If you're an iPhone developer looking for big headlines and a quick way to rise above the noise of App Store saturation, you might consider the popular strategy of getting your app rejected by Apple. Rejection is the new medium for gaining acceptance.
While hundreds of apps get launched into the App Store each week, virtually unnoticed, the ones getting rejected seem to be gaining significant press that would otherwise cost developers a fortune or never materialize at all.
The reason centers around Apple's baffling App Store approval process, a process that gave the green light to the repulsive "Baby Shaker" iPhone application which garnered world wide attention, causing Apple to issue a formal apology after removing the embattled app from the iTunes store forever.
This past week Apple is back in the news for rejecting the harmless ebook reading app Eucalyptus, citing that the app "contains inappropriate sexual content" by allowing access to a book "The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana" when searching the 20,000-plus library of classics via Project Gutenberg. Oopsie!
When Eucalyptus developer Jamie Montgomerie, cried foul on his personal blog by sharing his frustrations over the apps rejection, the story rocketed into the headlines of several wildly popular tech blogs coming to his defense. Less than four days later Apple has approved Eucalyptus ($9.99) into the App Store after an agreed upon re-build with Montgomerie. The resulting press promoting Apple's reversal is still bubbling under with the first I've seen coming from MacWorld.com. I would expect dozens of other websites to be promoting the win for Eucalyptus as their front page story on a slow news Sunday. How much is that coverage worth to a $10 dollar app?
Only a few weeks back Trent Reznor, frontman from the band Nine Inch Nails, threw a proper rock star hissy fit on his own online forum when an update to the app "Nine Inch Nails: Access", was rejected by Apple for objectionable content. His text driven tantrum garnered epic headlines around the blogosphere. Apple quickly folded like a lawn chair days later, approving the app without any changes required. Mission accomplished!
In both cases the company overturned their initial rejection of these apps in what appears to be the result of harsh scrutiny in the press over their haphazard approval policies. Though other applications rejected by Apple for "objectionable content" like "Me So Holy", an app spoofing religious icons and "Baby Shaker", the app that made sport out of silencing crying babies, have been banished to the App Store graveyard indefinitely. But not before dominating news around the globe, grabbing their fifteen minutes of fleeting fame with both hands.
It's obvious that a proper App Store rejection has become the new hotness among bloggers anxious to point out Apple's schizophrenic approval system. A system that continues to draw sharp criticism while causing endless frustration for developers. It's like covering the David and Goliath story over and over with Apple painted as the thoughtless giant terrorizing the little guy with a slingshot for sport. These kinds of stories draw huge attention and the iPhone Savior is not immune to that kind of frenzy. I've cited only a few examples of this recent rejection phenomenon that's gaining momentum fast.
The question is how do developers turn Apple's fatal flaw into a profitable marketing strategy? There is a brief window of opportunity here for those clever enough to take advantage of Apple during the current iPhone app gold rush era. It appears there's only upside for such an unscrupulous venture. The worst that can happen is a free ride to the "red carpet of app rejection" where crying in public for the media is much more lucrative than a toothy smile.
The other option is to get your app approved by Apple without delay, then wait in line behind millions of other developers and hope that bloggers actually care about your standard press release. Good luck with that! I get thirty to forty "For Immediate Release" emails a week from anxious developers. Can you imagine what Gizmodo or CNET see coming into their In Box? For developers it's like trying to scale a chrome wall after being covered in vaseline.
App rejection is quickly becoming the new path to acceptance if you're fortunate enough to lose and experience a failure to launch, which in the App Store economy really means you win. I guess you could always release a brilliant app that rises to the the App Store's Top 10 because it's actually something people want to buy like Pocket God, iShoot or The Moron Test. Yeah, but why bother? That kind of acceptance takes real work and a truckload of luck too. Who has the patience for that?