Slopes Diaries #23: Featuring Numbers

Slopes Diaries is my ongoing journey to turn my indie app into a more sustainable part of my business. First time reading? Catch up on the journey so far.

What is Slopes? Think Nike+, Runkeeper, Strava, MapMyRun, etc for skiers and snowboarders.

At WWDC 2017 Apple announced a whole new App Store. It wasn't just a new coat of paint either; if you spent 5 min with the new store it was clear Apple was trying to rethink a lot about how they surfaced great apps to their customers. Where the old App Store home page felt crowded, stuffed with usually a hundred apps being featured in variously-sized list after list, the new one they showed off at WWDC felt ... curated. At the core of this feeling was the new Today tab which is refreshed on a daily basis with 5 "stories" of varying types (articles, lists w/ some written content, top-lists, app feature highlights, etc). The Today tab felt like a magazine: focusing on beautiful custom artwork and well-written articles about great apps.

At WWDC 2017 I remember many developers were skeptical on Apple keeping pace with generating 5 new stories a day, but I think it is safe to say their commitment to this level of curation is serious at this point. Kudos to Apple for investing into generating so much custom content to highlight our apps to their customers.

I've been very curious how well Apple's new approach for surfacing great apps would work. Do customers actually check the Today tab? What does being featured do to downloads? How does the type of story you're in impact attention and downloads? How does the type of app being featured effect things?

It should come as no surprise, but of course the answer is it depends.

Games seem to do very well when being featured. I remember seeing a tweet just as I was wrapping up Slopes 3.0 2017.7:

182,000+ new @conductthis players just this weekend on account of the App Store feature in the Today tab. Will be interesting to monitor the longtail. #dkgame #madewithunity

@flarup's Tweet

Michael's excellent game Conduct This was featured in Train Games on the Right Track, a list of 4 great games having to do with trains. Each game got a short paragraph with a screen shot, and Conduct This was the first in the writeup. I'd guess a long-tail of 200k downloads? That is amazing! Certainly lived up to the long-held idea that being featured was a Big Deal.

But App Store customers love games. How does a "normal" app perform when featured? An app like Slopes: appealing to a large market, but certainly a niche market compared to the App Store's total audience.

Turns out this season I'd get two chances to find out and gather some numbers I can share with you. Unfortunately Slopes had never been prominently featured in the US App Store before iOS 11, so I don't have numbers from the old App Store I can compare to, but I can at least share how iOS 11 features impacted my downloads.

Slopes had a similar-ish feature, Get Ready to ⛷🏂, 3 weeks after Conduct This. Early Dec is a great time for Slopes to be featured and Slopes was the first app in this roundup story. The story was a simple list of a dozen winter sports apps (no writeups just a list), but still: top of the list, nice huge Slopes icon in the story hero, and perfect time of year. Everything was coming up Milhouse.


From the feature Slopes saw ~2.8k downloads the first day, and a 50% dropoff per day after that. That's a nice bump in the early season; I usually don't see ~2k downloads per day until late January or February when the season in North America is in full-swing. I'm not sure if the listicle-style vs the list-of-quick-writeups made a huge difference; instead I'd bet money on the massive difference in our downloads being attributed more to game vs my niche market.

(A great byproduct of this feature is that when you now search "ski" or "snowboard" this story shows up first in the search results. Nice hack to jump the charts for those keywords where I still don't rank very high.)

A month later I got a great surprise. On January 6th Slopes was App of the Day. Based on the time of year and the fact App of the Day is likely the best type of feature an app (vs game) can get in the Today tab, it wasn't going to get much better than this. I waited anxiously for Sunday to roll around so I could see the numbers (and in the mean time went out and bought a nice bottle of scotch, because regardless of the numbers, 🎉).


~19k downloads the first day, and I ranked #3 in sports over the weekend. The rest of the week saw a nice long-tail likely leading to a total of 35k additional downloads over what I would have seen otherwise. Slopes saw 120k downloads last year (Nov 10 '15 - Nov 9 '16, I judge my years starting in Nov when the season starts in North America), so that was a ~25% boost from the feature.

ObamaNotBad.jpg, indeed.

Raw downloads aside, I had an interesting observation about being App of the Day. On day one of the feature I saw that only ~5.5k the 19k downloads actually launched the app. Day two saw 7.5k launches of the 9.2k downloads. I saw a similar pattern when Slopes went paid -> free: a ton of day one downloads didn't translate to launches. Not sure how many customers grabbed it just because it was App of the Day, how many were bots of some sort, or how many are just squirreling it away for later when they get to a ski resort, but clearly downloads aren't the only number to focus on when being featured. You'll have a non-insignificant amount of downloads that might not translate to real users.

I'd love to say this 25% spike in downloads led to a spike in revenue, but all of the rules of my funnel realities come into play. I have to wait until these customers get to a ski resort and fall in love with Slopes to see revenue from these downloads (man, I wish that reminders feature was in Slopes before the feature). Hopefully they'll stick around and translate to paying customers over time. 🤞

Regardless though, man, the season is off to a great start.