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Auction App Store Chart Positions to Fix App Discovery

Application developers are spending tons of money on customer acquisition and marketing. Lots of developers continue to complain about how hard application discovery is and I’ve written some thoughts about why application discovery is a developer problem. I have a really basic question – why aren’t the application stores themselves creating in-store advertising inventory to meet what is clearly developer demand?

This is basically what happens today in the world of application marketing (for a lot of folks, at least):

1. Developers spend money on bots, burst marketing campaigns, cross-promo, and other marketing expenditures to drive installs and awareness of their application.

2. The goal of a lot of this spend is to get to a target chart position that gets the application in front of lots of eyeballs. It’s not a crazy strategy – it’s a good way to get feedback on whether consumers like your application enough for you to continue investing in the application. There’s also a certain amount of ad spend used to maintain existing chart position, but that’s a topic for another day.

So, at the end of the day a lot of advertising dollars and energy are flowing to 3rd parties (many of whom are good and deliver value) with the end goal of trying to influence chart position. Why not just allow application developers to spend money directly with the app stores themselves and get rid of some of the indirection that happens today? I have 3 thoughts for how this could work:

1. Auction off chart position – This is probably the most radical idea. Simply run an auction (daily, weekly, or with whatever frequency makes sense) that allows people to bid for certain (not all) chart positions based on willingness to pay for an install. Make it an AdWords-style second price auction or something else clever.

2. Create a “sponsored apps” tab or categor – It’s clear that end users surf the top charts (new and noteworthy, top grossing, top free, etc) to find new things to download and try. Why not just create a “sponsored apps” chart where people could pay for inclusion. If you can buy sponsored links on Google against keyword search, why can’t you do the same thing for application search or application charts?

3. Create ad units that live natively in the application store – There is a lot of search and browse activity in the app store. Why not create ad units that live natively in the store? As I mentioned above, sponsored apps against keywords make sense to me. As do having some interstitial or other ad formats that users encounter when leafing through the store. Not all of these need to be made for sale but some should.

As always, you can leave a comment below or message me on Twitter @chudson.

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