Why 24hourlondon is now a free app

Running an app when you don't have a marketing budget is hard. It's why I started this blog: it's something I can do without spending too much. Plus I've worked as a writer and I've got to play to my strengths, right?

But I do need the app to make some money one day.

When it first went on the market, last June, I priced it at £2.39 reasoning that this was less than the cost of a pint and that this mattered because users would probably already be out and about when they decided to download it. (Apple has a series of price points for its apps - 59p, £1.49, £2.39 - and you have to pick one.)

However, I've realised that this is the wrong way of looking at it because (1) people tend to download cool sounding apps as soon as they hear about them - that's part of the fun (2) they compare the price of apps mainly with the price of other apps, not with the value of the information contained within them. This is annoying but there's not much I can do about it. And (3) no one knows 24hourlondon exists.

So last summer I went through a phase of distributing beermats with 24hourlondon branding at pubs with outdoor tables in central London and would find myself having the same flipping conversation over and over with people who would suck their teeth and say "£2.39? That's a bit expensive."

"No, no!" I'd remonstrate. "You don't understand! I spend all this time working on it and keeping it up to date so that the database is useful - and this takes around two hours a day. Plus time spent marketing it, money spent building it..."

But this never cut any ice because I was talking directly to my market and unfortunately the customer is always right. Even when you really wish they weren't.

I've got two problems at the moment. Firstly, I can't afford advertising on the Tube, which is what I'd like. But you've got to buy it in packages of £10,000 or more. I went through a stage of trying to convince CBS Outdoor (who own the billboards in the London Underground) that they should be my media partner and share my revenue in return for a few ads. I thought that with them on board it would be a relatively simple matter to attract a proper sponsor from the alcohol industry. But this didn't work... not yet anyway.

Secondly, in order for it to be worth a sponsor climbing on board I'd need to have had at least 20,000 downloads, according to a lovely and very knowledgeable lady called Helen Keegan, who runs a mobile industry networking organisation called Mobile Monday London, or Momolo for short. (Great organisation btw.) If you know any different it would be great to hear from you.

So I'm thinking that now 24hourlondon works perfectly, thanks to the new version that appeared in the app store a couple of weeks ago, I'll try making 24hourlondon free for a while in order to increase downloads and position the app to attract sponsorship. Fingers crossed.

In the mean time, 24hourlondon's got around 350 bars, pubs, restaurants and clubs on it that stay open late, so you don't have to go home early because of lack of local knowledge.

Tell your friends and I'll let you know how it turns out.

All the pictures in this post are examples of other things that are free but contain tremendous value for their users.

So there's a smile, up the top, because one of those at the right moment can change the course of your life. The hot air balloons represent air, which is kind of an obvious one. And then there are conkers, free in the autumn from a park near you. Not because of the game of conkers, although I admit that it held considerably more allure for me when I spent time in a playground five days a week. But because they are repulsive to spiders and moths. And since it's impossible to buy mothballs any more because the EU says so and they're carcinogenic, conkers are your best chance of preventing moths from munching their way through your most expensive outfits. 

So there you go: 24hourlondon is the conker stash of the app store. Free but very useful.

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