Apple is ignorantly killing the App Store affiliate program


App Store
Apple apps no longer dominate App Store search results.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple has confirmed plans to drop apps and in-app purchases from its iTunes Affiliate Program by October 1.

The company feels that commissions are no longer necessary following the launch of its redesigned App Store, which has improved app discovery. However, everyone else believes it’s an ignorant and shortsighted move that won’t be good for anyone but Apple.

The Affiliate Program has long given third-party websites and publications a chance to earn money by promoting apps and games for Mac and iOS. It’s only a small percentage of every purchase, but if you drive a lot of downloads, it adds up.

In fact, some independent publications rely almost entirely on commissions from Apple. Some will take massive hits, while others could be forced to shutdown entirely.

Apple won’t cough up for app referrals anymore

“With the launch of the new App Store on both iOS and macOS and their increased methods of app discovery, we will be removing apps from the affiliate program,” reads the email Apple sent out to affiliates on Wednesday.

“Starting on October 1st, 2018, commissions for iOS and Mac apps and in-app content will be removed from the program.”

Commissions will still be paid for other content types, like music, movies, books, and TV shows. But for publications that were built on promoting apps and games, it’s incredibly devastating news.

’A massive middle finger’ to websites

“I genuinely have no idea what TouchArcade is going to do,” writes editor-in-chief Eli Hodapp. “Through thick and thin, and every curveball the industry threw at us, we always had App Store affiliate revenue.”

“I don’t know how the takeaway from this move can be seen as anything other than Apple extending a massive middle finger to sites likes TouchArcade, AppShopper, and many others who have spent the last decade evangelizing the App Store and iOS gaming.”

It’s certainly a big kick in the teeth — one that could kill a number of independent publications that rely on affiliate commissions. It also makes no sense. It’s not good for anyone, and it makes Apple look greedy and ignorant.

The only winner is Apple

What makes the move even more ridiculous is that Apple loses very little on app commissions. Last year, it reduced the rate from 7 percent to just 2.5 percent — a move that Hodapp describes as “a massive punch to our collective guts.”

So, the richest company in the world has cut a crucial revenue source for independent publications for an almost inconsequential (in the grand scheme of things) boost in App Store revenue.

“I’m just beside myself,” Hodapp continues. “I don’t know what we’re going to do.” And it’s not just publications that will suffer.

App developers are going to feel the impact of this, too. Independent blogs and publications have long been a great channel for marketing new titles as it gets increasingly more difficult to fight for App Store exposure. If they disappear, so does that channel.

“With Apple’s affiliate changes, there is now no incentive for any Apple site or YouTube channel (if they still exist) to review or cover your app at all,” explains developer Steve Troughton-Smith. “No reviews, no review sites, no top-X lists — it sounds catastrophic.”

Developers will instead have to rely on Apple to promote their apps, and with thousands of new titles hitting the App Store every week, the chances of appearing in one of its featured sections is slimmer than ever.

Will Apple change its mind?

There has been a huge backlash on social media following Apple’s decision, and it’s easy to see why so many people are upset. It seems there’s no real reason behind it, other than small financial gain, which Apple doesn’t really need.

But will Apple listen to our complaints and change its mind? It’s highly unlikely.


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