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Report  | June 2015

Behind the App: How Developers Are Operating, Scaling and Measuring Success

By Nam D. Pham, Ph.D. and Mary Donovan

Fast-paced growth among app publishers has resulted in a very diverse industry. While some app publishers are well established, the majority are startups. Furthermore, the characteristics of these companies vary considerably; several large companies only develop one app and have over 50,000,000 downloads; others, have five or fewer employees and develop multiple apps that, collectively, reach the same size market. This diversity in the industry makes it difficult for companies to benchmark themselves against one another and little research has been published that provides meaningful information on performance and operations for the industry.

To address this issue, this report provides insights on app performance, user management, and business operations for consumer-facing app publishers. We examine four main categories: 1) app performance and user management; 2) revenue generation; 3) advertising; and, 4) operations expenses and developer staffing. To allow for comparison across firms, we assess performance by publisher size, app type, and market reach, among others. Our findings are based on our 2016 global survey of 338 developers and staff at firms who develop consumer-facing apps, as well as in-depth interviews with industry experts and findings in existing literature.