Should You Charge for Your App?

Every now and then I get asked if charging end users to download an app wouldn’t be the best way to defray the cost. The answer I always give is NO!!!!

I call this the Angry Birds syndrome. There are some people, who haven’t really been paying much attention to the mobile revolution, but have heard of this crazy game that some company in Europe came out with that’s been downloaded, like, a gazillion times at 99 cents a pop.  Surely, they reason, that’s a quick and easy way to pay for an app and make a tidy profit besides.

Well, first of all, Angry Birds came out in 2009. That’s like stone-age times in the fast moving world of mobile. I can assure you that these days, most people won’t pay 99 cents to download an app for a sports team, event or organization. In the last year alone, I’ve personally downloaded countless apps for sports organizations, including such prestigious brands as the Ryder Cup, Wimbledon Tennis Championships, ESPN and several major league teams. Every one of them was free.

We even heard of a tournament that polled their participants on the mattter. They offered a free app and then asked their users how much, if anything, they would have been willing to pay for it. The users said they’d happily pay up to $1.99. Based on that information, a competing event (our client) had us develop a paid app, in spite of our strong advice to the contrary. Barely a few dozen people downloaded it, which was a shame because it was a really nice app.

The moral of that story: Even if people tell you they’ll happily pay for an app, when push comes to shove, they won’t.

Charging someone to download your app is like charging them to surf your website. Sure, there are some websites that do, but you’d better have something really valuable behind that pay wall. Just ask anyone in the newspaper industry.

In my next email, I’ll tell you how you can get your app paid for and even turn it into a profit center in its own right.