Under The Microscope

Responses Upon Responses

We’ve gotten some good feedback and linkage to my article entitled Macworld, “Shareware”, And The Future. I feel I should link to Dori Smith’s response over at backupbrain.com. Her article (and follow-up comments) are available here.

I thank Dori for joining this now-crossblog discussion, and she raises one key point – “It’s easy to leave off shareware, for the simple reason that there’s no dollars being spent prior to the user checking out the application.” She’s absolutely right – if the customer can download and try it out for free, part of the service of a review (telling readers whether they should spend their hard-earned dollars on an application) is unneeded.

However, I think that another function of the magazine, at least to me as a reader, is to let me know about new software. And in this area, our applications have appeared in Macworld several times, as the answers to Mac 911 column questions and beyond. Once again, I don’t have any grudge against Macworld’s coverage of our products specifically. But beyond that, a review of software provides more exposure and shows it off to new potential customers. And I think the process for obtaining those reviews is unclear – Dori’s comments have certainly helped, but the confusion about the process is what led me to conclude that a boxed copy of the software may help in the process of obtaining a review.

Even as I’m writing this, I see that Dan Frakes has written a response……as well. This discussion now spans back and forth across four blogs/sites, which I think is very cool. Dan’s response can be seen here.

Dan says: “There are still mentions of “shareware” in the magazine, but they are much less frequent now than they were a few years ago.”

I don’t have the data to back this up, but I certainly believe it’s true, and that’s a positive thing.

To respond to Dan’s 3 other points:

1) He’s absolutely right, more traditional marketing methods are cheap enough that they can be tried, in at least limited forms, by smaller companies as well. The question still remains, is this effective?

2) I can’t fathom not giving out an NFR to a reviewer. I’ve been in the Mac shareware business with various companies for about 5 years, and I’d say that never have I turned down a reviewer with a request for a code. If there are developers out there refusing to give reviewers codes, you have no one to blame but yourselves if a review doesn’t appear. Maybe this seems a bit too much like backscratching, but 1) Dan’s right, buying one small app is cheap, but buying dozens is not and 2) That’s the way the world works.

3) I think this one is obvious. WindowShade X is a great little utility, but it belongs in Reviews In Brief, not on a full page. I have no quarrel with that point. However, I think plenty of apps by smaller developers have more than enough features to fit a full page.

And a final response to Dan’s closing, which said:

“However, my impression of the current Mac software market is quite different from the one expressed in the blog entry referenced above. In my view, small developers are being taken seriously like they never were before; people are more willing than ever to purchase software online; and the quality of products from small developers is better than ever.”

I’m not sure I see things any differently at all actually. Rogue Amoeba employes three full-time workers, and we’re doing well for ourselves, thanks to the support of our users. I have no complaints about our business. My main gripe, and I think it’s been well-responded to, was with Macworld’s own coverage of smaller company’s products – coverage which again, has improved a great deal over time.

Also, thanks to Brent Simmons of Ranchero (makers of NetNewsWire) for joining the discussion and adding solid comments. I agree with several of his points in response to Dori, including the fact that the term “shareware” has negative connatations to some and that the process for getting a review in Macworld is opaque. Perhaps that will change a bit in the future, as a result of this discussion.

I dunno how much longer we can keep this going between 4 different sites :). I guess we’ll find out.

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