Setapp: Sustainable recurring revenue for Mac developers

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We’re seeing more and more Mac apps switching to subscription-based models. It reminds me of premium channels on my Apple TV: I cut my cable a long time ago, and was happy to have the option to add HBO, Showtime, and others without needing a cable subscription… but the cost added up fast. It’s not going to be a sustainable model for users who need more than a couple of apps.

A little while ago MacPaw (developers of CleanMyMac and the DevMate platform, among other things) contacted me about an opportunity to switch Marked 2 to a subscription model. I balked. The idea of creating a continuous revenue stream for my apps is appealing, but it’s expensive for users and I’ve never seen it as a viable business model for tools like Marked. I let them pitch me, though.

What they presented immediately registered as a viable, profitable solution for Mac software users. It’s called Setapp, and it’s an app store where users subscribe at a flat rate and get access to all of the apps in the Setapp store. No trials, no upsells, no in-app purchases; pay the subscription fee and get full access to everything.

It’s going to be an invite-only app store, with carefully selected apps representing only the best in their niche. Developers get paid based on a formula that uses the price of the app and the total users for the month to calculate a monthly payout.

The Mac App Store has, overall, been good for me, but I’ve been lucky. Apple has featured Marked a couple of times, and it’s rankings have remained reasonable over time. However, it’s never likely to turn up in a search that doesn’t include “Markdown,” so discoverability for new customers hasn’t been optimal. My apps on Setapp, by way of its hand-picked selection of paid-only apps, will innately have better discoverability, even if search were to turn out to be less than satisfactory.

Adding the Setapp library to Marked took a couple of lines of code. The only thing that took some reconfiguring for me was my in-app purchases and trial checks, which needed a build target that circumvents them (because Setapp users get everything included). I’ve already been through the review process on Setapp — it’s fast, clear, and provides excellent communication and suggestions.

What clenched my decision to include Marked 2 in Setapp is the fact that I can still sell directly and via the Mac App Store. So I’m hoping to get sustainable, subscription-based revenue, without having to eliminate my current purchase options.

Setapp is coming soon, but developers can get in touch with them right now. If you think your app is a good fit, I think you should check it out.