‘Fire + Motion’ at AppStoreHQ

Last week Ian reminded me about Joel Spolsky’s famous blog post on “Fire and Motion” – here’s a key excerpt:

“When I was an Israeli paratrooper a general stopped by to give us a little speech about strategy. In infantry battles, he told us, there is only one strategy: Fire and Motion. You move towards the enemy while firing your weapon.”

This pretty much sums up our strategy at AppStoreHQ. With such a small team and such a big and fast-moving opportunity, our best approach is to pick a target from one of three critical areas – Content, Distribution and Monetization – release a burst of fire in that direction, and then sprint upfield to the next piece of ground and fire again.

To date, most of our bursts of fire have been aimed at Content (app + developer info, related blog posts, enhanced search, etc.) and distribution (widgets for iPhone owners, app developers and iPhone bloggers). We figured Monetization was too far away to get a clean shot, and that our Content and Distribution battles would put us in range eventually…

…but developers kept pinging us saying: “Great site. Can I advertise my app on it?” And we got tired of saying ‘no’. In the spirit of Fire + Motion, we didn’t want to blow a lot of ammunition on what seemed like a distant target. So we loaded up the smallest burst of fire that we thought would (a) satisfy the developer appetite for app promotion, while (b) delivering the most relevant and least-intrusive experience to iPhone owners searching for new apps.

Ian spent about a day and a half on this, a lot of which was brain-damagey stuff having to do with PayPal and SSL. But with that small investment we now have a basic app advertising program available on AppStoreHQ. The price is cheap and the rules are simple:

  • The only “Ad” format available is premium placement for an app listing – the kind of thing our users are already looking for.
  • Ads appear only when visitors are browsing or searching for apps by category
  • Only one ad will appear on the page at any time (in randomized rotation with no more than two others per category)
  • Only published iPhone app developers can play
  • You can only promote apps currently for sale in the App Store (i.e., no “teaser” ads)
If developers like this and the inventory sells through, we’ll have a nice (little) revenue line and a new source of relationship capital and feedback with our developer customers. If no slots sell we’ll have invested a day and a half in some market intelligence. And if the result lies somewhere in between, we’ll take what we learn, move up the field and squeeze off a few more rounds in a different direction.