Jared Sinclair responds to Marco Arment's Overcast sales numbers, and essentially says what I said in "Your App's Not Marco's", but gets a little closer to putting a number of what Marco's "Most Valuable Geek" (I read something like that somewhere else -- can't find it now -- but the intent was to say that there's a community of Apple coders that have a certain social cache. It's true, and it's A Good Thing. Who wouldn't want to get Gruber, _David, and Marco in a room to talk Apple? Maybe Gruber separately...) status buys him. Emphasis is mine.
His list of expenses leave out one really big thing: marketing. Through hard work and good fortune, Marco is a well-known figure among many of Overcast’s potential customers. This kind of exposure would be expensive for the average indie developer to replicate. For example, ongoing discussions of Overcast on the ATP podcast (before, during, and after the 1.0 launched [sic -mfn]) would have cost thousands of dollars — at least $3750 per episode. ... Promoted tweets that reach 78,000 interested Twitter followers wouldn’t be cheap, either, relative to $160K in revenue. Overcast also benefitted from numerous conversational mentions from friends of Marco’s like John Gruber, who carry a lot of weight behind their recommendations.
That's a great point -- Marco has built enough "good will inertia" (sequel to Damon & Affleck's flick) that he can "advertise disproportionally" (my words) for $160k of revenue. That's a good point.
But, admittedly, as I read, Jared's full post sounded a lot like sour grapes, which is too bad. He admits as much, but I'm ultimately not sure he understands how apples to oranges Unread is to Overcast.
Perhaps Marco intentionally left out these things because he was worried about sounding like a jerk. I’m having a hard enough time writing this article as a third-party without sounding like a [punk], so I can appreciate the backlash he might endure if he mentioned them directly.
Look, Marco's earned the "free" advertising. The difference is that his advertising is a residual, not a capital expense. He's partially living (and I know he hates this suggestion, but he can't live in a vacuum; people like him) off the interest of the work he already accomplished. Marco's socially rich in the Apple community in a way a new app developer can't be.
There's no reason to think him mentioning his social richness would make him sound a like a jerk. "Admittedly, I have a number of 'innate' advantages when it comes to advertising, not least of which is the time it got on ATP. I can't say I feel badly about that, but it is an advantage..." No problems by me. It is curious he leaves the help he's gotten from his friends and community out, to the point he's at the very least not explicitly mentioning them, but we can't expect to have a career's worth of goodwill starting from square one.
More importantly, as I said earlier, Unread is not Overcast. Even within its target technology (RSS), Unread's not a mass market app. That's not really controversial. Jared says as much constantly, and goes so far as to use "comfortable reading" (iirc) in his marketing as his killer feature. "Don't triage RSS feeds, enjoy them," was the feel I got.
Guess what? It turned out that I don't want to read slowly and carefully when I'm consuming RSS (unless it's for Medium). I want to triage and skim and consume like crazy. I bought Unread. I liked Unread. But it's no longer on my iPhone.
Overcast does everything Downcast did, but with a slightly nicer interface, that Smart Speed (catchy, no? See?) feature where I don't waste time listening to silence (listening time is my scarce resource; I'm already listening at nearly 2x speed), and it even syncs beautifully when you log in on another device. Overcast is as good in conventional use cases as what came before it, and then, in a few key ways, better. As the designer of the failed .Mail app says, "[W]e need to deliver a[...] client that works at least just as good as [popular clients], otherwise it would be a step backwards. We just can't deliver something that isn't running at least at the same performance as the examples I mentioned above." Unread tries not to match the status quo. That's not wrong, but it's risky. So don't tell me a lot of Marco's success didn't come from a more successful market positioning. His app, I think, turns out to be conventionally competitive, and, in non-destructive ways, better.
My question, and ultimately probably Jared's too, if he gives it more thought, is what I would have had to do if I'd written Overcast instead of Marco to get the same success. That's an interesting thought experiment.