Making Money with iAds – an iOS Developer’s Story

Apple iAd LogoThe developer of ProPassword (for iOS devices) has posted an interesting testimony on his blog. He released the app for free, relying on Apple’s advertising platform, iAd as the sole source of revenue. Over 15,000 downloads later, this developer decides that ad-supported free apps just aren’t a reliable revenue source. He writes:

I was hoping to at least make the $99 I paid for the Apple developer program and I succeeded. Still, I don’t consider it a big success financially, although it has been an incredible learning experience.

I recommend reading the full post, there are some good points to learn from, even developing for Android devices. The only time ProPassword generated substantial advertising revenue was after a major traffic spike. Without the support of blog publicity, or the featured app status, daily income dropped to practically nothing. The post concludes with a rather grim outlook for iAds:

My conclusion so far is, that I won’t try the iAd route again. It’s just too hard to break even with an app that way.

My next app is going to be a 99ct one, we’ll see how well that works.

Reading testimonials like this, it’s easy to conclude that free apps won’t generate much revenue unless they become a huge hit. With my own apps on the Android Market, so far I’ve seen a similar story. Releasing an upgrade brings in some extra traffic, but daily revenue is still quite low.

However, there are more factors to consider than just straight out revenue. If you have published multiple apps, one successful app can serve as free publicity for your other, revenue generating apps. It’s not necessary for every release to generate revenue in it’s own right, but the sum total could still be successful financially.

Alternatively, you could release a paid version of the free app, which removes the advertising and possibly adds more features. The upgrade incentive means your free app can be useful, even if the advertising revenue is only enough to break even on the development costs.

  • Chris

    I don’t own an android device, but I do own an iOS device and I tried the ProPassword application. Now, I mean no offence to the developer, but I am not surprised this app isn’t making much ad revenue as it has little to no functionality.
    I think the best way to make money, whether that be a paid app or ad-supported free app would be to make a _good_ app.

  • Chris

    I don’t own an android device, but I do own an iOS device and I tried the ProPassword application. Now, I mean no offence to the developer, but I am not surprised this app isn’t making much ad revenue as it has little to no functionality.
    I think the best way to make money, whether that be a paid app or ad-supported free app would be to make a _good_ app.

    • Kelly

      Agreed.

  • Oli Wright

    For an alternative opinion it’s well worth reading the case study for Ant Smasher on the Guide to the App Galaxy.

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  • Kellyng87

    Hmm, for the most part, I do agree with ads being less reliable than paid for making money.  Maybe iAd was too narrow, maybe should be using AdWhirl instead, and do some marketing, and change up the strategy a bit?  Free apps can still be powerful.  Also heard Adsense has huge potential for app revenue.

  • Doca Jarrod

    That’s not a real app, that’s a one hour dev time, surprised he got 15K downloads.

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    • Just

      Spamming forums. Congrats retard. Better spending the time to learn how to make a decent app.

  • http://www.spinutopia.com/ Slachappelle

    It’s interesting to me that someone would spend time and money building an application with the goal of creating ad revenue and build an app that is really a “one and done” type of solution where the user solves an inherent need and they have no need to use it again.  I visit the app, create the password and i’m done.  In this app the pageviews, repeat visitors and social interaction is going to be extremely low,  the only way I could see this being successful is as a paid app with a large media campaign pushing it out on the iAd network as an advertiser to generate downloads.

    The iAd network is setup to pay on CPM and CPC as a hybrid model, an app with daily updated content, an app that acts as a media portal or has a social platform built in will likely do much better by offering a free app and monetizing on ad revenue. 

    We’re currently building an app that we feel will revolutionize the way that event media is captured in the music industry and distributed by the fans that attend.   We are placing our bet on the iAd network, hopefully it pays off!

    The current website needs an overhaul to say the least but the app will give us the tool we have been needing to close the loop and engage with our customer!

    http://www.spinutopia.com if anyone wants to check it out and follow us to see how it goes, app launches end of next month… if I remember i’ll come back and update on how it goes!

  • Skydreamer0521

    I totally agree with this developer.  I released a free app last month and thus far it was only downloaded 1500 times.  But its not about the downloads, its about users not clicking on the iAds these days.
    iAds might have been cool and interesting and users were clicking on them when they were first introduced.  However these days they often repeat and users just don’t click on them.  Yesterday I had over 1000 impressions with 0.38% click through rate which resulted in $0.88 for the day.  Today I have over 500 impressions but 0% click through rate, which is resulting in less than $0.20.

    To have a potential to earn $$, I had to introduce in-app purchases, which are currently waiting for approval.