Last Updated: 12 Jan 2017

We’re sure you’ll agree when we say: securing an app review is really hard.

You send out a bunch of emails, sit patiently, and more often than not you’ll get nothing back. We’ve all been there.

The problem is that the explosive growth of apps on both the Apple App Store and Google Play shows no sign of slowing.

This means there’s a rising number of developers just like you who are trying to get their apps noticed by journalists and the media.

But does it really have to be like that?

Well, it turns out that you can significantly improve your chances of getting your app reviewed by following a few simple steps.

In this post, we’ll show you the key findings from our conversations with 69 reviewers from some of the biggest and best app review sites including 148 Apps, Gizmodo, IGN and Pocketgamer.

Here’s what we found out……

What type of apps do you review ?The focus on reviewing games over and above all other types of apps is a reflection of the fact that games make up the majority of all apps on all the major app stores.

Whilst we all have plenty of social and productivity apps that we use regularly, no other category of apps has the same popularity or the same volume of new app launches – leading to a much higher proportion of media coverage.

Outside of the games-only review sites, journalists covering new apps are clearly looking for products that catch their attention regardless of what kind of app they are.

But with so much of the focus on games, it means that apps need to be really special to get coverage.

“When it comes to app review media, games receive more than twice the attention of any other category”

What operating systems do you cover ?

Respondents were also asked what operating systems they covered. 

Of the list of app review sites we spoke to, it’s little surprise that over 90% covered iOS app reviews whilst just over 60% covered Android app reviews.

The volume of media that covers other formats such as Windows and Blackberry is relatively small as would be expected.  

The small percentage of ‘other’ included outlets that covered Mac and handheld gaming such as 3DS and PS Vita.

On average, how many review requests do you receive a day ?

On average, how many review requests do you receive per day

Around 75% of the journalists who took part in the survey said that they receive fewer than 20 requests a day.

Although this may sound small, that’s equal to 100 a week, more than 400 a month, and close to 5,000 a year.

And this is at the lower end of the scale; at the other extreme, almost 8% said that they got over 50 requests a day, which is a staggering 13,000 requests a year.

As we’ve already discussed, the amount of column inches available to app reviewers can be very limited, and even a dedicated review site may at best be able to post a handful of new reviews each day.

So right from the start, the chance of an app reviewer acting on a request to look at a new app is pretty slim – which is why all app reviewers will always look for quality and uniqueness when deciding which apps to cover.

 “Almost 8% said that they got over 50 requests a day, which is a staggering 13,000 requests a year.”

Please rate the following factors in order of importance regarding their influence in helping you decide whether to review and app

Unsurprisingly, the most important consideration for any app reviewer was whether the app in question was a good fit for the site or magazine’s reader; in a nutshell, is it relevant?

As we’ll see in a later question, it seems that not enough developers and PRs are considering this issue of relevance when approaching the media, with too many using a scattergun approach in the hope of getting something to stick, which ultimately is not actually working.

The second most important factor is what the app looks like based on its screenshots.

Firstly, screenshots show the graphical quality of an app, which is a good indicator of overall quality.

Secondly, it’s easy to see from a screenshot whether the description of the app in the pitch or on the app store is accurate.

So as well as showcasing the app, screenshots are a litmus test of whether the app lives up to the hype or not.

The quality of the pitch itself is seen as important in getting noticed, and as you may expect, being able to send a video trailer was seen as a big positive.

Interestingly, the least important factor was whether the app is based on a known brand or license – perhaps indicating that, when it comes to apps, big brands don’t automatically mean high quality.

“Personal e-mails written directly to me, even if they’re short, are much more likely to get a response”

Please select the top three reasons why you are likely to ignore or reject an app review request?

The biggest lesson here is relevance; sending a pitch about an app that’s not relevant to readers was cited by 58% of the journalists surveyed.

Beyond that, major reasons for not considering an app for review were related to not sending through the right information, or putting together a pitch that was poorly written or structured.

When you have at best a couple of minutes to go through an email pitch, the positives need to be clear and concise, otherwise nine times out of ten that email won’t make it further than the trash.

33% of the journalists said they get pitches for apps that are for platforms and devices that they don’t cover – showing that not enough developers and PRs do their homework before hitting ‘send’.

In fact, several of the comments given by reviewers who chose ‘Other’ show that bad pitches are just as problematic as apps that aren’t relevant.

 “The game sounds uninteresting or bad”

“The app has been previously released, but it’s being pitched as new”  

 “Getting multiple contacts about the same app in a 24 hour period gets a no”

“We don’t review free/freemium apps, so don’t pitch them to us”   

Which of the following methods are you happy to use when accepting apps for review?

Sending out promo codes from the app stores was by far the most popular way to test and review apps, and Android reviewers are mostly happy to receive app files directly. Half of the journalists surveyed were also happy to use Testflight – perhaps an indicator of what proportion of reviewers are happy to look at pre-release game builds and work in progress.

“Promo codes should be offered in the email upfront”

Please rate one of these statements as to how you use or view social media as part of your job

Contrary to the view that app reviewers sit aloof on their thrones in an ivory tower (a view we would never profess to sharing ourselves), our survey shows that journalists like to use social media to interact directly with developers.

First and foremost though, our respondents like to use social media as a discovery and news tool, to keep them up to date with all the latest releases and announcements.

As well as being open to conversations with known developers and industry contacts, some of the journalists use social media as a way to contact specific developers and companies directly – we’ve seen this with games like ‘Flappy Birds’, where the game became a media talking point without any PR or marketing at all.

So for anyone planning on marketing an app, it clearly makes sense to have some form of social media profile, in case a journalist finds it and wants to get in touch.

Please select one of the following statements that best applies to you

How do you like to receive app pitches ?

When it comes to the best way of pitching an app, social media appears to have the same appeal as kryptonite, with no media preferring to be contacted via Facebook or Twitter. Despite the fact that many journalists use Twitter as part of their work, only a small percentage (X%) were happy to use it as a means of receiving pitches about apps.

Despite the fact that many journalists use Twitter as part of their work, only a small percentage were happy to use it as a means of receiving pitches about apps.

Instead, journalists clearly like to keep it traditional, with 88% wanting to get an email  and a handful preferring to be reached via a web form on their site.

 “Don’t send a generic ‘to whom it may concern’ email”  

On average, what percentage of the pitches you receive make it onto final review?

How likely is it that a pitch will turn into a review? Not very, judging by the responses we had to this question.

Over 40% of respondents said that less than one in ten of the pitches they receive end up getting reviewed.

This isn’t especially surprising, considering the amount of approaches easily runs into the thousands each year as we found from the responses to question one.

Taking an average from these figures, we can see that 70% of journalists which responded publish reviews on less than 30% – giving the average app a less than one in three chance of getting coverage.

Do you use newswires as a source of information ?

Do you use newswires as a source of informatation?

It can often be a difficult choice for developers and PRs, as to whether using a newswire service actually helps get traction with the press.

However, it’s pretty close to an even split between journalists that do use them to discover apps to write about, and those that don’t.

For the next question, we drilled down into which services the journalists who DID use them read.

Which newswires do you source news from?

Looking at the different services cited, GamesPress was clearly the favourite – likely due to the much higher concentration of game reviewers than any other kind.

Aside from GamesPress, the most read wires were the long-established services PRNewswire and Businesswire, followed by PRWeb and Marketwire.

But even these were only read by fewer than one in four journalists – with several other well-known wires getting even less recognition.

Perhaps the lesson here is that newswires can be effective, but they are no replacement for primary contact with a journalist via email.

In Summary

The results of this survey – and the overwhelming sentiment received from the app review journalists who made the time to take part – reflects what many PR professionals have known for years.

This is namely that a well-written, personalised pitch stands a much better chance of getting read than something poorly worded, impersonal and blasted out willy-nilly.

And while marketing professionals and PR people do offer a valuable service in helping developers reach reviewers, it’s by no means a certainty that coverage will result.

As we’ve seen, at best, you have a one in three chance of making it from a pitch into an actual review.

One of the key factors in all this is quality and originality. An app that looks and sounds original will spark a journalist’s interest, and it’s these apps which tend to dominate the media coverage given to mobile apps.

Even a great pitch, fantastic screenshots and a relevant app for the readers will fail in comparison to an app which has a genuine X-factor.

With so few app reviewers expected to cover so many apps, it’s only logical that the reviewers will focus on the 1% that either really stand out, or capture the zeitgeist.

The downside of this is that it leaves many, many disappointed developers whose apps simply don’t get the coverage that they might deserve.

As this survey has shown, a journalist reviewing apps will typically cover fewer than 10% of the apps he or she is sent pitches for.

Whilst the huge disparity between the amount of coverage and the amount of new apps exists, it becomes crucial to take the time to really understand what particular journalists are interested in, how they like to be pitched, and what the content of that pitch needs to be.

Whilst you can’t guarantee success, you can ensure failure.

We hope that the insights contained in this – the first ever survey of mobile app reviewers – help developers, marketers and even journalists themselves focus more on what works, and in that way make everyone’s job that bit easier and more successful.

People we spoke to for this survey

Of the 200+ app review media that were approached to take part, 69 responded, including journalists from high traffic sites such as The Guardian, 148 apps, Gizmodo, IGN, Pocketgamer and Slide To Play. We invited responses from blogs and sites around the world but the majority came from the US – still the biggest app market, and therefore the country with the highest concentration of media covering apps. Despite the journalists who responded mostly focusing on mobile games there was a spread of other types of app being reviewed by them too – including kids/family and educational apps.

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