Tag Archives: advertising

The Man Who Passes the Sentence…

Indies love to fall on their sword and die with dignity. I love Ned Stark[1] as much as the next guy, but in the end Varys is right: Ned died because he sucked at playing the game. Worse, he had an opportunity to help the realm, but instead his pride got in the way, and Westeros ended up with Joffrey.

The latest controversy in the indie community is over Apple’s new App Store ad system. Is it or is it not ethical to bid on keywords that are your competitor’s app name?

Why is this a question? Of course it’s ethical.

I have a timer app called Fin. If some other timer app developer bids on fin as a keyword, they may show up ahead of me in an ad placed just above mine when a user searches for “fin.”[2]

The Ned Stark argument goes that since the customer was searching for my app by name, I deserve that sale. I did whatever work I did to get my name out there enough for someone to search for me, so that customer is mine by right.

Sorry. Doesn’t work that way.

The ad placed above me is a competing app. One of three things will happen when potential customers see it:

  • They will ignore the ad, as many people have been trained to do.
  • They will look at the ad, investigate the other app, then find that they want my app after all, because that’s the one they heard was best.
  • They will look at the competing app, decide it’s better, and buy it instead of mine.

In two out of three of these cases, I get the sale I was going to get, anyway. In the third case, I lost the sale because my app doesn’t suit the customer as well as my competitor’s does. In the end, you know who wins? The customer.

Aren’t we supposed to be all about what’s best for the customer?

Now, if Apple’s ads allowed us to spread lies about our competitor’s apps, that would be a different story. If I named my app something confusingly similar to my competition in order to fool someone into thinking they were buying the other product, that’s completely unethical. But these ads are simply giving customers more information. Customers deserve to make the most informed decision possible. They deserve to know your app exists, and that it might actually be better for them.

If I were opening a hamburger restaurant in my town, you’d better believe I’d be placing billboards in the vicinity of every McDonald’s, letting those potential customers know there are better burgers a few blocks away. If not, I’m passing on a prime opportunity to reach my target audience.

If you know where your audience is gathering, and you aren’t willing to meet them there to pitch your product, you don’t belong in business.

Stop playing the game with one hand tied behind your back. Stop thinking that you can somehow make the world a better place by playing by different rules than your competitors. You aren’t making the world better. You’re leaving us in the hands of Joffrey.

  1. Full credit goes to Jared Sinclair for this perfect comparison, via Twitter.  ↩

  2. Never mind that an actual search for “fin” gets you a thousand games before my app comes up. Consider this a hypothetical example where Apple’s search actually works, okay?  ↩

Apple takes the lofty route for iPad « Observatory

Apple takes the lofty route for iPad « Observatory: “But — while this spot can be seen as uplifting and inspirational, it can also be seen as incredibly pretentious. One must admit, it’s a bit of intellectual overkill for those who just want to do their email, surf and shop — which probably covers most of the tablet-buying public.”

(Via Ken Segall.)

That, in a nutshell, is exactly Apple’s problem with the iPad. People think it’s an email, surf, and shop machine. If it continues to be just that, the iPad is never going to meet Apple’s expectations. Thus, the “loftier” ad approach of the Verses series.

People raved about the Misunderstood iPhone commercial over Christmas, but I actually think these spots are much more important to Apple’s long-term future. Thanks to Apple’s misguided driving of the App Store into Crazy Eddie’s Discount Bonanza, people are losing sight of just how powerful a tablet can be. They clamor for a “bigger” iPhone, because they figure that would do just about everything they do on their iPads well enough to no longer need an iPad. And that’s certainly not good for Apple.

Sure, the message is lofty, and maybe it only appeals to Apple’s current customers. But those customers aren’t getting as much out of their iPads as they deserve. Sometimes you need to start with a lofty message to reaffirm your core values. Sometimes you have to remind people that you’re trying to improve people’s lives.

If Apple wants to continue selling iPads, it needs to carve out a space where the iPad is seen as essential to the things we want to create, not just a luxury toy for watching movies on a plane.

Dumping the Yellow Pages on Your Doorstep is a Protected Right

Appeals court rules against Seattle’s curbs on yellow pages | Local News | The Seattle Times: “The court ruled the city’s law is unconstitutional, saying yellow pages are protected, like other publications, by the First Amendment.

‘Although portions of the directories are obviously commercial in nature, the books contain more than that, and we conclude that the directories are entitled to the full protection of the First Amendment,’ Judge Richard Clifton wrote in the decision. ‘As a result, when we evaluate the ordinance under strict scrutiny, it does not survive.'”

(Via. the Seattle Times)

The huge thing that bugs me about a story like this is not all the legal issues involved. I actually agree with the court’s finding in principle. It’s the notion that you have a group of people who clearly don’t want these books, and yet the Phone-book companies want to shove them on their doorsteps, anyway. I mean, once someone tells you point blank they are completely uninterested in your product, what is the point of shoving it down their throat? You’re not going to make any money off these people. You’re going to waste your own money printing a book that immediately gets trashed. So why would you give it to them, and pay a lawyer do defend your right to do so?

This is the problem with advertising as a business model. All the stats are based on the number of “eyeballs” rather than the effectiveness of the ads themselves. Reach the maximum number of people, period. Don’t worry if you’re offering breast implants to men or Viagra to women. Just reach people, because at best you’re going to convert on 1 or 2 percent of them. The money comes from total people who saw the ad, not the percentage of those who actually bought the product as a result.

This was the problem that Google’s promise of “targeted” ads was supposed to solve. But it hasn’t. At the end of the day, all the targeting in the world doesn’t pay as well as good old fashioned dumb carpet bombing of the entire universe. 

Sad, really.

Not Quite Dead, but at least Diminishing

Death of the Free Web | Cap Watkins: “I’ve actually been noticing this transition in SV for the past year or so. More and more startups are focusing on revenue right out of the gate. The old way of trying to build gigantic user-bases and then sell their eyeballs to advertisers is falling by the wayside. There are certainly still exceptions, but right now they are just that – exceptions. Seeing a startup go after paying customers used to be like catching a glimpse of a unicorn. Now, it’s the status quo. But why?”

(Via. capwatkins.com)

Great piece here by Cap Watkins. Be sure to read it in full at the above link.

Sooo glad to see this trend. This whole Silicon Valley disease of fooling people into thinking everything in life should be free has been driving me nuts for decades. 

But the free web won’t die, unfortunately. It’s like a zombie–keeps rising up from time to time no matter how much you try and kill it. I have no doubt that this ad-supported nonsense will come back around. It cycles. It’s just too tempting for the handfuls of people who stand to get rich from the advertising model, and they’re very good bullshit artists. But the current cycle is winding down on ads, at least, and that makes me happy, at least for another year or two. 

As I keep joking, I’m looking forward to the traffic and rent prices coming back down to reasonable levels here in the Bay Area soon.

We’re discovering that you can’t create that sort of passion with free.

His example of Uber cab is an excellent one. Services that set out to solve a real-world problem don’t need to be free. People throw money at trying to solve problems all the time. And they’re happy to do so. And they become very loyal to services they pay for, in a way that they’ll never be loyal to Facebook or Twitter. Uber, Zipcar, Kickstarter, Square. These are the startups of today, and hopefully tomorrow.

Christopher Breen’s Busking Experiment

Busking in the age of the Internet – TechHive Beta Blog: “The reaction was… interesting. Although no one took me to task or, as far as I can tell, unfollowed me over it, the contributions didn’t pour in. As I write this—fewer than 24-hours after my initial pitch—my $200 contribution has been matched but not much more. The 12 people who kicked in were nearly all strangers to John and myself rather than friends or people In The Biz. Also interesting was that none of my pitches were retweeted.”

(Via. Tech Hive Beta Blog)

This was an interesting experiment. As one of the 12 contributors, I can add that my decision to go ahead and kick in some cash to John was not motivated out of a sense of charity. I had been reading John’s blog for a while, on the advice of John Gruber, who had pointed it out in his feed a while back, and I liked what I had read so far. But I was unaware he even had a donation button on his site or that he was attempting to make a go with writing full time. So when another writer I admire, Chris Breen, pointed this out, it only made sense that I kick in a few bucks to help the guy out. I’m a big believer in paying for things I like. I hate the entire ad-sponsored Internet. So if I’m given the opportunity to support good content with some direct cash, I almost always do that.

Otherwise, I’d be a hypocrite, wouldn’t I?

If John were to set up a regular subscription, the way Jim Dalrymple over at the loop has, or Marco Arment has done with Instapaper, or Shawn Blanc, etc. I’d probably be a regular contributor.

Maybe I’m weird. I’m definitely in the minority, based on this experiment. But I almost always have a few bucks to toss to someone who is trying to bust out of the cubicle world. If you’re providing a quality product, and I’m consuming it on a regular basis, why wouldn’t I want that to continue?