Just Say No to Payola, or Why I’m Not Paying For a Good Review.

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:

Hi,

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 .

This entry was posted in iPhone Apps, iPhone Development, marketing, Sol: Sun Clock and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Just Say No to Payola, or Why I’m Not Paying For a Good Review.

  1. alec says:

    Since it appears to be public knowledge, I’ll save you from following the links and let you know the company above is AppCraver.

    Since then, I have gotten offers from several other purported “review” sites. Here is the price list from

    DailyAppShow: publishes their review rates at http://dailyappshow.com/submit-an-app-for-review

    AppDictions.com:
    1.Featured Listing/Review – $20 per app (normal $25)
    2. Spotlight Listing/Review – $35 per app (normal $45)
    3. Spotlight and Featured – $45 per app (normal $60)

    AppSplit.com:
    – Get a featured article, similar to this one or this one, by purchasing a $50 ad or more. Note this is not a review, this will be a strictly informational article about your app. If you go this route please let us know that you purchased the ad and we’ll get going on the article ASAP.

  2. alec says:

    Here’s a particularly scummy one from AppReviewPros that blatantly offers selling 5-star App Store reviews:

    Dear App Owner,

    As you know, the app market has exploded! Having a successful app is becoming increasingly challenging. Gone are the days when you could release an app and instantly receive hundreds of downloads and reviews. Your app is in competition with a multitude of similar apps and you need to stand out above the rest!

    App Review Pros has analyzed the app market over the last few years, and we have identified 4 crucial areas for any app to be a success. It is imperative that your app gets the exposure and credibility it deserves right from the start. Our eBook will show you how our services (which focus on these 4 primary channels) can help Jumpstart your app today!

    Click here to view our eBook——-> http://www.appreviewpros.com/ebook.pdf

    **Special Offer:**

    What You Get!

    1) 5 positive iTunes App Reviews
    2) App Review feedback form with suggestions and ideas for each app
    3) Facebook post on our facebook page to over 1150+ followers with your app review and link to your app.
    4) If your not rated in iTunes yet, we will get your app rated..
    5) Reviews Posted within 24hrs!
    6) Reviews available for: iPhone, iPad, iPod, & Mac app’s

    Limited Time Only! $79.99 per app ($45 Savings)

  3. alec says:

    Also, in the interest of record, I got one from “TheAppleGoogle”—whom I’ve read complaints about in the past—directing me to http://theapplegoogle.com/ultimate-promotion-campaign

  4. alec says:

    Here’s another one!

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    My name is Jason Jones, I am a developer at MyAppAware Ltd (http://www.myappaware.com). I read your press release from prMac today and had a try of your app Sol: Sun Clock, and it looks like a really great app.

    I’d like to offer our help promoting and marketing your app in the iTunes App Store.

    – How could we help you?
    User reviews is a critical factor that influences many potential customers deciding to download or buy YOUR app over another similar ones. If your app doesn’t have many user reviews where other similar apps do, people will be more than likely to purchase the app with many reviews than the app with no reviews. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to convince people to write their reviews through traditional marketing techniques. However with our service, we guarantee you will receive genuine iPhone users’s honest reviews for your app in App Store. Apart from guaranteeing you real user reviews, we also provide you a communication channel to ask iPhone users specific questions about your app and let them join and get involved in your Twitter feed, Facebook Fan pages, etc. We offer you an unique way of building longer term relationships with real users and grow your own community.

    – Is our service compatible with Apple’s rules?
    Yes, it is totally within with Apple’s guidelines. All our reviewers are genuine iPhone users, who we found from Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Blogs, Forums etc. We are asking them to only write honest reviews, just like all others in App Store, there is no reason our service is against Apple’s rules.

    – How much do we charge?
    For a limited time only, we’d like to reduce our service fee from $2 to just $1 per review/action, which means, for per review/action, we charge at [$0.99 App Price + $1.00 Reviewer Bonus + $1 Service Fee = $2.99] and you could order 10 – 50 reviews/actions for your app at one time. For example, a 20 reviews/actions campaign will cost [20 Apps * $0.99 App Price + 20 Reviews/Actions * $1 Reviewer Bonus + 20 Reviews/Actions * $1 Service Fee = $59.8] and obviously you will get [20 Apps * $0.99 * 70% = $13.86] back from Apple, as our reviewers will purchase your app before they can review and act on it. (If you app is free app, no app cost is needed.)

    – How long it takes to deliver the reviews?
    As we have many reviewers, once your campaign is started, we will notify all our reviewers, and you will see reviews being published to App store within a very short period of time. For 20 reviews, on average, it takes about 2 days to deliver by all our reviewers. (Please note, after a reviewer submits a review, it may take 12 – 24 hours to appear in App Store.)

    After your campaign is created, if you are not happy with our service at anytime, we will issue a refund upon request. If you are interested in learning more about our service, please contact me (jason.jones@myappaware.com) or our support team (support@myappaware.com) and we’ll get right back to you within 1 working day.

    Kindly Regards,

    Jason Jones
    Software Developer
    Email : jason.jones@myappaware.com
    URL : http://www.myappaware.com
    Twitter : http://www.twitter.com/myappaware
    Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/myappaware

  5. alec says:

    Here’s a similar story from another iOS dev on the same subject. I am glad that his conclusion is that the pay-to-play expedited reviews are a rip-off!

    http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/178566/Opinion_Would_you_pay_to_have_your_app_reviewed.php

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