Project management for the first time: Financial disillusion

By | January 11, 2013

As promised a month ago in the prequels, I’ve got the numbers! It is now a little less than a year since we started our experiment in the realm of content-based apps. More specifically, we decided to examine the revenue potential of publishing apps that offer unique content, in our case – greeting cards collections drawn by freelance designers.

In the first stage of the project, which has just ended, we were collecting and publishing content on all three platforms. This was backed by a reasonably limited budget and resources. We were aware that even if this project generated money, it would not be anything over the top. However, we were also aiming at gathering valuable market insight and answering many questions we had, such as: How does an increase in the quantity of published apps on one platform influence downloads and sales? How do customers react to different monetization methods and pricing policies on the different app stores?

So yes, we have already published a number of greeting e-cards for three mobile OS (Android, iOS and Windows Phone) and we have financial results. Although the word ‘results’ in itself feels a bit more positive than the spreadsheet I am presently looking at.

Suffice to say that while I was formatting the cells, I was stubbornly checking the “Use 1000 separator (,)” for every section, full aware that the only cell where I would perhaps maybe see a four-digit number would be the total downloads for all apps on a given platform. And maybe not even then (ah, Google Play, you disappoint).

This may be sufficiently enlightening, but I know dramatic stories make catchy writing so I will elaborate on our financial results in a little more detail.


April Fools Day gullible fishThe beginning

We started gathering our circle of freelance designers in February 2012 and published our first freelance-powered collection, April Fools’ Cards for Windows Phone and Android, in March – just in time to enable our fans to make complete fools of themselves and their friends. We have yet to publish seven more card collections.

Fresh produce

With some differences between the three platforms, this is the list of e-card titles drawn by our friends, the freelance designers, which we have published so far:

Happy Birthday card - zodiac

April Fools Cards
Easter Cards
Mother’s Day Cards
Father’s Day Greeting Cards
Halloween Cards
Happy New Year Cards
Summer Holiday Greeting Cards
Pirate Adventure Greeting Cards
Wedding Greeting Cards
Love Cards: Anniversary
Greeting Cards for Friends
Thank You Cards
I’m Sorry Cards
Get Better

Please, note that we have some additional e-card collections that we created internally, with the help of our own design team. We published them over a year ago, and they are still some of our best-selling collections. The top performers are Happy Birthday Cards, Classic Christmas Cards and Classic Valentine Cards, whose sales and downloads are not included in this overview.

The raw numbers

Now that you know where we started from and what we have so far, may I present to you (for the sheer pleasure of it) the download numbers and revenue share these apps have generated:

OS

Downloads*

All-time revenue

Share of revenue

Published apps

Android

156

$138

12%

14

iOS

1,156

$798

71%

8

Windows Phone

1,774

$194

17%

12

* Reporting period is roughly April – December 2012 and includes all data available since the initial launch of a collection. Bear in mind that every collection is published at a different time, the most recent being Happy New Year Cards for iPhone and iPad – this December.

Behind the numbers


I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves, but first I will add a few thoughts I had.
As you may already have realized, we are deep in the red with this project. Happily, it was a low-budget one to begin with. The generated revenue could not even cover the cost of the external investment; in fact we have to earn $5,000 more to break-even. This is without taking into account the man/hours of the Melon team members involved in this project.

As you can see, our iOS cards were making the most money per month, perhaps due to the fact that, compared to the other two, Apple has an excellently developed platform whose users are not entirely averse to paying for apps (Tsk-tsk, Google. And we like Android so much!).

After all 21 completed collections are published, based on the current average earning per app per month, and if nothing changes, we would be earning about $10,000 per year from all collections on all platforms. Not quite the midsize company cash-cow dream. Still, given that we have stopped investing in this project, except for some basic support, we will end up with some cash regularly flowing. It could have ended much worse.

Summer greeting card with surferThe future

What’s been done cannot be undone and the sunk cost should not be taken into account, but we are not ready to give up on this project just yet.

For now we will focus on publishing a complete redesign of the iOS application. One that will contain all collections in one app and will look simply beautiful. I’ve seen it, so you can trust me on that.

For Windows Phone we are currently working on a Windows Phone 8 application. Moreover, we will be adding a new feature in the next WP7 update: sharing to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social networks.

For Android we need to shift gear completely, and we are still to decide how. However, whether we will cancel or experiment some more is still in the air.

The silver lining

Of all the numbers discussed earlier, one actually does make us truly happy – the ever-growing numbers around our Windows Phone apps, which is a platform we are really excited about. So far we have three top applications on the Windows Phone Market, including GPS Voice Navigation (permanently in the Top 3 among paid Travel apps), Hotel Finder (permanently in the Top 3 among free Travel apps, Hotels subcategory) and Smartboard Calculator (currently #3 among paid Education apps). Our latest Windows Phone app, Speed Cameras, was launched just 10 days ago and is already enjoying fantastic reception and four-digit downloads from day 3!

So we are looking forward to the future growth of this still young platform (we have no doubts it will keep growing). One day soon, perhaps, we may even earn enough money to cover all our greeting cards costs. Hehe.

With this final post, I am done telling stories from our e-cards saga. However, if you have questions or were otherwise inspired by these articles, please write a comment below and I’d be happy to answer.

Thank you ecard with flowers

–Nora

4 thoughts on “Project management for the first time: Financial disillusion

  1. vaida

    Great post. Thanks for sharing this experience. Very nice idea of the project.

    Reply
    1. melonmobile

      Thank you, Тишотут III !
      For a while now we have been quite passive on the Blackberry market because of all their confusion and turmoil. Do you think BB10 has the potential to pick up and change RIM’s grim situation?

      Reply

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