FuelMyApp lets iPhone app developers reward reviewers. Will it work?

FuelMyApp is a new site launching now which is a platform for iPhone app developers to reward users for reviews. Here’s their pitch: Developers get reviews about their apps, while users get free apps in return for reviewing them. Now, before you cry Pay-Per-Post read on and let’s figure this thing out.

Founders Ben Way and Kevin Dixie came up with the idea while complaining to each other that they’d been wasting money on paid-for app’s for their iPhones which, prior to purchase, had no reviews about them in the app store. This was especially if the apps were very new and had no user reviews yet, a common occurrence when you hear about an app that’s potentially awesome it hasn’t hit the mainstream yet.

So how does it work? Developers submit their app’s iTunes reference to the site and select how many reviews they want. They then decide to go global or country specific for those reviews. They then track the progress of the reviews.

Meanwhile, iPhone users sign up with their Paypal email address and iTunes nickname. Then they select an application from fuelmyapp and pay for it as per normal. Once they have tried and tested the app, they review it on itunes. As soon as the review is published in iTunes, fuelmyapp automatically credits back the app fee to the user via Paypal. The costs of the service to the developer are $2.99 per review plus the cost of the application.

Now, let’s look at those potential problems.

If Apple makes big changes to discovery, what then?

And although the iPhone user is not told to review positively and fuelmyapp says it will not view a negative reviewer any differently to a positive one, you have to wonder if that will work.

I spoke to an iphone developer who took a look at the site. He said that it solves “a real need: and that it could make a modest amount of money in the short term. He also said it could work very well for games – which are understood instantly by users and serve a wide market.

However, there are there issues. FuelMyApp needs lots of users to work (I doubt a Techcrunch post is enough).

Also if ngmoco or one of the other big publishers enables this “feature” of paying reviewers, the model may not be defensible.

Furthermore an incentive scheme may well attract the wrong sort of user. As my iPhone developer points out: “We don’t want bad reviews just because someone has tried our app for one minute in order to get a free app.”

Lastly, a developer could simply choose to pay out to all the positive reviewers and ignore the negative ones. This could be very serious if the media got hold of that story.

For their part FuelMyApps says that if they hear of a serial reviewer simply grabbing app after app and trashing them, they’d ban their account. This is of course assuming they have the systems to track this abuse. They also say app publishers won’t be able to control the reviews and abusive reviewers would get reported to iTunes.

Personally I can see arguments for both sides – and FuelMyApps does seem to provide at least another way for the long tail of developers to actually get some feedback when iTunes won’t promote their app in “featured” etc. It may well also beat paying a PR person thousands to solicit reviews.

Then again, it could just end up being a cluster of crap. This one we’ll have to suck and see.