Friday, 26 March 2010

What's in a review?

Once again I have to apologise for not posting anything to this blog last week. It was a busy week for me personally and there wasn't anything that I really wanted to say.

However, this week is different. There's been a number of articles about developers being asked to pay for reviews, so I wanted to explore the whole area of reviews and what they're worth.

To start with I have to acknowledge that there are a lot of apps in the app store. I've just checked the UK store and there are 322 pages of music apps. That's a lot, a hell of a lot. The last figures I saw for total apps on the app store was somewhere around 170,000. That's enormous. So how do you get your app noticed?

Reviews is one way, but what is it worth, especially if you have to pay for a review? This article says that developers are being asked for $25 to get a review posted, and there have have been plenty of similar reports too.

The big review sites have almost as many apps in them as the iTunes store, so is there a real benefit to getting a review in one of them? That really is a question for developers, and I'd be very interested in knowing what you think.

Of course for music application developers there are plenty of more specialised sites like CDM, Matrixsynth , Synthtopia, CreativeApplications, and of course PalmSounds!. Getting into one of those will get you in front of an audience that, whilst smaller that the big review sites, will at the very least be actually interested in your kind of application, and, to the best of my knowledge none of them will charge you to be on featured on their site.

So, back to my original question. Is a paid for review actually worth it? I'd love to hear opinions on this, and I will follow up on them too.

I hope that you find this useful. If you have suggestions for future articles or if there's anything in the article you want more on then please email me at


  1. I'm a developer. I'm very appreciative of the work and risks Wired's Brian Chen took in publishing the App Payola piece. It's been an 800 pound gorilla in the room that no one's wanted to talk about.

    Consumers and developers deserve clearly documented editorial standards and practices from any journalism whether glossy print or solo blogger.

    The practice of paid reviews is far broader than the Wired article exposes. Most of the sites and magazines that have approached me about app reviews made it clear they aren't just asking for $25 like the example in Wired.

    But the issue extends much farther. I've been a professional product developer for many years. Payola has always been part of tech marketing. Even "old school" publications that claim they have a "wall" between editorial and advertising are full of baloney. My experience has been that you always get a call from the editor who's been ignoring you for months after you place an ad.

  2. With the over-saturation of the App Store and general decoupling of app purchase from the internet let alone print publishing the value of reviews is definitely questionable.

    I've noticed minimal direct effect from reviews on sales. Even a review from a high profile site will only generate a bump for about 24 hours. That's why this Payola thing seems pretty silly. The Payola sites mentioned in Wired are just in the business of exploiting naive new developers. Why pay $200 for a review that's never possibly going to generate $200 worth of revenue?

    Reviews are great to quote on your website or in your App Store copy. And over time the value of multiple positive reviews builds especially for apps with long legs.


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