Apple changes iTunes affiliate program

Apple removes Mac and iOS apps from their affiliate program, giving the finger to the blogger community who helped spread awareness through app reviews and podcasts.


I received an email from Apple this morning announcing they are removing iOS and macOS apps from their affiliate program.

Their reason is incredible:

With the launch of the new App Store on both iOS and macOS and their increased methods of app discovery, we will be removing apps from the affiliate program.

'Increased methods of app discovery' right...

I'm going to take a stab in the dark and suggest this has more to do with Apple's increased reliance on services for growth. Services are a growing part of Apple's business and they obviously don't want to be doling out bounties to bloggers who have nudged customers in their direction.

There's a lot I love about Apple, but their App stores are not one of them. The new layout is quite frankly awful and I spend less time browsing the store now than I ever have. I don't think I've ever discovered an app -- especially a productivity app -- through the store and the new design just puts me off completely. The user experiences of searching and browsing is terrible.

Typically, I learn about new or interesting apps through Google searches, blogs, podcasts and general internet chatter and I suspect a lot of other people do too.

As a reviewer of several macOS and iOS apps, this will hurt me. I spend a lot of time writing my reviews, which typically number 2-4 thousand words. I make them available to read for free and they are far and away my most popular articles.

The affiliate program was one of the ways I monetised my content, the other being advertising. Advertising feels sleazy and with adblockers on the rise, it's not exactly a reliable revenue stream. Affiliate linking however returns a much higher return than Google's Adsense program, which amounts to less than a dollar for hundreds or even thousands of views. Affiliate links are more lucrative, giving a decent percentage cut of the sales price -- it would only take a few clicks and purchases to earn more royalties than the thousand impressions I typically receive from advertising.

Advertising feels sleazy and with adblockers on the rise, it's not exactly a reliable revenue stream.

I should note that movies, TV shows and books are still on the table, but if my results are anything to go by very few people buy these from Apple. When I've linked to books or movies on both Amazon and iTunes in the same article the ratio of clicks is 100:1 -- that is I'll typically get 100 people clicking on an Amazon link to every one iTunes link. 60-70% of my readers are American and Amazon is clearly the preferred shopping destination for that market.

So, the development leaves me pondering my relationship with the iTunes affiliate program. With apps no longer included, I don't think it's really worth it any more. I'll still write app reviews because I enjoy it, but this decision makes me more likely to look over the fence of Apple's Walled Garden to see what's available in Google's Play Store.

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Chris Rosser

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This will impact many of my favourite Mac-oriented blogs, including MacStories.net

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