In one swift move, Apple didn’t almost kill just Mac Gamer HQ, it nearly killed tens of websites that exist for the sole purpose of promoting their ecosystem.
How could that be?
It all started on April 24, when Apple announced it would reduce the commissions it pays on App purchases from 7% to 2.5%, effective May 1st. Almost a two-thirds cut.
If you’re part of the iTunes Affiliate Program, each time a purchase is made using your affiliate link, Apple gives a commission. The buyer pays the normal price and the affiliate gets a cut from Apple, a win-win situation for readers and content producers.
Plus, because of the steady decline of Ad revenue, affiliate sales have become the main source of revenue for many sites, Mac Gamer HQ included.
By drastically reducing the commissions it pays, Apple could easily destroy the fragile business model many websites follow to survive.
Some of the bigger sites would probably make it (without forgetting how huge sites such as MacNN, GigaOM or Technology Tell, didn’t survive in spite of having millions of readers per month), but many of the smaller ones would be doomed.
Why the sudden change?
Apple’s move was hard to understand. Why make such a drastic change with so little notice? The difference in revenue wouldn’t be even noticed on Apple’s bottom line, yet it could kill websites that exist for the sole purpose of promoting their ecosystem.
Turns out, the move was a big misunderstanding. After I personally contacted the iTunes Affiliate support team with some Mac-specific questions, the whole internet realized Apple is reducing affiliate commissions for in-app purchases only. Soon after, Apple officially confirmed the change. Misunderstanding or change of mind? We will never know.
In the meantime, the panic Apple started is gone. The actual changes Apple made will be barely noticeable (most sales come from direct App sales) and everything can go back to normal. Right?
Where does this leave us?
We’re lucky this was just a big scare, but the whole episode made me realize how fragile Mac Gamer HQ is.
A commission reduction from 7% to 2.5% on all Mac apps would deeply affect Mac Gamer HQ. Affiliate commissions from iTunes are our main source of income by a long shot and the idea of losing two-thirds seriously made me question this site’s future.
One single change from Apple could kill it in a heartbeat.
I can only blame myself for putting all the eggs in the same basket, but it was my only alternative. Ad revenue is tiny nowadays and sponsorships only work on extraordinarily popular blogs such as The Loop. There’s sadly not enough interest in Mac gaming to make that work.
As an example, these pathetic figures represent our total Ad earnings for the month of March 2017:
I never expected this site to earn enough to become a full-time job, but some revenue is needed to pay for hosting, services (a CDN, themes, plugins, email providers, etc), and staff.
If you can’t cover your costs and are expected to do all the work yourself for no reward, it’s impossible to keep it up in the long term.
Talking about money may sound greedy to some, but it’s a reality all bloggers face. Why do you think all Mac gaming sites so far have eventually shut down? From the top of my head, I can name the original Mac Gamer, OneClickMac, iGameRadio, GameAgent, Inside Mac Games, and Control Command Escape. And I’m sure I’m missing more sites, now forgotten in the big graveyard that is the internet.
When reaching out to their former owners, many told me their blogs didn’t survive because they were not sustainable, let alone profitable. A person can only be drained of time, money, and energy for so long.
It seemed for a moment that Mac Gamer HQ was next, but I won’t allow it, not without a fight. There’s a reason I decided to bring on paid freelancers (if you want quality, you have to pay for it). I need more high-quality content from several excellent writers.
I need Mac Gamer HQ to become bigger than myself.
But to get there, the site needs to be sustainable first. I have been toying with a premium service I believe would be very useful to some of you. The idea has been in my head for over a year, but after Apple scared the shit out of me, I decided to finally take the plunge. I won’t share anything today but just know that it will be revealed soon.
In fact, I commit to revealing it within one month, before the end of May 2017.
In the meantime, I still don’t see a better alternative than affiliate sales. Some have found success with Patreon or simply asking for donations, but I don’t feel comfortable asking for your money. I don’t have anything against it, but I want you to use your extra cash to buy games instead. That’s why we’re all here in the first place.
Want to support Mac Gamer HQ?
If you want to support Mac Gamer HQ, you can help out by doing two things:
- Use the links found in our articles when buying a game. Many are affiliate links.
- Bookmark the following links and use them whenever you will purchase a game or App (or anything else on Amazon):
Using these links will not change the fact that you will always pay the same price everyone else pays, yet each purchase will earn a small commission for the site. I think this is a great, free way to support us if you enjoy our work here.
Mac Gamer HQ has been my hobby, passion, and time sink for more than four years and I would hate to see it fail. I promise you I will do my best to make this site sustainable so it can live for a very long time.
In the meantime, as I don’t usually share this stuff, I would really like to hear what you think about all of this in the comments section.