Seth Schiesel, who covered apps for the NY Times before leaving the beat recently, wrote in his final App Smart column:
Of the hundreds of thousands of apps on the market, at least 20 percent aren’t worth a glance, yet they constantly clutter the search results of Apple’s App Store or Google Play for Android.
Number one on his Wish List for a Booming Industry is to improve search in the app stores.
When search grows frustrating, people often turn to top app lists – but may or may not trust them. The second item on Seth's list is to "eliminate shills":
Of course, with so many user reviews being written by software bots, Google and Apple may not wish to rely too heavily on such reviews to determine search results.
WSJ covered some of the same ground in a great article that compared the early days and rapid growth of app industry to Tin Pan Alley, i.e. the birth of the recorded music era:
As with the songsters of earliest Tin Pan Alley, the apps business now is open to virtually anyone with a good idea. Then and now, mass audiences created the hope of quick, large profits. Then and now, success was rampantly cloned.
The Journal article says that developing the apps is relatively easy; getting attention for them is the main challenge:
Marketing and selling the app remains a crude undertaking. It's still difficult for users to discover new apps much beyond Apple's "Top 10" lists. As in Tin Pan Alley, a mercenary world of gimmickry and "hit-making" middlemen promise to push an app onto these charts. Song-plugging has even returned. Today it's called "pay per install"—in which app developers pay anywhere from a quarter to a few dollars for each app download.
Both articles covered the challenges of app discovery, but neither one offered a very obvious solution – and one that can be of great value for app developers, users and app store owners alike. Yes, there is a great way for app developers to get attention – and for users to find apps with confidence – and that is through good old fashioned editorial coverage – and the PR that can help get this.
PR can get app companies on the radars of influential (read: professional, not user) reviewers. Reviews point users in the direction of top apps. And, just like Google uses links from high ranking sites to guide users to the most relevant and credible Web pages, there is no reason that app stores can't factor editorial coverage into their search algorithms.
Users are turning to the growing list of reporters, blogs, and columns that review apps; and developers are discovering the power of PR to help win success.