The Power of Now: Analyzing iPhone App Revenue

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The Power of NowTechCrunch has published a rare glimpse at iPhone app sales data by Alex Ahlund, the former CEO of AppVee and AndroidApps, which was recently acquired  by mobile app directory Appolicious:

We decided to conduct a survey. We asked for sales data from 124 developers that market applications ranging in price from 99 cents to $79.99. This survey was conducted on apps that ran the gamut of popularity, from wildly successful to barely breaking three figures. Developers were anywhere from funded companies with multiple titles under their belt, to first time, single-person authors. Both regular app developers, as well as game developers were included. This mining of data was intended to cover the entire iPhone app industry as a whole, without allowing outliers to skew the data too much in one direction.

The list of apps surveyed is broad, and there’s at least one eBook in the mix, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, a lightly enhanced version of Tolle’s NY Times Bestseller, published by WisdomTitles.com in partnership with New World Library.

The book, first published in 1997, has been translated into over 30 languages and the English edition is available from Amazon in Hardcover ($16.29), Paperback ($8.49), Audiobook ($26.37), and Kindle ($8.49), the latter of which has text-to-speech enabled. It’s also available via Audible.com ($15.00 or $7.49 with new membership), and BarnesandNoble.com has the eBook for $1.50 more than the Kindle edition.

Being featured by Apple is the greatest contributor to spiking sales. The level of Apple promotion, as expected, reflected what sort of increase the developer would see. Areas such as “New and Noteworthy” produced slightly less gains than “Staff Favorites” or “What’s Hot.” Generally speaking, it is safe to assume a 2-20X sales spike following being featured, with the effect lasting roughly a week or so before returning to average numbers.

Alex Ahlund

According to Ahlund’s data, The Power of Now iPhone app sold 1179 downloads over 223 days at $13.99/download, for $16,494.21 in total revenue.

The app received an arguably atypical amount of exposure as an APPLE “STAFF FAVORITE” in August 2009, and an iPhone Apps Plus “BEST” in November 2009; its last update, version 3.1, was on August 20, 2009, plus WisdomTitles.com’s website is a very targeted niche play. Interestingly, Tolle doesn’t appear to be promoting the app anywhere on his own site, despite being listed as a Featured Author at WisdomTitles.com, which is also hosting a Reader’s Club for him within their WisdomReader Community. (NOTE: The link to the Club isn’t currently working.)

Assuming a typical 50/50 revenue share (after Apple’s 30% cut) between WisdomTitles.com and and New World Library, they each made $5,772.97 on the app, a rather modest incremental revenue stream for such a high-profile book, assuming development costs and Tolle’s royalty share were similarly modest.

It’s also a perfect example of why Apple is effectively printing money in the App Store, and why the iPad was built on the iPhone OS and not the Mac OS.

As new devices like the iPhone and iPad continue to blur the lines between eBooks, apps, audiobooks and the mobile web, publishers will need to have an agile content strategy and consistent pricing models to ensure they’re maximizing their own opportunities in each sales channel, and not simply feeding their intermediaries’ profitable long tail. There also needs to be more clarity on development costs and consumer demand, lest we find ourselves in the sequel to the CD-ROM Era.

And, of course, it always helps to have the author fully onboard and actively marketing all formats of their work, especially when they have their own high-profile platforms that could potentially disintermediate their publisher completely.

About Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez is an old and new media pragmatist, social media realist, and marketing strategist. He is the former Director of Programming & Business Development for Digital Book World, a published poet, writer, and active blogger since 2003. He views publishing as a community service, and is optimistic about its future.

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