Fiksu Finds a Way to Cheaply Acquire Users For Paid Apps

One of the reasons we’ve seen developers shift to the freemium model this year is that paid apps generally get about one-tenth the number of downloads that free ones do. That prevents users who might eventually want to pay for something inside an app from trying it out in the first place.

Now Boston-based Fiksu is trying to find a way that developers of paid apps can avoid this problem and cheaply get users too.

The company has launched FreeMyApps, a web-based portal where users can get paid apps for free if they try out apps from other developers. This may sound familiar, as a popular way to drive downloads on iOS at the beginning of the year was to give users virtual currency rewards if consumers tried new apps out. But Apple cracked down on this practice, saying that it unfairly influenced chart rankings.

Fiksu has found a smart way around this restriction by building a mobile web destination outside of Apple’s influence. (Tapjoy also did this in launching consumer-facing web-based portal for discovering games earlier this fall.)

Consumers can visit FreeMyApps.com and see a range of free apps from well-known developers like Capcom’s Beeline Interactive Studios, Hotel Tonight and Sincerely plus popular paid ones like Rovio’s Angry Birds, Camera+ and EA’s new version of Tetris. If they download free apps, they’ll accumulate credits to get paid ones.

We played with the site, and downloaded a couple of free apps to get a copy of Zeptolab’s Cut The Rope: Experiments. Generally, it seems like you need to download three to four sponsor apps and play with them for at least 30 seconds to get enough credit to download a paid one. Once a user gets enough credits, Fiksu will give them a redemption or gift code to download the paid app for free from iTunes.

With this model, developers of the free apps are essentially subsidizing the cost of downloading the paid apps. Every time a user downloads a free app, the developer pays a price-per-install. Likewise, developers of paid apps get their 70 percent revenue share of the price from Apple, but they might also share some revenue with Fiksu for driving up their download numbers. (Fiksu’s chief executive Micah Adler isn’t publicizing pricing options for developers on both the publishing and advertising sides.)