We’re tracking the performance of iA Writer with a wonderful app called AppViz from ideaswarm. AppViz not only allows you to track your own sales—you can also use it to evaluate how much other apps make, if you have comparable sales numbers. My first question was: How much does WIRED make? Here is the answer:

Comparison of iA Writer’s Daily Sales, and iA Writer vs Wired’s iTunes Rank - Top Grossing position

According to the top grossing stats iA Writer and WIRED generate a similar amount of revenue in the US app store. At the moment this is around $1,200–2,000 or 300–500 downloads per day. It’s hard to say how that translates into global sales, but according to our own stats the US is by far the strongest revenue market (about 75% of Writer’s sales) and as such is a good indicator.

I’m not sure if this is good news for Writer (given how much leverage and marketing fire power WIRED has through having Adobe as a partner), or if it’s bad news for WIRED (imagine how much it costs to produce the app every month). But one thing is clear: The App Store pay wall is not a great source of income for a publication of that dimension.

Where is The Money?

What if, as some might argue, the real economical value of iPad apps comes from the ads you can plug into a news app? (This is the classic anti-paywall position). If so, why not publish the app for free, so you can reach much more readers and become a truly attractive ad platform?

Is this because the advertisers wouldn’t pay as much for ad placements in a free app? Really? They pay a truck load of money to reach 300–500 paying readers per day? But they won’t pay as much to reach an avalanche of non-paying readers? Why is that? Because paying readers wouldn’t read a free magazine? Oh, you silly, silly advertisers! Wake up. 300–500 ad impressions per day isn’t worth tens of thousands of dollars.


Maybe I don’t have enough data points or maybe my math is flawed (I always sucked at math), but from what I can see:

  1. WIRED doesn’t make substantial money with the app sales
  2. The only way to substantially monetize a news app is through advertisement
  3. Paid apps (with their low reach) are a horrible deal for advertisers

Which brings us back to my favorite point: From a publishing, advertising, and reading perspective, the most efficient reading, publishing and ad platform is the web.

Find out more about iA Writer