Shame on paid reviews

I just finished reading a blog post about the people that write about apps and forget the whole point of it. AppyNation, a consortium that acts as a publishing house for some UK-based game developers, recently published a list of sites that will review your app for a fee. Yes, paid-for content in websites that cover mobile gaming.

The subject isn't new by any means but it's still reassuring to see the people that are meant to use those services going public and pointing their fingers at them. The article lists a number of websites that can get anyone who asks some coverage as long as they satisfy either an admin fee, a expedited service or even as part of an advertising plan. This is, paying for the content at some point. 

For a niche blog like this it wouldn't be too classy to call out names, so this is a perfect opportunity to inform the readers about this sad practice — you can find the Hall of Infamy here. What I'll do, however, is try to convince those of you who are developers that paying for editorial content is a terrible idea and help everyone to identify honest iOS websites. 

Unethical writing and low value investment

If you care enough to read the about page of the news sites and blogs you read regularly, there's often a mention about advertising. You can probably find the contact details of the person selling the ad space very easily. Journalists writing for print newspapers and magazines are subject to the influences of their boss and what people want to read. Money poured in the business through advertising or the work of public relations firms could have some influence in what gets printed at some point — readers should be aware of this.  

For small online publications, such as this blog, there isn't any sales team dealing with the ad space to bring some revenue. All the enquiries are dealt with by the same people that do the writing. I think now you start to get a clear idea of the thin line writers can cross here. It becomes a dodgy territory.

In order to support ethical writing and possibly avoid certain type of emails, AppFreak is a proud member of O.A.T.S, the organisation for app testing standards. Despite its funny name, we're very serious about what we do. We are a group of sites covering iOS apps and games tired of poor journalistic practices from people that will publish a press release for money. Seriously, what's the point of it?

From a marketing point of view, quantity isn't going to mean quality. Investing your resources in dubious sites will only get your brand associated with content of equally dubious nature. Misinformed readers that see your story may not even be the people that would buy an app in the first place. And of course, a site that claims to have that many visitors could make more in a month selling one ad that accepting a payment from you.

Contacting the right people

I'm giving you a good piece of advice: you can get press coverage for free! The gotoats.org site is a fantastic resource for your media distribution list, with respected titles such as Slide to Play, 148Apps, TouchGen, The Appera, Macworld or iPhone Life magazine. This isn't just people in the industry, this is the passionate people that believe in mobile software. We love this. We talk to developers, care to interview them when they have something cool to say, we are at every event to learn about the latest thing, we share our opinion and report to our readers... and we do it everyday for free.

I completely understand the frustration of marketing and PR people in charge of the launch of an app and getting poor response from the media. The App Store is open to every developer, meaning tiny sites like this one already get review requests everyday. If your story isn't picked up by blogs, I recommend you work on your press materials, building a relationship with editors and reporters well ahead of launch and providing as much compelling content as you possibly can. We all have our preference and if you're app ticks the boxes, we will find some time to write about it. 

When it comes to presenting content to our readers, we have cultivated a relationship that cannot be bought with a review fee. We are here to share an opinion and that's why readers keep coming. They are used to our tone, taste and writing style. It becomes very clear when we are excited about a project and miss a deadline for playing through a game. Believe me: there are no shortcuts.

Top image by bark on flickr