Doing well in App Store 'like winning Tattslotto'
Danny Gorog. Photo: Teagan Glenane
DANNY Gorog is flooded with calls from people convinced they have the next big idea for an app. ''At least 15 to 20 people a day are calling us,'' says the co-founder of Melbourne-based app development company Outware Mobile.
''But there are 750,000 apps in the [iTunes] App Store now. To do well in the App Store, it's like winning Tattslotto.''
Research agency Gartner predicts that by the end of 2014, more than 185 billion applications will have been downloaded for Android or Apple devices since the launch of the first in July 2008.
Wealthy organisations can afford to pay Gorog big bucks for his team of designers and developers to create functional and attractive apps. But what can you do if you have the app idea of the century, but neither the funds nor the technical or marketing expertise to follow it through?
Writer Narrelle Harris dipped her toe in the water by partnering with San Francisco-based app publisher Sutro Media. Sutro works with freelance authors on travel guide apps and the two parties share revenue from app sales.
Along with the app idea, you need expertise in your subject and strong writing skills. Sutro Media provides the technical expertise.
Harris has created content for two apps, Melbourne Literary and Melbourne Peculiar. The latter is a guide to oddities and eccentricities, such as the secret anti-consumer message in a shopping arcade, the graves of eccentric inventors, weird public art, and floral clocks. ''Melbourne Peculiar was a fun way to express my personality and tell everyone why I think something is funny or weird,'' Harris says.
Melbourne Literary has information about the literary scene, including bookshops, writers, publishers and ''hip-lit'' cafes.
''I looked at Sutro's website and sent my pitch,'' Harris says.
For those who feel ready to create, or pitch, an app, Gorog has some questions he recommends they think about:
■Can you explain to yourself what makes an app rate well?
■What do you like about your app?
■Has someone built a similar app?
■If so, why is yours better?
■Can you approach yours from a different perspective?
■Do you have better data?
■Does your app have unique content?
''Have a clear idea about why the app you build will be better,'' Gorog says.
In addition to the information Harris writes for her apps, she supplies photos and web links.
''It's a massive amount of work,'' she says. ''Melbourne Literary has [about] 200 individual items listed. I had to research the opening hours for each entry and, if possible, find a website or article to link to. You can also add Twitter handles, Facebook and YouTube. About once a year I check each entry and every single webpage to make sure that the information is still current.''
Finding photographs is the most time-consuming part of the job.
Harris and her husband spent 12 hours taking photos from Williamstown to Dandenong.
So was the effort worth it?
''I've made some money. I have money coming in every quarter; it just bubbles along. But there are other benefits, not just economic,'' Harris says. ''As a corporate writer, it's wonderful having on my CV that I created the content and did my own marketing. It shows off my skills. It increases my professional standing. Everyone is so impressed when I tell them I've written an iPhone app.
''I have copyright, and I could always turn it into a book.''
The quality of content is key, she says.
''So many apps at 99¢ are rubbish. You can charge more if it's something people will value. If you don't keep the quality up, your ratings in the App Store will decline. This is an inbuilt incentive to keep your apps updated. I've triple-checked [facts and links].''
Lots of people have ideas, Gorog says, ''but the trick is in the marketing. How are you going to tell people about it? You can't just tweet about it - that will go nowhere.''
Another avenue, if you just want to sell your idea and do no work apart from writing a fabulous pitch, is to submit your idea - for a fee - to the Sydney-based AppVillage, a community of developers who will create your app if they think it's good. If your app sells, you'll be entitled to a share of the royalties.
App is short for application. Apps are software programs, many written by third-party developers and many available free, that add functionality to mobile devices. If you had an iPhone 3G in 2008, you probably waved your phone around like a Star Wars lightsabre so it would go ''vvvvummmmmmmm''. The PhoneSaber app was one of 500 programs launched in 2008 by Apple through its iTunes App Store.
''App'' was voted the 2010 word of the year by the American Dialect Society. Smartphones work like a small computer, so smaller applications - apps - are written for it, and now the word has moved from computer-geek lingo into the mainstream. Typically, iPhone users shop at the App Store, and Android users go to Google Play's Android Market.