Friday, August 03, 2018 by Tim Webb
Three Russian journalists were killed this week while investigating a Russian mercenary company in the Central African Republic. These are just the latest in a long list of journalists murdered by Putin's government.
In related news: Apple killed discchord this week. All iTunes affiliates received the following email:
Thank you for participating in the affiliate program for apps. 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. Starting on October 1st, 2018, commissions for iOS and Mac apps and in-app content will be removed from the program. All other content types (music, movies, books, and TV) remain in the affiliate program.
This month discchord will be celebrating its 7th year, but this short email from Apple puts a pall over that.
For those of you unfamiliar with how the affiliate program works, it has been Apple's way of compensating people who help them sell apps. For every dollar you spend on the App Store, Apple takes $0.30. If you bought that app after clicking on my links, or links from your favorite YouTubers, we would get a few cents from those $0.30. (I'm not actually allowed to say the exact number.) That might not sound like a lot, but it added up!
Throughout the past 7 years, the iTunes affiliate program has been the backbone of my personal income. Some of you may feel indifferent to the affiliate program. I've seen some people express resentment at YouTubers and bloggers making money off app sales. But that tiny commission is what's kept the lights on here, by keeping me out of a full-time job. iTunes commissions account for 47% of my income so far this year.
In one sentence Apple have pulled the rug out from under me. I've seen some baffling statements of quasi-support from people saying, "I hope that doesn't affect [their favorite affiliate site] too much." Imagine Apple shows up and takes away 47% of your income without explanation. It affects me like that. For sites like AppShopper this is probably closer to 100% of their income. TouchArcade is likewise reeling from the news.
If you're a casual AppShopper user you might not notice that it is quite bad at keeping up with new apps. Just today they finally spotted MyCity MySounds, which I reported on back in June. They rely entirely on the iTunes API for all of their information, but the iTunes API is notoriously spotty. Half of my work on discchord has been on ways to compensate for how bad the iTunes API is. So I built a network of web crawlers that watch sites like Twitter and Reddit to find new apps; based on what people are talking about. As you read this I have 7 servers all over the world that are busy crawling around with my code. Once I got that part done, I began working on the front-end. I'm about 2 months from having it completed, but now I'm not sure what to do. Without iTunes affiliate commissions the site will have to rely on advertising... but ad blocking is so prevalent that this seems like an unlikely way to recoup the costs of all these servers and my time.
My time is an important factor here. The new site was going to run itself with automation. Any other enterprise threatens to take time away from discchord, which requires about 4 hours every day. Now all of the afternoons and evenings I've poured into the new site over the last 4 months have been for nothing. I could have spent that time doing literally anything else and it would have been more productive.
Yesterday Apple became a trillion dollar company, while casually killing off one of the smallest. I'm not actually likening my plight to the victims of Putin, but damn. This is brutal. I was happy making pennies on the dollar. I've been truly proud of my work providing independent tech journalism. Then Apple wanted all the pennies.
We're a tiny community. We're a niche of a niche. Musicians are a small portion of the population, and musicians enthusiastic about iOS apps are an even smaller portion of those. I've tried everything to make advertising work here; including the Google ads you see now. It doesn't matter. There just aren't enough people. With over 700,000 monthly views here, I only make around $250 per month from Google.
My native ads don't get many buyers either. Developers don't make much money themselves, so I'm extremely grateful to all of the developers who have parted with their money to advertise here. I genuinely appreciate the hell out of every single dollar Patreon Patrons throw at me. This shortfall from iTunes is many many hundreds of dollars and I can't reasonably expect Patrons to make up the difference, but I invite you to try.
While Apple were taking a victory lap yesterday, I was looking pretty hard at my own finances. If I can't get the site to start generating a lot more money in the next month, I'm going to have to update my resume and shutter the site. There is a petition on Change.org, but I'm not getting my hopes up for Apple to change their mind.
If any developers out there feel discchord is of value to them and their business, now would be a great time to consider advertising on the site before it's too late. That's basically what I need at this point: BIG Patrons.