App Sites Left Devastated After Apple Kills App Affiliate Program

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Apple on Thursday announced that it would remove apps and in-app purchases from its iTunes Affiliate Program this coming October.

The platform previously allowed independent news sites and other third-parties to receive a small cut of an app or in-app purchase when they referred users to those apps. But Apple is removing commissions for iOS and macOS apps later this year, the company announced in a newsletter.

The iTunes Affiliate Program itself isn’t going anywhere for the time being. Though members will only be able to make money off referrals to music, movies, books and TV content.

Why Is This Happening?

Back when the App Store first launched, it wasn’t as easy to discover good quality, useful applications amongst all of the options, as Gizmodo points out.

Because of that, bloggers and third-party review sites provided an important service. They’d refer users to the best apps at a time when the concept may have been new to many of them, or when it was hard to find apps in a marketplace saturated by copycats.

In return, they’d get a small percentage of the money made off of those apps.

But now, Apple says its own proprietary systems — with their “increased methods of app discovery” — are good enough alternatives to third-party sites to stand on their own. While the company doesn’t say it directly, they’re implying that they’re obsolete.

Not that we didn’t see this coming. Last year, cut the affiliate rate for commissions made in the program from seven percent to 2.5 percent.

Similarly, revenue made from the Affiliate Program has steadily dwindled in the last few years, owing to the fact that many apps have moved to an ad- and in-app purchase-supported “free-to-play” business model.

Deeper Implications

But for many sites, that revenue still proved to be essential at “keeping the lights on.” News of its removal from the Affiliate Program has devastated many third-party sites — many of which may have to shut down.

That includes established and well-known publications like TouchArcade, whose editor-in-chief, Eli Hodapp, penned a blog post about the site’s future in the wake of the news.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Hodapp wrote. “I really didn’t think it would be Apple that eventually kills TouchArcade.”

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