App developer

Patronage as a Business Model

“Patronage works. I may be taking a pay cut for a while, but it’s still very profitable for an individual. As long as I can keep the lights on and the virtual servers running, I’m making enough, and I’m not doing anything that anyone else can’t do.”

Marco Arment

Patronage—making an app free and asking for on-going voluntary subscription payments—is a perfectly valid business model. In the podcast app space, where there are multiple third party apps competing not only against each other but with Apple’s free Podcasts app, business is cut-throat.

In order for patronage to work it requires a confluence of events that are very rare for most independent app developers: a significant and dedicated customer base, front and centre placement on the App Store, extensive media coverage, people willing to pay, and, to tie everything together, a quality product.

I don’t think Marco meant that patronage works in every scenario. If he did, it’s remarkably naive. In either case, it’s poor word choice.

Disclaimer: I bought Overcast 1, paid to be a patron on Overcast 2, and have bought various other podcast apps in the past, including Castro and Downcast.