Dear Smule: Why are you spamming me while I’m trying to use one of your apps that I paid for? – UPDATE: Smule responds

smulespamI really love the I am T-Pain iPhone app. It’s great auto-tune fun. I paid for it. I enjoyed it without problem until this evening, when I launched the app, started recording and then was met by this little bit of spam while recording.

No, Smule, I don’t want to have my user experience of using the app ruined by an offer to spend more money on some other app of yours that you’re telling me through your actions will almost certainly behave in the same spamtastic fashion.

In fact, I’m tempted to never recommend any of your apps to anyone ever again even if they are cool autotuning apps, unless you publicly acknowledge this gaffe and stop this app that I already gave you $2.99 for from spamming me further.

It’s not just that it’s an ad. I have plenty of iPhone apps that have little non-intrusive ads that are displayed. It’s that it interrupts me recording in the app I purchased from you, takes over a third of the screen and doesn’t leave until I am forced to take action on it, inevitably interrupting the auto-tune groove I was attempting to establish.

Also, I already own Ocarina, so thanks for the noise.

UPDATE: I have to commend Smule. This is clearly a case of “oops, we see what you mean, we shouldn’t have done that” and not a company that is intentionally attempting to sell its products at all costs, even when attempting to do so interrupts the user experience. How do I know this? Because I just received the following thoughtful reply to this post in the comments below:

You raise a valid point. I’m sorry this dialog prompt interrupted your recording.

As a company, we are trying hard to find the right balance here to generate awareness in our user base for our other great products vs unsolicited marketing. We have crossed the line here. Yet I can assure you that we care very much about the user experience, as well as our brand and what it means to our users. We are in this for the long term, and believe we have an opportunity to allow everyone to explore their creative side, perhaps forging new connections in the process.

Anyway, we will be talking about your post in staff meeting tomorrow. Our co-founder, Dr. Ge Wang, completely shares your perspective here, if that is any consolation. He will not be pleased…

If you are willing to write me back (jeff at smule dot com — and yes, I’ll get spam for posting this address publicly, but this will serve as a reminder to repent), we’ll send you a couple smule tee-shirts (if you want them). Thanks for taking the time to provide this feedback to us and other Smule users. And thanks for your support of our young company.

Thanks, Jeff, for replying and for understanding my earlier outrage. Also, thank Dr. Ge Wang and your company for making cool applications for the iPhone / iPod touch for me. Both as a user and as someone who has been involved in advertising decisions for several online properties over the years, I understand the difficulties we sometimes face when balancing building great products with trying to let more people know about those great products while remaining profitable so that we can continue offering great products.

I think the main line that was crossed here was two-fold: the main one was interfering with the user experience. The secondary one was surprising the user with ads in a scenario where no ads were expected.

As you’re re-thinking this as a company, I’d recommend looking at some apps that are out there like Chess with Friends and Words with Friends Free, both of which I’ve reviewed, and which have a small ad along the top of several of the screens of their apps that avoids interfering with the user experience and is the sole profitability point of the two apps (although one of the most frequent ads displayed is an up-sell to Words with Friends for $0.99, which gets rid of the ads).

Words with Friends Free also has a full advertisement that takes over the screen after you’ve decided on your move, but there is a “skip this ad” option there, it arrives at a time when you’re not actively needing to see the board anymore, so while being intrusive, it avoids interrupting the user experience, and it is understood that the only reason they offer this game to me for free is because of the ads, and if I want to get rid of those ads, I simply have to pay $0.99 for the full app (and this buys me a year ad-free). That’s an ad-exchange that most users will accept.

About C.K. Sample III

I am a father, a husband, a blogger, a parrot owner, a pug owner, and the Chief Product Officer for YouEarnedIt. This site has no comments. If you want to talk to me, send me an @cksample on Twitter. If you like this post, feel free to buy me something off of my wishlist.
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3 Responses to Dear Smule: Why are you spamming me while I’m trying to use one of your apps that I paid for? – UPDATE: Smule responds

  1. jeff says:

    You raise a valid point. I’m sorry this dialog prompt interrupted your recording.

    As a company, we are trying hard to find the right balance here to generate awareness in our user base for our other great products vs unsolicited marketing. We have crossed the line here. Yet I can assure you that we care very much about the user experience, as well as our brand and what it means to our users. We are in this for the long term, and believe we have an opportunity to allow everyone to explore their creative side, perhaps forging new connections in the process.

    Anyway, we will be talking about your post in staff meeting tomorrow. Our co-founder, Dr. Ge Wang, completely shares your perspective here, if that is any consolation. He will not be pleased…

    If you are willing to write me back (jeff at smule dot com — and yes, I’ll get spam for posting this address publicly, but this will serve as a reminder to repent), we’ll send you a couple smule tee-shirts (if you want them). Thanks for taking the time to provide this feedback to us and other Smule users. And thanks for your support of our young company.

    • Thanks for replying , Jeff. I took the liberty of slightly editing your email address so the spam machines won’t easily grab it from this comment.

      You should know that I’d experienced a bit of bugginess with the app before, when I initially launched the application, the screen went blank. After getting this ad, I suspect that was this ad trying to launch but not quite doing so properly.

      In any case, no need to send me t-shirts. I do like your projects and look forward to you correcting this. Also, if you want to send me any future releases for perusal, I do review iPhone apps: http://www.sampletheweb.com/2009/07/04/dear-iphone-app-developers/

      I’ll be updating this post with your reply. Thanks!

  2. dave says:

    I find it very frustrating how poorly the app store was put together.. so that people are forced to advertise their other software this way.. I feel that a lot could be remedied if Apple just gave that entire store an overhaul. It’s hard to advertise, and as a consumer it is also hard to find software. My previous experience with software is that if you pay for it, there shouldn’t be any ads. Especially ones that may interrupt you. My favored approach would be a splash screen as you are exiting the application via an exit button within it. I know that wouldn’t be possible with the home button.

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