iAd Policy Change: No more kid-focused apps.
Dex is a utility for browsing Pokémon on your iPhone. It has been a huge success. One of the nice things I’ve been able to do is make the app available as a free download, supporting its continued development primarily by using Apple’s iAd platform. I supplemented this with ads from AdMob (when the iAd system doesn’t have an ad to show1) and also added an in-app purchase for those who want to show support for future development and turn off ads. I’ve documented my setup during the monetization presentation if you want more info. To sum it up, most of the money came from the iAd network.
Having Dex as a free download really helped its exposure. Dex has been downloaded by over 500,000 users. Tons of these users are young kids with iPod Touches who can’t make app purchases on a whim. They have a blast using Dex and I’m happy to see it get the widest possible audience.
Last Thursday I had a particularly awful iAd fill rate of 5%. This isn’t new, I’ve had problems before. Then on Friday a 0% fill rate, then on Saturday another 0% fill rate. I emailed Apple and posted a question to the company’s developer forums. Today I finally got a reply:
We periodically review the apps in the iAd Network to ensure that all apps receiving ads are aligned with the needs of our advertisers. Currently, our advertisers prefer that their advertising not appear in applications that are targeted for users that are young children, since their products are not targeted at that audience.
We appreciate your understanding.
iAd Network Support Apple, Inc. 1 Infinite Loop Cupertino, CA 95014
And that’s how an iAd supported version of Dex died. No warning, no notice and inevitably no respect to the developers who have cenetered their app’s revenue model around the iAd platform.
Apple should target their ads better. I would have loved to have seen some ads that were better suited to kids in Dex. It’s a shame they don’t have the inventory to do so. However the manner in which they’ve made this policy change just stinks.
Furthermore there is no documentation of this change. Nothing is on the iAd developer page to alert people that the current fill rate for apps and games targeted at kids is zero.
As for what will come of Dex, in the short term it will remain the same: a free download, showing ads (now only from AdMob network) with an in-app purchase to show support and turn off ads. For the future, Dex will have to move to a normal pay per download model or lock some of the major features behind the in-app pay wall and continue to give out basic functionality for free. I’m leaning toward the latter but won’t make a decision until I’ve finished shipping my new iOS game TwizShow, which until recently was going to show iAds.
Today was another harsh reminder we iPhone developers are making a living at the beck and whim of a powerful platform vender. Be careful putting all your eggs in his basket.
1 Dex’s average fill rate (the precent it got an ad after asking the iAd system for one) was 16.5%. AdMob’s fill rate is much greater but the value of the ads are typically much less than with iAds.
Posted on: May 10, 2011 – 3:25 PM