It's hard to get excited about developing applications if there's no payoff for your efforts. That's the general consensus arising among makers of Windows Phone applications, who are dissatisfied with the poor sell through of advertisements. With no money coming in from ads, some developers say they'll have to start charging for their apps - or quit supporting Windows Phone.
Last month, a post in Microsoft's Developer Network prompted an interesting discussion among several app writers who shared some dismal stats. Developer Ben P1 posed the question, "Why is Pubcenter fill rate STILL so stupidly poor?"
"What the hell is happening that is causing almost nobody in the entire world using pubcenter to advertise? Has anyone in the Pubcenter team actually thought 'Hey, this isn't working, we need to do something about this!'? If so, what strategy is being put in place? Are Microsoft in the slightest bit serious about breaking into advertising?" asked Ben. "If the answer to this question is 'Yes', then people need to be sacked, right now, for their utter continued incompetence. Of course, if the answer is 'No' then please tell us, the developers, so we know to stop wasting our efforts."
According to Ben, the fill rates for ads in his apps are between 2% and 10% - which is simply not enough. His team will no longer make games that rely solely on advertising. Instead, he will begin testing other payment methods, such as in-app purchases, to make money in the short term. If they don't work, Ben says he's not sure just how strong his long-term commitment to Windows Phone will be.
Another developer called Astute Dev replied, "Same here too. Revenue down by 97% - from dollars to cents. I thought at least revenue from US will be decent since ad inventory in other countries were already known to be poor. From worse to worst."
Microsoft responded, but not to the satisfaction of the developers following the thread. "We have acknowledged there was an issue with low fill rates and eCPM earlier in February," said Microsoft's Patrick Gale. "The fill rate issue has been addressed and we have seen fill rates rise back to previous values. We are still investigating the low eCPM and have active engagement on this issue. Having said this, we also completely understand the length of time this has taken and just how frustrating these types of issues can be. Please be assured that this is (and will be until resolved) considered a high-priority issue."
The developers contend Microsoft has been slow to respond to an issue that directly affects their ability to earn.
Whether Pubcenter is seeing an actual downward trend in its efficacy or if there's a bug causing problems, it is clear that Microsoft doesn't have the ad-filling chops that rivals Google and Apple have. Google's AdMob Platform has long supported Android developers. Apple's iAd is not as strong, but it is strong enough to keep iOS developers happy.
Microsoft's Windows Phone platform is a distant third to Android and iOS worldwide. Though Microsoft has done a reasonably good job of convincing top developers to support the platform, it won't hold onto them if the developers can't get paid.