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The NitPicker: Don't Believe Everything You Read

27 Oct 2011 News
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A report by Fiksu is making the rounds around technology blogs citing its assertion iPhone app downloads plummeted in September. More specifically, Fiksu claims the top 200 ranked free U.S. iPhone apps were in aggregate downloaded 3.8 million times per day in September versus 4.06 million times in August, a 6.4% drop. Our question is how did Fiksu get access to the necessary information to make this comparison, calculation and conclusion?  We don't think they did. The core business of Fiksu, maker of the Fluent News Reader app,consists of helping app makers acquire users and retain their loyalty via a service dubbed Fiksu for Mobile Apps. Fiksu has developed a few proprietary app indices including the Fiksu App Store Competitive index. According to their website, this index "tracks the aggregate volume of downloads per day achieved by the Top 200 ranked free iPhone apps in the U.S." According to a news release published today, the Fiksu App Store Competitive Index dropped in September with 3.8 million downloads per day versus 4.08 million downloads in August. How Fiksu got access to the daily download volume of the top 200 ranked free iPhone apps in the U.S. is unknown. Fiksu hasn't responded to an e-mail asking for comment and clarity. There are only two ways to know the daily download volume of the top 200 ranked free iPhone apps in any given month. Apple has this data but does not make it publicly available. Apple will from time to time announce download milestones or quarterly aggregate download volume but thats about it. The only other way is if the top 200 ranked free iPhone apps on any given day (the list changes intraday) provide this information to Fiksu which seems high improbable. Fiksu numbers also fly in the face of figures provided by Apple. On June 6, 2011, Apple announced 14 billion apps were downloaded inception-to-date and then announced on July 7, 2011 that 15 billion apps were downloaded. 1 billion in one month. Was this an outlier? No. On October 4, 2011, Apple revealed over 18 billion apps were downloaded inception-to-date or, on average, 1 billion per month from July  to October 2011.  Of course, these figures don't only represent the top 200  ranked free iPhone apps but all app downloads. Still, roughly 120 million apps downloaded represents only about 12% of all app downloads in a month which is far too low of a percent for the top 200 ranked free iPhone apps in the U.S. So what numbers are Fiksu reporting? Our best guess is they represent the download figures from clients on their platform amounting to nothing more than a sample size and probably an insufficient one to project onto the entire app ecosystem. The purpose of this article is not to pick on Fiksu. Instead we are pointing out two pervasive problems: The sloppy communication of information by vendors and their blind re-communication by technology blogs. In a 24 hour news cycle where being first to a story still has the panache and effect it did when hardcopy newspapers and analog televisions were masters of the information universe, rushing to get a story published without at least giving information a once over with a critical eye is a disservice. We can't help but laugh when some technology blogs trip over themselves rushing to publish a story after a juicy headline flies across Twitter or any other news ticker-type medium. We've seen instances where technology blogs much bigger than poor, little (but proud!) AppPicker post nothing more than a headline, picture and a truncated sentence just to get the story "out there". What a shame. Information really isn't news without scrutiny. We're reminded of the words from the late Steve Jobs who said:
“One of my beliefs, very strongly, is that any democracy depends on a free, healthy press…. Some of these papers — news and editorial gathering organizations — are really important. I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers myself. I think we need editorial more than ever right now."
Amen, Steve. [Editor's Note: Its unclear whether the App Store Competitive Index reflects monthly or daily app downloads volume. We took the most conservative viewpoint by assuming it is daily volume but if its monthly (like AdWeek seems to think) it makes our argument even more strong.]
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