Tag Archives: free

Apple promotions survey

I was chatting with some developers the other night about giving away software to Apple employees. If you’re not familiar with the practice, it’s fairly common to give free or discounted licenses to Apple employees as a gesture of goodwill to the people responsible for making our platform, and in the hope that they will spread the word to friends and customers in the Apple Stores. (If you’re a developer and want to set this up, “check out Dan Wood’s overview”:http://www.karelia.com/mac_indie_marketing/give_your_app_to_apple_empl.html.)

I’ve given away over 1000 licenses for “Wii Transfer”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/ and “Clipstart”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/clipstart/ to Apple employees since I started doing it a few months ago. I didn’t expect this number to be so high, but I guess it makes sense. Apple folks are getting a link from their internal site directly to my special registration page, and many of them probably request a serial number just in case they need it later.

The question I have isn’t whether it’s worth it; it only took a few hours to set up, and even if it just makes a handful of Apple employees happy then that’s a success. But I was curious about the greater impact of giving away my software. Is the $0 investment in a pile of other free licenses enough to engage someone to, for example, take the time to set up Clipstart and move a collection of videos into it, let alone recommend it to others? (See also: “Worthless apps”:http://www.manton.org/2009/12/worthless_apps.html.)

To find out more, I sent a special newsletter to all the @apple.com addresses in my registration database, asking if they used the software, how they liked it, and whether they’d recommend it to others or not. And I included in “the short survey”:http://riverfold.wufoo.com/forms/riverfold-survey-for-apple-2010/ a place for general feedback, and a choice about upcoming features.

Some developers I talked with were concerned about a potential backlash. Although I send a newsletter to my customers once or twice a year, it’s debatable whether some of the people I was including had implicitly signed up by purchasing (with a 100% discount!) or whether I had crossed a line. The last thing I want to do is upset any of my customers, and I provide the same level of support to everyone whether they’ve paid full price, received a free license, or just tried the demo.

In the end I decided it was harmless. The email was short, plain text, and had an obvious one-click unsubscribe link. One of the things I like about using “Campaign Monitor”:http://www.campaignmonitor.com/ is that once someone unsubscribes, any new mailings are automatically scrubbed against the unsubscribers list. Even if I accidentally add the customer again in the future they won’t receive an email. So far, 2.2% of recipients have unsubscribed.

As for the survey results, here are a few graphs. Not many people filled out the survey (like unsubscribes, just a couple percent, though they’re still trickling in after 2 days), but the other feedback I received in the comments and feature questions was very helpful. 100% of users said they had mentioned the product to someone else.

Survey charts

Would I do this again? No, not such a narrowly-focused newsletter as this. The quick survey served its purpose, but I am always nervous about wearing out my welcome. I plan to add an explicit newsletter opt-in checkbox to my free license page, and I should do a better job of differentiating free licenses and paying customers in the future. I’ll send another general newsletter out to all customers (and opt-ins from contests) when I have something major to announce later in the year.

New and old posts about NetNewsWire

“NetNewsWire is free”:http://inessential.com/?comments=1&postid=3461 (congrats again Brent!) and reaction is coming in from other indie developers.

“Rory Prior”:http://www.thinkmac.co.uk/blog/2008/01/scorched-earth.html: “It’s hard to compete with a product that’s as well known and frankly as good as NNW, it’s damn near impossible to compete with it when it’s free.”

“Paul Kafasis”:http://www.rogueamoeba.com/utm/posts/Article/NNWFree-2008-01-09-19-00.html: “When something is given away for free, its perceived value is lowered. If software is treated as valueless, it becomes much, much harder to sell.”

Ultimately I don’t think it’s going to have a significant negative impact as far as devaluating other software (except of course other news readers) because most people paying attention should connect that it supports Newsgator’s core business model. But rather than debate the issue I searched my archives to see what else I had said about the product. It must be one of the most-blogged-about apps ever, right? I’m limiting it to 1 post per year.

2002: “Moving to NetNewsWire”:http://www.manton.org/2002/09/moving_to_netnewswire.html

2003: “NetNewsWire as a platform”:http://www.manton.org/2003/03/netnewswire_as_a.html

2004: “Google and the great apps to come”:http://www.manton.org/2004/12/google_and_the_great.html

2005: “Tabs are a hack”:http://www.manton.org/2005/05/tabs_are_a_hack.html

2006: “Time for thinking”:http://www.manton.org/2006/07/time_for.html

2007: “New software releases (plus screencast)”:http://www.manton.org/2007/06/new_software_releases.html

2008: “New and old posts about NetNewsWire”:http://www.manton.org/2008/01/new_and_old.html (you’re reading it!)