Our Brand Is Transparency

[fa icon="calendar"] Aug 25, 2017 5:09:25 PM / by Patrick Kane

I decided to write this post because a customer reached out to us, annoyed.

When we push model updates, it changes our historical data. That’s a problem for customers because it makes it difficult to track progress over time.

Any inconsistency in the data is confusing and causes hassle, especially if our customer is consulting for a third party. Basically, our model updates make life more difficult for some of our customers -  we had to deal with that. If you want to read about how we are going to start specifically addressing that problem, please jump to this post.

But when we started to plan our response, we realized it was just one of many connected problems in our space.

For newcomers and experts alike, there is a distressing paucity of information around the data mobile app intelligence companies, Priori Data included.

We’re not here to trick anybody.

We’re proud of our data accuracy - on downloads and revenue particularly, we are happy to go head to head with anybody - but that doesn’t make us infallible. Winning a one-month subscription that drops off because of some confusion or miscommunication on data is no way to build a business. Our business is built on long term partnerships; to have those, you need a high trust environment.

This article is a statement of intent: Priori Data aims to become the industry leader on transparency.


Read more >> How our data works, in detail


As an industry, we’re really bad at transparency

Finding out where data comes from, how it’s processed, how accurate companies think it is, how they model (and if and when they change those models) and a litany of other questions are, by and large, left unanswered.

If you have found yourself looking for answers, you aren’t alone.

Here is an incomplete list of Quora posts by people who can’t figure out how the mobile app intelligence industry gathers and handles data:

  1. How do websites like App Annie and apptrace get past data of the apps?
  2. How do websites like App Annie, App Figures and other mobile applications-related websites get a list of these apps? What algorithm do they use to keep track of the new apps? Is it legal to use data about the app obtained from, say, Google Play on your own website for commercial purposes?
  3. Which service has the most accurate data? Apptopia, App Annie, or Sensor Tower?

And I’m sure there are many more.

I went digging for information on all this. Here’s what I found.

 
Priori Data
App Annie
Sensor Tower
Apptopia
SimilarWeb
Accuracy Benchmarks
y
n
n
y
n
Source
y
n
n
y
y
Methodology
y
n
n
Sort of
Sort of
Scope
y
n
n
y
n
Model Updates
y
n
Sort of
n
Sort of

Going through all these websites showed me a lot about what features they have and who might be interested in using them. It didn’t show me much about the data. Even when I found the information on the data, it wasn’t front and centre - this applies to us too.

The only information I could find on how App Annie models its data was 2012 article on Pocketgamer. In that, the former EVP of Marketing lays out this thumbnail sketch of their methodology:

"Imagine a Y axis that represents downloads and X axis that represents rankings. Essentially we create a model of those two data points, correlating them and growing a distribution of those points through advanced statistics. Through that statistical correlation we are able to generate market estimates for the downloads and the revenue of the entire App Store ecosystem."

I’m picking on App Annie because a large percentage of people will only have heard of them. They act as a window into the industry. And if people go looking for information on how App Annie’s core business works, they will also only be able to find this old interview: out-dated and extremely low on detail.

That is a problem for our entire industry because it creates a generalised suspicion around mobile app intelligence. If users cannot find any information to tell them how, why and when we got the data, why should they believe that it is accurate?

There has already been some backlash to this from other figures working in mobile. Sooner or later, customers will withdraw. They’ll lose access to the competitive advantage provided by app market intelligence and end users will be given apps that don’t properly reflect their interests. Nobody wins. 

The mobile app intelligence market deserves better

As the market matures and we reflect on what we’ve achieved, it’s vital that the culture of transparency gets attention.

As an industry, we’re better at telling people how to use our products than explaining how they actually work. That needs to change. And I want to be very clear - Priori Data is a long way from being perfect on all this.

It can be difficult to step back and ask questions from the perspective of our customers. How might they go about deciding to choose one app market data provider over another? They can compare prices. They can ask what other people are using. But, ultimately, what really matters is data quality, which is basically a black box.

It’s tricky even for us - inside the black box - to compare quality because we don’t have access to our competitors’ algorithms or data sets. All we know is how we go about it and the feedback we get from our users.

That should be better.

Explaining algorithms isn’t particularly fun. It’s kind of boring to read about (if you aren’t a data nerd) and not exactly straightforward. It’s easy to fall back to pretty dry blog posts that nobody wants to read - our model updates fall into that category, if we’re being honest.

Making complex information digestible is a big challenge. But that is no reason to avoid it.

We’re not asking everybody in the industry to give away their core processes, but we should be giving users the tools to figure out which provider is the right fit for them.

And that means better transparency on accuracy, sources, methodology, scope and updates.

Read this piece on how we’re rethinking our model updates and stay tuned for more transparency on what we do. Highlighting the lack of transparency is the first step. Please join us - and keep us honest - as we go about taking the next ones.

 


Help us improve our data, join our Partner Program

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  • Historical + country-level download and revenue data for up to 10 apps/month
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