Apple has announced that apps and In-App Purchases will no longer be part of the iTunes Affiliate Program effective October 1, 2018. The iTunes Affiliate Program pays a commission from Apple's portion of the sale of apps and other media when a purchase is made with a link that contains the affiliate credentials of a member of the program. Anyone can join, but the Affiliate Program is used most heavily by websites that cover media sold by Apple and app developers.
This isn’t the first time Apple has had this part of its affiliate program in its crosshairs. In April 2017 Apple gave participants in the program 6-days notice that it was reducing commissions on apps from 7% to 2.5%. The angry fallout caused Apple to issue a face-saving ‘clarification’ that the change would only apply to In-App Purchases.
What I said then holds true today:
With ad revenue in decline, affiliate commissions are one way that many websites that write about apps generate revenue, MacStories included. Many developers also use affiliate links in their apps and on their websites to supplement their app income. This change will put additional financial pressure on both groups…
The fallout has already begun. In a post titled Apple Kills the App Store Affiliate Program, and I Have No Idea What We Are Going to Do., Eli Hodapp, the Editor-in-Chief of TouchArcade, concluded:
It’s hard to read this in any other way than “We went from seeing a microscopic amount of value in third party editorial to, we now see no value." I genuinely have no idea what TouchArcade is going to do.
It will be a shame if Apple’s decision results in TouchArcade shutting down because it provides some of the best mobile game coverage available.
What bothers me the most though is the unnecessarily hostile tone of Apple’s announcement email:
With the launch of the new App Store on both iOS and macOS and their increased methods of app discovery, we will be removing apps from the affiliate program.
That sounds an awful lot like ‘Our new App Store is so great we don’t need you anymore, bye.’ If that’s the case, it’s short-sighted, but it’s certainly Apple prerogative to run its programs as it sees fit. Still, it’s not the right way to address the publications, developers, and others that have generated millions of dollars of referrals over the years in exchange for a modest 7% cut. Whatever the motivation, the change has been handled poorly, which is disappointing. Unlike last year, however, I don’t expect Apple will back down from this decision.