Lost in the App Store

June 6, 2011
Android iOS Software

Well, that was certainly quicker than expected.

The good news is that Recipe Distiller for iPhone only took 4 days to approve. That was a lot faster than I had expected although the app is really quite simple and I can’t imagine that it would take long to review. A testament to the minimalist design, that. 🙂

The bad news? The sobering reality that trying to sell something is exponentially harder than giving it away for free. In my head I didn’t think it was possible to gain much traction without doing any marketing but I have to confess that there was some small part of me that was secretly hoping that millions of cooks would happen to check the App Store on the day of release and be compelled to buy a copy. Not too surprisingly, things didn’t quite work out that way and sales are dismal to non-existant after Week 1. Maybe more non-existant than dismal if I’m being honest.

So, needless to say, I won’t be quitting the day job anytime soon. I had no dreams of making much of a profit, this entire project has mostly been a learning exercise after all, but I was hoping to recoup the costs of the $99 developer’s license.

The main issue to solve is a non-technical one (gulp) which is how to effectively promote one’s app and prevent it from drowning amongst the vast sea of apps that are added to the store every day. The Android version is free and I was quite surprised to build up a small user base on that platform with no advertising done at all. There are a handful of recipes being saved by users every day and that is some nice validation that others also see value in the product. On the iPhone side of things however, it has just been the sound of crickets. Part of this is due to the slightly higher than normal price point ($1.99, which is infinitely more than free I realize) but I also think it is a case of being a small fish in a big pond.

I did a little bit of searching around and found a couple of other applications, Paprika and Pepperplate that essentially do the same thing except with a much more professional looking UI and lots of fancy meal planning and search features. Both appear however to require specialized scrapers for every recipe site they want to support.

And therein lies one of the main differentiating features of Recipe Distiller.

I’ve submitted some review requests to a few app review sites but I have no idea what the acceptance rate is for them nor who their main audience is. I think I will have more success if I can give away a few copies to recipe blogging community and try to get more visibility with them. These writers and their readership don’t just build their recipe collections from the top cooking sites but instead peruse recipes farther down the long tail. These sites are not going to be supported by the other apps and I’m hoping that Recipe Distiller’s automated ingredient extraction performs well enough to be a step up from the manual data entry required by the others.

Finally, if anybody out there with an iPhone wants to try it out for free, lemme know and I’ll send you a promo code.