February 9, 2015 Last Updated 10:04 am

The problem of volume app developers in the App Store lessens, but doesn’t go away

Even volume app developers find discovery to be an issue as they are forced to stay totally anonymous to avoid having their apps pulled by Apple

It has always been the case that finding a good app, or a good digital magazine, has been difficult – the ol’ needle in a haystack. For a while, the pace of new app releases seemed to have slowed. In 2014, for instance, I estimated that the Apple Newsstand grew about 30 percent, though admitted that it was difficult to be precise because of Apple’s own broken search mechanism.

Thirty percent growth seems enormous, considering how many apps were in the store before 2014 began, but it actually represented a bit of a slowdown. What there were less of through much of last year was the spam developers – those developers whose strategy was/is to launch as many apps as possible, get iOS device owners to download them, and hopefully lure them to sign up for an annual subscription to a digital magazine that will never see a second or third issue.


PDF replicas and digital magazines from volume developers dominate the Newsstand

But while 2014 started with less of these kinds of apps appearing, 2015 has reverted back to form, with a number of developers launching a dozen or more apps at the same time, somehow getting these worthless apps through Apple’s App Store review team.

In the past, I have called out these apps by name, but after four years of being physically and legally threatened by these hucksters I’ve decided that the phone calls are just not worth it.

In previous years, some of these developers of volume apps made an attempt to at least appear legitimate. One developer made sure their apps linked back to a website and that the Newsstand apps showed their name. Of course, the website linked to was unmaintained, and the names in many cases were pseudonyms.

Today, many developers have learned their lesson and no longer provide links to any external websites in their app descriptions. As for the apps themselves, the digital magazines similarly don’t include links or even a full name to show who is behind the apps or the digital magazines.

The digital magazines are all built in a similar fashion: poorly designed PDFs that are on common topics: weight loss, fitness, and the like.

Do these digital magazines and other apps sell? Honestly, I doubt it. Back three or more years ago, when there were far less apps in the App Store, and all new apps appeared briefly on the first page of the store, iOS device owners would download these apps and then quickly write reviews. Part of the game was to flood the App Store with bogus reviews so that the real reviews, all negative, wouldn’t discourage readers from downloading the app.

One developer, who has just released more than a dozen new apps into the App Store within a two week period of time, three of which are supposedly new digital magazines, really has no need to try and submit fake reviews as no one is so far complaining. Discovery remains a problem for everyone, so those developers that are flooding the App Store with apps face the problem commercial publishers do – getting anyone to find their apps.

But with these volume developers now trying to stay even more anonymous than in the past, these apps are launched without supporting websites, making discovery even more difficult.

Today, the volume developers are unlikely to strike it rich. But their impact on publishers remains: scam developers are filling the Apple Newsstand with junk and leaving the impression on many readers that digital magazines are a poor product to invest in.

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