rd had no measurable impact. If anyone can point out what happened particularly on March 11th that sent sales through the roof, I’d be very glad to hear of it through comments or a tweet to @teknolog.

Going back to the money, I had no particular sales expectations when I submitted Podcatcher to the Ovi store. I do develop apps for a living, but for other people (remembering that it was primarily the shovel makers and Levi Strauss who got rich off the California gold rush). However, I must say I have been surprised at the sales rate.

Selling 1 201 copies of anything is nothing to sneeze at. However, since I charge only €1, this doesn’t exactly translate into a fortune. As the report states, the net income after taxes and operator charges and other things I am not sure of, this comes to €648.38. On top of this, I must pay UK income tax.

As a mentioned at the top of the post, about 1 000 copies of Podcatcher were downloaded for free from Forum Nokia Projects. So more people bought the app than downloaded it for free. This shows how important the smooth app store experience is for users. Downloading and installing Podcatcher from Forum Nokia is a bit of a hassle, and people are willing to pay a small amount for convenience. (How is that for an argument against the music industry morons who say they can’t compete with piracy).

To sum up: selling an app like Podcatcher in the Ovi store is by itself no path to riches (and hence I will continue selling shovels). I have easily invested hundreds of hours into developing Podcatcher, so the hourly rate would not be very high.

On the other hands, in terms of beer money it goes quite far. I earned €648.38 more than I would have if I had not submitted Podcatcher to the Ovi store. I’m very happy with the outcome of the experiment, and I am publishing more apps to try the waters.

I’ll blog more about my experiences making and selling Symbian apps going forward.

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16 Comments

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  1. Gerard McEvoy / Apr 5 2011 2:57 pm

    Good to hear that you are making something back on this great product at least. What are your future plans for it though. There are still a few standout features missing (remembering playback position mainly and being able to use the app while listening to a podcast).

    I’d gladly rebuy an updated version.

    • teknolog / Apr 5 2011 3:00 pm

      Thanks! Up until the Microsoft announcement, I planned to rewrite Podcatcher in Qt, because working with the Avkon toolkit is simply too painful. But now that Qt has been pushed into the background I’m not quite sure. I think I will release a few bugfixes and minor updates in the near future while I figure out the longer term roadmap.

      • Gerard McEvoy / Apr 5 2011 4:57 pm

        W

      • An insider / Apr 11 2011 8:14 am

        Don’t count Qt out 🙂 There are still massive plans going forwards.

      • teknolog / Apr 11 2011 8:47 am

        Sure, but development is very slow. Qt 4.7 still lacks many APIs, and kinetic scrolling is not implemented for listboxes until 4.8. Also 4.7 breaks compatibility with 3rd edition, which sets a bad precedent.

        I maintain that Qt was a great strategy, but it largely failed because of Nokia’s sluggishness in implemented it.

  2. Everything Connected / Apr 11 2011 7:26 am

    The WP7 thing is away another 12 months and with Qt you have the ability to switch to Android…
    So please please us with a Qt version 🙂

    • teknolog / Apr 11 2011 7:33 am

      I don’t see any immediate benefits of switching to Qt at this stage. Qt for Symbian is still buggy and incomplete.

  3. Randomcommenter / Apr 11 2011 12:31 pm

    Ok, avkon is painful, but you mastered it. Don’t fall for the qt cult like nokia did (and lost themselves in the process), it is not a magic bullet and your app will not immediately become better just because you redevelop it with qt. Qt introduces so many problems and only provides cross platformness with an inexistant and niche mobile OS (meego) and ease of development (which you will not benefit since you already know your way with avkon). For experienced programmers, good apps are difficult to make regardless of the underlying technology.

    • teknolog / Apr 11 2011 12:56 pm

      I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it. I can work with Avkon, but it is surely restricting my creativity.

  4. Ian Barton / Apr 12 2011 9:29 am

    Thanks for sharing that information. Many years ago I wrote some time synchronization software for Windows. Initially I was giving it away for free, but I was spending a couple of hours a day answering support emails. I decided to charge a small amount (can’t remember exactly what) and made a reasonable amount of money.

    In my case the thing that really got my app notices was being a PC Magazine “Pick of the Week”.

    I have tried the free version of Podcather (only just realized you can now buy it from the app store). However, I stopped using it as it sometimes randomly deleted podcasts and playback position wasn’t remembered. I see these are both listed as bugs. I would happily pay £5 for the app if these two problems were fixed.

    Ian.

    • teknolog / Apr 12 2011 9:41 am

      Nice to hear that people were able to make money before there were decent app stores. It’s so weird that it took so long. Nokia had the Download! app for years, but it was not open for anyone to publish, and I doubt many people bought stuff from it.

      The auto delete feature is indeed buggy, that’s why it was disabled in the Ovi version. I will fix it and enable it again in the next month.

      • Ian Barton / Apr 12 2011 10:19 am

        I have auto delete disabled (set to Manually), but it still sometimes deletes things. I couldn’t pin it down to any particular pattern though.

        Ian.

  5. Mike K / Jan 2 2012 12:50 am

    Thanks for this good tale – I was one who decided to pay, and vaguely remember posting somewhere in a forum that for the price Podcatcher was a no-brainer (can’t remember when or where now, but may have been one of your ‘spikes’). Great product which I use daily and would have paid three times as much for it. Well done and all power to your elbow.

  6. Hydra Kanth / Jan 4 2012 12:14 am

    Is there any update on importing/exporting feeds in podcatcher for symbian service pack update?. After the service pack update this feature gets disabled.

    • teknolog / Jan 4 2012 5:11 am

      Interesting. Which service pack is this? Which phone? Which version of Podcatcher?

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