Distimo tries to put some numbers to the impact of being featured in the App Store

Every publisher knows that having one’s app featured in the Apple or Google app store will dramatically increase download and subscription sales. Without this promotion many, maybe most, apps die a slow death. Some magazine titles in the Newsstand get constant promotion – what would digital sales be like for TIME, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker or other titles if they were not featured by Apple 100 percent of the time in the Newsstand?

Distimo tries to quantify this impact in its newest report on apps. The company will be holding a webinar on this next week and those interested can sign up at the website.

Distimo, unfortunately, did not look at digital publications, but looked at games. The concept should be the same, but publications that require a secondary step (the first being the download, the second being the subscription sale) probably are impacted by additional factors beyond app promotion.

What Distimo found is what all developers know – that app promotion dramatically increases downloads – but now there are some numbers to look at. Distimo tracked apps featured in the “New” categories such as “Best New Apps” and “Best New Games”. They tracked 108 apps featured in “Best new Apps” and saw that, on average, they were featured about 8 days.

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Distimo found that Apple is not exactly an honest promoter of apps as many of the apps promoted as “New” were not.

“Some choices of the selected apps in both ‘being new’ categories are remarkable. One might expect brand-new apps in these lists. This is not true. Well performing apps that were published months or even years ago have been selected in these categories,” the authors of the report say.

The situation is even worse inside the Newsstand (though Distimo does not mention this). All the categories currently lack any curation at all under “New” but are simply placed in alphabetical order. Because of this, if your publication starts with an “A” there is a good chance your title is being seen every day by Newsstand shoppers.

But there are also times when one magazine is placed at the beginning. I have tried to make some sense out of this, but continue to struggle to find out what is going on. For instance, in the Arts & Photography category the apps under “New” are in alphabetical order but one title, House of Choppers, which probably was miscategorized, is the first app seen (then they are in alphabetical order after that one app starting with “A”, the first app being Aaron Art and Photography Magazine). Why is House of Choppers here, is it being promoted by the App App Store team, or is their system broken (I vote for “broken”).

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This chart, above, looks at multiple apps promoted over time and sees the impact as they go in and out of their promotional cycle.

Distimo is as confused as everyone else about how an app gets promoted.

“It is unclear how an app becomes one of the ‘chosen-ones’. The good news is that it does not cost anything. It is basically a free promotion for the app,” the authors say. They also point out that some category promotion does not seem to have the same positive effects on downloads as other promotions. Also, the effect of promotion effects downloads of free apps more than paid ones.

“Overall, the effect of getting featured is larger on downloads than on revenue. This also indicates that being featured has a higher effect on free apps than on paid apps,” Tiuri van Agten, the reports’s author states.

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