Marketing iOS Apps Just Got A Lot Harder

The App Store quietly unveiled video app walk-throughs--but only for Featured apps, making it harder than ever for small-time devs to get noticed.

Apple’s App Store allowed its first ever video in an app listing with the release of a new game titled Clumsy Ninja. While this is a feature app developers have spent years clamoring for to show how the heck their apps actually work, this isn’t the liberation that app developers hope it to be--and might end up further entrenching the backdoor politics and favoritism that characterizes Apple’s walled garden.

For starters, the video only appears on Clumsy Ninja’s “Featured” page--not the app’s native page where Search and Category browsing will lead visitors. Obviously, Apple could (and likely will) roll out video embedding within the native app pages, but as it stands, Featured apps now have yet another edge on the non-Featured masses.

Know that, yes, there are ways to game the App Store: As The Next Web puts it, you have to Think Like Apple. Thus, if you want a piece of the Featured pie (an astronomical increase in downloads, even for lesser-viewed "Featured" pages like New and Noteworthy), you don’t think about how your users would benefit--but how Apple’s editor circle thinks users would benefit. Regardless of their criteria, the clumsiness of navigating around the App Store means many don’t get beyond the Featured screen or, at best, the first page (25 apps) when browsing a category.

But if the public were to see videos (even for only a minute, which is Clumsy Ninja’s video runtime), they’d get the concept--and app-demonstrating videos have been uploaded to YouTube for years. Some apps can be summed up in a pitch line, so a video’s only a pleasant demonstration (like Voxer, which lets you walkie-talkie friends). Other apps--even well-known apps--will benefit enormously. For example: Let’s say I’ve got an app that lets you categorize a bunch of notes, attach them to calendar events, and synch with all your other docs and events via the Cloud. That’s a pitch, but even with the app store’s paltry five-photo slideshow, you still don’t really have an idea how Evernote works. Behold the magic of demonstrative videos:

It doesn’t really matter if you’ve poured money into a slick video or have clamped a camera over your app while you demonstrate it: If the app works, it works, and production value won’t increase downloads. What will increase downloads is whether Apple will let any and every app embed video on their page. While it won’t level the playing field--the clumsy app store interface and erratic app search will still outrageously impede users’ ability to easily compare apps--demonstrating how cool, current, and easy-to-use your app is will change how apps are chosen.

[Shopping Video: Flickr user Francois]