The state of in-app advertising on Windows

sotu2016

No one likes ads, but in-app advertising is extremely important to the overall health of an app ecosystem. There were several important developments in the in-app advertising space for Windows apps over the last couple of weeks. So, I thought it was important to take a snapshot of the industry and address the changes.

Microsoft deprecates AdMediator

image

In mid-August the first release of Microsoft Store Services SDK went live without much fanfare. There was a post in the MSDN forums, updated documentation and a paragraph in the extensive blog post on the new Dev Center capabilities. The SDK contains tooling for A/B testing, Feedback Hub launcher and an ad control (with more features coming in the future).

It also introduced a breaking change: when you install the Store Services SDK it removes AdMediator from your Windows 10/UWP apps.

For those who don’t know, Microsoft’s AdMediator provided a mechanism to automatically switch between different ad SDKs to maximize fill rates and revenue.

This was a big surprise to a lot of developers. To be honest, I expected this to happen in a milder fashion – I thought new apps won’t be able to use the mediator, but others can continue using it for as long as the back-end service is up. In a way this is how it actually is. Except, if you want to use anything in the Store Services SDK (A/B testing or Feedback Hub) you will loose access to the Mediator.

To their credit, Microsoft provides a fairly detailed walkthrough example on how to implement a mediator-like functionality in your app and continue maximizing your fill rates and revenue on the client side with Microsoft’s AdControl and AdDuplex.

Alternatively, you can continue using the old AdMediator for now and use AppStretch to collect user feedback and more.

Google discontinues AdMob SDK for Windows Phone 8

While Google ignores Windows (phone) for the most part, AdMob had several Windows Phone SDKs over the years. And their latest one for Windows Phone 8 was fairly popular among developers – either as a primary ad monetization vehicle or in a mix with Microsoft and AdDuplex.

They didn’t bother with making a Windows 10 SDK, at least not yet, and it’s only natural that they would discontinue WP8 SDK at some point. And now we know that this point is November 1st, 2016:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

It doesn’t look like they will be removing Windows Phone 8 as target platform for their advertisers. So your current apps should be OK for the meaningful time being. But if you were planning to add AdMob to your Windows Phone apps or change your implementation, you should hurry up or rethink your ad strategy.

Where’s Waldo Facebook Audience Network?

image

Back in March, at the BUILD conference in San Francisco, it was announced that Facebook Audience Network is coming to Windows. 5 months later we haven’t heard much about it, if anything. There’s still time for this to happen “later this year”, as promised. So keep an eye on it. It’s unclear if there’s any correlation, but provided Facebook has been quite active releasing and updating their apps for Windows 10 [Mobile], we can hope that they are still on track with their ad SDK.

Other options

Advertising landscape on Windows is pretty limited but there are still players providing support (even if limited) for the platform:

  • Vungle – newest, and most praised, addition to the family, Vungle delivers video ads for your Windows games and (possibly) apps.
  • Smaato was fairly active in the early days of Windows Phone. Then it wasn’t. And now it seems that it has a Windows SDK, though I’m not sure what platforms/versions they support.
  • VMAX (previously known as vserv.mobi) – has SDKs for Windows 10 Mobile as well as Windows Phone 8 and 8.1.

AdDuplex commitment

From the very early days of Windows Phone 7 AdDuplex has been a dedicated ad provider for Windows app and game developers. While our primary focus has always been at helping you acquire app users and game players both free and at a higher scale, we may be able to help you improve your ad monetization as well. Send us a message at info@adduplex.com with information about your app(s) and we will get back to you with some ideas.

Funding and an ultimate laptop for your app ideas

AppStretch

Few days ago AppStretch went live! This new innovative platform enables developers to improve and monetize their apps and games with the help of users.

The greatness of AppStretch is that it will help you collect feature requests from true fans of your apps and enable them to help you deliver the features they want through crowdfunding and crowdpromotion support (you can read more about it here).

MacBook Pro or Surface Book to give away!

Another good news is that if you add your app or game to AppStretch and verify ownership before July 1st, you will participate in the drawing to get one of the super developer devices listed above!

And if you verify your app before June 1st your first crowdfunding campaign will be commission free.

Contest details and official rules are available here.

Let your loyal fans help you grow your app business now and win an ultimate developer laptop!

AppStretch – an innovative new way to crowdfund app and game features is now live!

I’m very happy to announce that AppStretch is now live.

797x435[4]

AppStretch is our new service to help independent app and game developers crowdsource feature ideas for their great apps and games, crowdfund implementation of these features and crowd-promote their availability. Developers direct their loyal fans to AppStretch to provide ideas for the features they’d like to see in the future versions and vote by pledging support with either money or promotion via their social networks accounts. Based on these feature requests, or their own ideas, developers can launch crowdfunding campaigns to collect support for the implementation and derisk their time investment.

Some examples

We’ve been running AppStretch in a limited preview for a few weeks and some of the apps have already started using the system.

image[10]Our own app, AppRaisin, integrated AppStretch in the last update and have already collected 30 feature requests from our community.

Newsflow – a popular news reader for Windows 10 – have been asking users for feature requests for a couple of weeks, collected 28 of them, and have already started a crowdfunding campaign to implement category support. Please check the app out and support the campaign. Help Newsflow developer be the first to successfully cross the finish line!

Sensie – an app to track your movements – added a link to AppStretch to their about dialog, received 11 feature requests and implemented 2 of them already.

Available now

These are just a few examples from our limited release, but now every developer can join and start improving their apps with moral, social and financial support of their community. AppStretch supports apps in iOS and Mac App Store, Google Play and Windows Store. Support for other stores will be added in the future.

Additional benefits of joining now

We believe the benefits of joining are self-evident, however we wanted to reward early adopters so here’s our offer:

  • Join and verify ownership of your app before July 1st, 2016 and you can win a MacBook Pro or Surface Book (your choice)
  • Join and verify ownership of your app before June 1st, 2016 and we will not take a commission on your first crowdfunding campaign

Click here for details.

Help us improve the service and spread the word

Our goal is to help you be more successful in your app and game development business, but we need your help to improve the service and spread the word about it. Please share your feedback with us over email, Twitter or Facebook and please share this post or your opinion about the service on social media, blogs, forums, etc.

Thank you and let’s roll!

The Business Side of Windows 10 Apps. Chapter 2. From Developer to Devpreneur.

The advent of app stores empowered individual developers and small teams once again. We feel that we can make our own products again and don’t need huge budgets to do that. We know how to write good, manageable code. We may even know how to design a good product. And we believe that we will build it and users will come.

The road to app store success

When you are embarking on the app entrepreneur journey you should definitely dedicate a sizeable chunk of your time to activities other than design and coding.

While most developers understand this on a logical level, over the years I’ve seen a lot of frustration which I can attribute to the fact that most of the developers – even those working as contractors and freelancers – just aren’t wired this way.

Developer’s work cycle

At the high level the business process of every employed developer or those running their own consulting businesses looks something like this:

clip_image002

We get the task (either in a form of project or position in a company), we deliver what’s expected of us (completed project or a part of it) and we get paid. When we switch to the app entrepreneur world the overall process looks pretty much the same: our app idea is the task, completed app – a deliverable and the app store brings us money. But there’s one major difference, though.

As employee or contract developers we are used to doing all of our sales activities before we even get started:

clip_image004

We go to job interviews or prospective client meetings and we try to sell our skills. At that stage we’ve only made a minor investment into the “project” ranging from a couple of hours to a couple of days of our time. Failed a job interview? Sad, but not a big deal. On to the next opportunity.

Everything changes when you are an entrepreneur. You have to decide if your idea is commercially viable and most of the times there’s no sure way to determine this. So you have to decide to invest a significant chunk of your time (and money) into a task with a lot of uncertainty.

This is just common sense and every developer understands this. Having said that, we are still internally wired to consider delivery of the completed product as our final destination. We pop the champagne the minute the app goes live in the store. And we get depressed when we don’t see the immediate monetary return as per the scheme above.

The reality is that app’s publication is just the beginning of our sales activities and you have to work on your sales and marketing for the complete lifetime of your app.

clip_image006

The difference is subtle and huge at the same time. I see depressed developers-turned-app-entrepreneurs over and over again. And it’s not the quality of their app that’s at fault. Sometimes it’s the fact that they’ve decided to implement commercially unsound idea. But more often than not, even with great product-market fit, the cause of the disappointment is imagining a finish line in the middle of the marathon.

“My app is done” doesn’t mean that you’ve finished coding it. Your app is only done when you stop supporting it and unpublish it from the store. Otherwise you are still working on it.

This post is part of the series and an upcoming ebook on the business side of Windows 10 apps. If you are a successful Windows app or game developer, or you’ve learned a valuable lesson from your app business misgivings, the whole community would appreciate your input! Please, get in touch and contribute a chapter or an aside. Thank you!

The Business Side of Windows 10 Apps. Part I. Why? What? When? Chapter 1. Why did I decide to build an app or game?

Congratulations on deciding to build a Windows app or game! We will get into making it a successful business in the next part. But let’s start by analyzing your motivation. Understanding what was the main driver behind your decision is very important to structure your business model and strategy. Let’s cover four typical scenarios that led developers into launching Visual Studio, Unity, etc. and coming back to the tool until they have a product ready for the prime time in the Store.

Making apps as a hobby

Quite often our primary occupation is not directly related to building mobile apps or games, but we still have an interest in trying the new mobile tech. We are happy with what we do during the day, happy with the paycheck, and have no intention of changing careers to become an indie app developer. However, making apps or games is what we enjoy in the spare time.

Does this description match you? If so, it also hints at your optimal business model and monetization strategy – enjoy doing what you like to do and forget about all the business stuff (unless that is your hobby too). Trying to make a few bucks on the side without investing significant time and attention into the business side is a sure way to make no money and starting to hate your own hobby.

You will be much happier doing what you like to do and ignoring all the other things.

Apps as a résumé

You may dream of a career as an app or game developer, or may already have one, but can’t put any of the work on your résumé because of NDAs or other things. Making your own apps in your free time is a great way to get a new dream job.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Your goal is to show your skills to as many potential employers as possible. What’s the main obstacle to doing this? Monetization! When building apps to beef up your chances of getting a perfect job offer, you don’t want anything to stand in the way of potential employer seeing the manifestation of your skills.

On the other hand, you want to invest some time into attracting as many eyeballs to your work as you can. One of them could be your next awesome boss!

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Building apps for clients

Are you looking to break out as a trustworthy contractor building apps for other people? Releasing your own apps is as great a way of attracting potential clients as it is for finding jobs.

When we set out to build AppRaisin we were looking for someone to help us work on the app, especially in the UX department. Naturally, we thought about the other apps we’ve used and liked and the people who built them. That’s how LazyWormApps (the team behind Tweetro and Metrotube) came out on top of our potential partner list and the rest is history. We are happy with the results of their work and, I believe, they are happy with us as a client.

The scope of the effort you put into monetization of your own apps depends on the type of contracts you want to get. Developers looking to sell their technical proficiency should forgo any monetization activities in order to maximize exposure. On the other hand, if you are trying to become a one-stop-shop for your clients, you may want to have a showcase to demonstrate your abilities in the app business department.

Apps are my business!

You are the person this book is for! While all the other developers can benefit from most of the future chapters in one way or the other, you are the one who should be able to get some value from every one of them.

We will discuss ways to monetize and promote your apps and games throughout this book, but let’s start by talking about your attitude in the next chapter…

This post is part of the series and an upcoming ebook on the business side of Windows 10 apps. If you are a successful Windows app or game developer, or you’ve learned a valuable lesson from your app business misgivings, the whole community would appreciate your input! Please, get in touch and contribute a chapter or an aside. Thank you!

The Business Side of Windows 10 Apps. Prologue. App gold rush is over.

Windows Store doesn’t make headlines with flashy numbers of millions of dollars developers make per day or even a month. Yet, there are quite a few examples of independent developers and companies making a living off of Windows apps and games. We’ve heard about several indie developers making more than a $1,000,000 each. We’ve heard about bigger publishers like Game Insight earning “millions of dollars” on Windows. So it’s definitely doable.

Help needed: Do you have links to recent numbers from specific developers? Please, send them to me or post in the comments below. Want to post your own numbers as an aside to this post? Get in touch!

But we have to take a sober look at the whole mobile app world and realize that it’s not 2009 anymore. It’s no longer feasible to expect to make an app over the weekend, put it into one of the app stores and switch to hitting F5 in your internet bank. Accidents like Flappy Bird happen, but you can hardly bet on this happening to you.

When I was a student (in the early Windows Phone 7 days) I earned a few hundred dollars a month with a stopwatch and a fart app. That felt like a gold rush. Not that I was really proud of it, though.
Tom Verhoeff
professional Windows Developer.

The app gold rush is over. Even the best app and game developers have to invest resources into ensuring success for their top quality products. Whether you want it or not, if you care about commercial success of your creation, you will have to spend as much time (if not more) on the business side of it as you do on design and development.

Even though Windows [Phone] store is in its fourth or fifth incarnation over the last 5 years, it is still not as mature as Apple’s App Store or Google Play. And I don’t mean technical implementation of the features, discovery options and so on. In this regard every store has its strengths and weaknesses. What I mean is, that by being a pretty distant third app ecosystem Windows Store doesn’t attract enough attention from the biggest app developers and the brightest minds in app marketing and monetization.

This is a curse but could be a blessing at the same time. On one hand the supporting ecosystem of services and know-how on app business is underdeveloped on Windows. But on the other hand, as app and game developers, we gain a lot of opportunities to take advantage of it by filling the infamous “app gap”, and applying know-how and useful tricks from app marketers on other platforms that have not been overused and exhausted on Windows yet.

Making apps and games for a living and being your own boss is a lifetime dream for many of us. While you may have missed the gold rush by a couple of years, it is still a feasible goal. You just have to apply yourself or find a partner to handle areas that go beyond development. This series will try to combine the best app business practices from other mobile platforms with collective know-how of the Windows developer ecosystem. Join the ride by subscribing to the RSS feed, following AdDuplex on twitter and contributing in the comments and beyond.

Let’s go…

This post is part of the series and an upcoming ebook on the business side of Windows 10 apps. If you are a successful Windows app or game developer, or you’ve learned a valuable lesson from your app business misgivings, the whole community would appreciate your input! Please, get in touch and contribute a chapter or an aside. Thank you!

The Business Side of Windows 10 Apps. Introduction.

About a year ago I set out to write a series of blog posts on the basics of monetizing your mobile apps with advertising. The series received great response from the community and we decided to publish it as a free ebook and even print a few copies.

I enjoyed the experience of putting my thoughts on the subject on “paper”, but, to be honest, I wanted to write the series and a book I’m writing now more than the whole thing on just advertising. That said, at the time Windows 10 wasn’t out yet but was clear on the horizon, and I felt that a lot of things will change once it is out. So, being lazy as I am, I decided to postpone the “marketing and monetization” book for later, and that’s how the advertising 101 book came to be.

Now that Windows 10 has been out for a while (at least on the desktop and new phones, cough, cough) I feel like the time has come to try and collect the collective wisdom of the Windows developer community, mobile developer community in general, mix it with official “party line” from Microsoft and produce an ultimate guide to marketing and monetization of apps and games on Windows 10.

The way I see it today, the series and the book will consist of 4 main parts.

Part I. Why? What? When?

In Part I we will discuss how you approach building the app or game before you even get started. Maybe before you even got the idea. The goal of this part is to crystalize your motivations and set out a course forward based on them.

Part II. Getting return on your investment

User acquisition tends to be expensive these days. While “get a million users and figure out business model later” may have worked in the past, it could be pretty expensive to get there in 2016 and beyond. So, having a good understanding of how these user acquisition efforts will pay off, would be great before spending time and money on getting people into your app.

Part III. User acquisition

Getting your business model right is great, but even the best business model is nothing when you have no users. Getting Windows users to use your apps and games is a challenge of its own and deserves the longest section of the series.

Part IV. User retention

Getting people to download your app is one task, keeping them coming back is another. In a world where selling apps and games upfront for a meaningful amount of money is not the norm, this becomes as important as any other part of the equation.

So far I imagine around 30 potential chapters for the series, but I want to collect as much useful information and practical insights as possible. And for that …

I NEED YOUR HELP!

I want these series and the book to be as good as humanly possible. While I’ll be writing what I’ve learned from numerous conversations with developers, marketers, Microsoft employees and our own experience with AppRaisin, I would love to include guest posts/chapters covering the insights in one of the areas outlined above. If you’ve built a successful app or game business on Windows, or, otherwise, haven’t been as successful, but learned a valuable and practical lesson, please contact me at alan@adduplex.com or @ailon on Twitter. Hopefully you’ll agree to write a guest post or aside to one of the chapters in the series, share valuable experience with the community and get a few users for your app or game along the way.

Mobile App Monetization Survey is coming to an end

Mobile App Monetization SurveyWe love apps! And we’d like to hear your opinion towards mobile apps and games too. If you are app developer or app user please submit our 10 minute Mobile App Monetization Survey.

Here are two major reasons to do it NOW:

  1. Soon the survey will be closed (well keep it open till 30th of November)
  2. By submitting you can win the Lumia 950 XL and other great prizes!

We will share survey findings and analysis publicly on our blog during the month of December. So you will be able to compare your habits with the revealed mobile app usage trends.

Click here and submit the survey now.

Your voice matters! And we’d appreciate if you could share the survey with your friends on social media because the more responses are in the more accurate results we’ll all get.

Mobile App Monetization Survey

Lumia-950-XL AdDuplex

Mobile app and game user or developer? Your voice is extremely important here!

Recently we have launched Mobile App Monetization Survey to reveal actual user / developer practice and usage habits towards mobile app monetization. So whether you are app user or app developer we invite you to be a part of it.

The survey won’t take more than 10 minutes but the outcomes are expected to be really insightful and interesting. We will bring up the key findings as a free public report on our blog.

Moreover we have prepared the awesome Microsoft Lumia 950 XL and more other great prizes as a reward for your contribution!

And don’t forget that the more responses we collect the more accurate results we’ll all obtain.

Click here to start the survey.