from the look-at-the-bottom-line dept
As pretty much everyone knows, focus and perspective make all the difference in how you view anything from politics to family, and in business too. Many times in discussions on the true impact of piracy, the comments are flooded with what seems to be two firmly entrenched sides. You have those that suggest that the focus should be on whether or not infringement is wrong. On the other side, you have those that want to look at the overall impact of what is occurring.
Now, I won't stake out a position on the validity of either argument, but one of the things I hear quite often from those making the moral argument is that it's important to consider the wishes of the creator when thinking about this stuff. I happen to agree. But I also happen to think that an important change that is occurring is that creators are beginning to push away from the easy reaction of getting upset at piracy and beginning to look at the vastly more important bottom line of their business.
Take, for example, a recent blog post by Daniel Amitay on the recent relative success of his Punch 'Em -- Fight People Through Your Camera iPhone app. He had noticed that his sales had increased around the end of December and he had the same thought when preparing to write about that you're all having right now:
"This post was going to be about Christmas and how it was responsible for the (relatively) long term increase in my app sales."
But then he noticed something strange. He found that the timing with folks receiving new phones or devices for Christmas didn't really match up with the sales. Also, even after what you would expect to be the Christmas rush, the increase in sales maintained. He supplied the graph below:
Note that, whatever the timing, as piracy of his app increased, so did sales, although certainly not to correlating scale. But who cares? He got more sales! As Daniel himself notes:
"It's pretty obvious why developers get upset about piracy: uh, it's stealing. Aside from that, I'm pretty straightforward about the fact that decisions should be profit-driven. Throughout Punch 'Em!'s paid lifetime, I couldn't raise its sales count in the long term. So if thousands of users end up pirating my app, but hundreds buy it as a result of hearing about it from their pirate buddies, why should I cry?"
Forgive Daniel for conflating infringement with stealing because, as I said, I understand the natural reaction to get upset at piracy. His conclusion is far more important: it's the bottom line that matters. And that brings me back to the premise I posed at the beginning of this piece, that focus and perspective make all the difference. The bottom line is that two things happened at the same time for Daniel's iPhone app. Infringement increased nearly 40x and sales increased by more than 2x. He could easily have focused on the infringers and the fact that clearly his sales should have gone up more than 40x (even if that's not strictly a factual way of looking at it). Instead, he focused on the fact that his sales doubled, and now he's happy. And he even tried to go the DRM route and found out why that path didn't work:
"Interesting thing, I had code in previous versions which did just this. It checked (through various means) if the IPA had been cracked, displayed a message asking that they purchase the app, and exited. My conversion rate was 0%. Beyond the conversion rate issue, my app was pirated very little--after all, my app quit almost immediately, so why share it at all?"
As Nina Paley said recently, sharing increases value. Focus on the value awarded by sharing and you'll find that "piracy" can make you happy (and money!). Isn't that bottom line the most important thing on which a business can focus?