The Bad Math of Being Amazon's Free App of the Day

Users might recall that the June 27, 2011 "Free App of the Day" at Amazon's Appstore was Pocket Casts. On the day it was free, 101,491 copies were "sold." Amazon said when it launched the Appstore that on the day an app was offered for free, the developers would still get 20 percent of the value.

Well, according to the developers of Pocket Casts, Shifty Jelly, Amazon has changed the rules. Instead of 20 percent, as Amazon originally promised, developers whose apps are featured for free get exactly zero percent. Apparently, Amazon feels the "advertising" and attention a free app gets is worth the cost to the developer.

So, did Pocket Casts see more sales than normal after the big free day? Not really; there was a small spike in sales for one day, then they went back to the pennies a day Shifty Jelly had seen beforehand. What's worse is that it's quite possible that all of the users that would want Pocket Casts got the app on the day it was free, essentially wiping out the potential customer base in one fell swoop.

Shifty Jelly says that the studio is abandoning the Amazon Appstore, because with rules like these, it's just too hard to be profitable. If wants to keep developers around, the company needs to stick to the original 20 percent on "free days" agreement. It also needs to fix some other issues, like the amount of time for an approval and mismatched versions between the Android Market and Amazon Appstore.

Amazon is widely expected to release an Android tablet sometime in Q3, and it's believed that the Appstore was founded in preparation for it. It wouldn't be surprising if the Amazon Android tablet could only run apps from the Appstore. If things are going to go that way, and Amazon wants developers in the store, it needs to modify these policies, or it's going to see more defections.