Apple’s affiliate program sets it apart from Android and BlackBerry because it allows bloggers and startups to create companies around promoting other apps and generate revenue doing so. It seems like software drives hardware sales these days so anything you can do to promote the app economy will help your bottom line. RIM needs an affiliate program but it can’t just copy Apple and needs to do something unique. Hit the jump for a few ways this could play out.
Currently, anyone working with a BlackBerry app affiliate probably goes through Mobihand. The problem is that this company won’t be around for long. One of the reasons is because App World is becoming the only place where people purchase apps, but also because the company is experiencing its own financial issues. Mobihand has recently changed its pay period, which is a huge red flag. When a company extends the pay period, it almost always means that the company is experiencing cash flow problems. RIM needs to step in and get its own affiliate program as App World is becoming the only place where users are downloading apps.
With a good affiliate program, affiliates can maintain a digital goods database and auto-generate affiliate links back to those digital goods. Apple’s Enterprise Partner Feed is the most advanced among the app stores but still falls short of meeting affiliate needs. Here are a few links if you’d like to do the research yourself:
One of the biggest problem areas for an affiliate partner is that apps are increasingly being offered for free with in-app monetization. Affiliates don’t get paid for these apps because there is no way to track the revenue generated on the app.
IDEA: RIM could implement an affiliate program that addresses free apps. For example, a developer could agree to pay an affiliate $1 for every x number of downloads. The number of downloads could be set by the developer based on what it’s worth to them.
Another huge opportunity for RIM is to make an affiliate program that’s cross-platform. Developers increasingly have apps that are on more than one platform, and even RIM is taking to amalgamating platforms with the QNX OS and Android app support. If developers could add links to other platforms, and affiliates signed up to the BlackBerry affiliate program could also take advantage, RIM could be making money off of everyone else and capture the entire affiliate network. There are a few key problems that RIM would have to solve, namely:
App titles need to be converted to a URL-friendly format.
Taxonomy of app categories is not consistent across platforms.
IDEA: If RIM partnered with Facebook and added digital goods to the Facebook API, it would be of huge value to both RIM and Facebook. If apps were categorized using the Facebook Open Graph, RIM would pioneer a standard across smartphone platforms alongside Facebook. A quick start would be: app, game, ebook, and theme/wallpaper.
In the end, a solid, future-proofed affiliate model would really help RIM’s App World. Bloggers, startups and individuals would all be motivated to write more about BlackBerry apps and promote them. This would go a long way to helping all BlackBerry users understand what’s out there, but also dispel the myth that “BlackBerry doesn’t have apps”.