So I released my latest iPhone app— called Sol: Sun Clock— and decided to do some actual marketing this time. Apress had sent me a free copy of The Business of iPhone App Development (1st ed.) and I finally had a chance to go through it. (There’s lots of good information in there. In the interest of full disclosure they sent it hoping I would say that, since I said something good about one of their other books, and I can generally recommend it for developers who don’t like to think about marketing.)
As recommended by the book, I wrote up a press release and I’ve started sending it out. One of the first responses I got was from a well-known app review site that was near the very top of the alphabetical list:
Thanks for sending over information about your app. It will be evaluated for possible review on [SiteNameHere]. Please note that due to the number of inquiries and review requests we receive daily, it may take a while to get to your app. However, we have several other options to help you connect with [SiteNameHere] readers.
[SiteNameHere].com can provide an expedited review for a $150 fee which will get your app reviewed within approximately 7 business days. Paying to expedite your review does not guarantee a positive review. However, if the app scores lower than 5/10, you will have the option of keeping the review private. You will still receive a copy of the review as professional feedback and can request that we review your next update instead.
We also have several forms of advertising opportunities on [SiteNameHere].com. Ads and tweets may be purchased online at [URL redacted].
Banner Ads: $350
Right Column 180×150
Social Media Advertising: $29
Send a tweet to [SiteNameHere]’s 13,500 followers
To get started with an Expedited Review, send your payment for $150 via Paypal to [email redacted]. Be sure to mention the name of your app in the notes section of your payment.
This is an automated message. Please contact me directly if you have additional questions. I look forward to talking to you about advertising opportunities. For a faster response, please reply to [email redacted].
And here is the footer that makes it kinda clear they are up to no good…
CONFIDENTIAL! This e-mail contains proprietary information some of which may be legally privileged. It is for the intended recipient only. If an error has misdirected this e-mail, please notify the author by replying to it. Regardless of whether you are the intended recipient or not, you may not disclose, distribute, copy, or publish this email in public view without written consent from the sender.
I have a strong distaste for even mild extortion, especially when it comes to the “free” press, and I for one won’t be buying my app reviews. Thanks to Google, I found out I am not the first person to air this complaint about this company (check the comments for the writer’s follow-ups—I’d love to call this company out by name, but you can find it easy enough on this link).
Some people might feel this is just the way that advertising works. If you want your shop or restaurant to get a review in a local free weekly, it sure helps if you advertise in that publication. Often the ads are placed right next to the review so there’s no confusion! Theoretically I like to believe that the ad isn’t influencing the writer that the paper sends out to write the review, and that there’s not a “confidential” memo with borderline unethical practices circulating.
I wonder how many other sites do this? I hope that more developers will stand up and call out this bullshit. People who visit these sites need to know that they are reading paid-for reviews. Developers trying to release useful and quality apps stand a better chance of competing when the reviews aren’t all gotten through extortion.
What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from other developers and iPhone users… what sites are legitimate and worth visiting and contacting? I mostly rely on word-of-mouth and Twitter, but I have heard good things about 148apps.com .