Setapp: Sustainable recurring revenue for Mac developers

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.

Brett Terpstra

Brett is a writer and developer living in Minnesota, USA. You can follow him as ttscoff on Twitter, GitHub, and Mastodon. Keep up with this blog by subscribing in your favorite news reader.

This content is supported by readers like you.

Join the conversation