Friday, April 23, 2021

More App Store Search Ads

Sami Fathi:

Apple is planning to boost its advertising business through a new ad slot on the App Store search page which will allow developers to promote their apps across the entire platform, rather than just when users search for a specific app, according to a new report from the Financial Times.


According to the Financial Times, citing people familiar with the matter, the company plans to roll out a second ad slot within the App Store , but this time directly within the Search page, by the end of the month. The new ads will appear alongside the current “Suggested” section on the page and will be visible to users across the whole platform.

Everyone has different ideas about how to improve the App Store, but I’ve never heard anyone say that the problem is it doesn’t have enough ads.


Update (2021-05-05): Apple:

Apple Search Ads has always made it easy to promote your apps at the top of relevant search results on the App Store. Now you can reach users even before they search with an ad placement on the Search tab. It’s a simple and effective way to help users discover your apps.

BBC (via Hacker News):

Last week’s release of iOS 14.5 placed strict limits on tracking on iPhones - including tracking for advertising.

And Facebook fiercely opposed the change, warning it would favour Apple’s own advertising system.

Patrick McGee:

Apple’s Eric Friedman, head of the fraud unit and whose emails are a journalist’s dream, responds that paid promotion “would be awesome” particularly because bots were already gaming the App Store ranking; so “why don’t we just let them pay us to gain position?”

Friedman conceded the App Store would be “pretty cheesy” if it were inundated with ads, “but at least it would be transparently cheesy.” In any case, he said the App Store’s role as an app discovery tool had become pretty meaningless for consumers.

Friedman later acknowledged that developers would “love” being able to pay for ads in the App Store, but “Tim” — presumably Cook — was “telling the world we make great products without monetizing users. Ads would be weirdly at odds with that.”


7 Comments RSS · Twitter

One of the biggest reasons for paying a premium for Apple products is to not to be bombarded with annoyances like ads. This is unpalatable to say the least. I’d go so far as to say it’s trashy.

Kevin Schumacher

I guess I'd like to see how this will show up, exactly. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. Discoverability in the App Store has always been a problem, and if this can help that for small developers, that's a good thing.

If it's more ads for Instagram and Facebook, no thanks.

@Kevin I’d love to see stats, but my impression is that it’s mostly the big developers who buy lots of ads.

Imagine another world in which customers specify what they want, and an intelligence helps them find a selection of tools that fill the need. I remember that world. It was called a physical store and it had knowledgeable humans in it back in the 80s.

Now, we've automated it. But we've so distorted the process that the app one is searching for by name often doesn't even appear in the search results: one has to go out of one's way to guess at other ways to find it.

This is not a problem of technology. It is a problem of misaligned incentives. If Apple's interest were to make the best experience possible, they could, no doubt, create a reasonable facsimile of the original in-store experience: an AI to help one quickly find the software one needs. And that might even justify some of their enormous cut. Indeed, they'd encourage trials, not subscriptions.

However it's clear that their interest is in making money, not serving their customers. So they sell advertisements. Advertisements are actually attacks on customers: they don't provide a fair and balanced view, they only serve to distort the customer's understanding. And guess which companies can afford to pay most for advertisements? Scams which involve low development cost, high profits, and unhappy customers. Or scams which rely on customers to create all the content while selling off customers' data. Even good companies that need to pay for advertisements will have to hit up a couple of Venture Capitalists, who will come back later to push for their pound of flesh. Couldn't we just sell the users data? Or charge a subscription? Or show them advertisements? Companies that aren't VC backed, consisting of just a couple of people making the best whatever, won't have the money to pay for advertisements.

Apple's Store is about money. It's a place where those with a lot of capital and few scruples win. And from that perspective, a 30% cut is fine, perhaps even leaving money on the table. Although Apple tells developers that they matter to them, one should look at their actions, the system they created, not at their words. The system they created privileges money, not product quality. And they believe that software is just a commodity. Since a 3D engine is just a 3D engine, booting Unreal off iOS is fine: programmers should just recompile using Unity! The people at Apple behind that move literally didn't care that the two engines have nothing in common. All they cared about was getting their cut. Is the cause ignorance? arrogance? stupidity? cupidity? Who knows, but such behavior is clearly only possible in a world of monopolistic power.

This is not the world I thought we'd create as an naive and optimistic youngster. Ah well, I guess if humans weren't born naive and optimistic, but realistic, humanity would have died out a long time ago.

>Discoverability in the App Store has always been a problem

My impression so far is that Search Ads

1) make Apple more money,
2) further distort the App Store towards apps that are already financially successful,
3) don't actually help discoverability of ones that aren't (but arguably "should be")

>Imagine another world in which customers specify what they want, and an intelligence helps them find a selection of tools that fill the need. I remember that world. It was called a physical store and it had knowledgeable humans in it back in the 80s.

Physical stores, too, have incentives to push the consumer towards particular products. For example, they're incentivized to structure their aisles such that you spend more time looking at products you didn't actually intend to buy. And they make the low-margin ones just slightly harder to reach.

Old Unix Geek

For example, they're incentivized to structure their aisles such that you spend more time looking at products you didn't actually intend to buy

I find that asking people usually cuts through that: it's a search function that works.

I don't look at products I don't need. I avoid wandering through stores by finding the store map and looking at that. In my book, shopping of all kinds is a chore: the less time I spend on it the better. The time I do spend is on making sure I get the right thing.

Kevin Schumacher

Depends how and where you're asking. In addition to what Sören said, many stores have outright paid placement. At least in the case of grocery stores, food producers not only pay for placement but often dictate which of their competitors are allowed to sit alongside of them.

And many stores have commissioned employees, or if not outright commissioning, products they're instructed to push. Asking for a specific item might help alleviate that or not, depending on the situation. And of course if you feel a store's employees are being unhelpful or pushy, you may not go back there. But B&M retail is not exactly a paragon of excellence. And while I was alive but not really cognizant during the '80s, I'm not sure that things have shifted so drastically since then that today's retail is unrecognizable to that time period (technology changes aside).

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