The Thank You Economy and how it's affecting business...

I had a very strange experience today. It was a warm winter's day, and we had a fire going outside. Glass of wine in hand, I was fiddling around with the iPhone (as one does - usually to one's wife's discontent) - specifically a cult favourite app of mine, Mood Agent.

As I launched the app, it popped up a message telling me that I needed to uninstall and reinstall to "see all new features". Mmmm. Bit of a pain in the ass.

I like the app, so I dutifully plugged in, uninstalled and reinstalled. At which stage, I noticed that the app icon had changed to say: Mood Agent FREE. Anyone who has any experience with the Apple App Store knows exactly what that means:

  • This is a feature hampered version. Like the shareware model, but with more tease.
  • There's a better version waiting out there, for some cash.
Now here's the interesting bit of the user experience. Firstly, the app caused me some hassle with a reinstall. I don't know why, and frankly I don't care. That's the beauty of being a user, you don't have to. Secondly, I found out that my app was the free version. Now to be honest, I can't really remember whether I paid for it in the first place. But I think I did. And as a consumer, that's all I need to know. I think I paid for it. And now what I paid for is free. And now I need to pay more to get the full package.

Then a strange thing happened.

I liked the app. For those who haven't heard of it, Mood Agent is a playlist creator for the iPhone. It's claim-to-fame is to give the user five sliders: sensual, tender, happy, tempo and aggression. You slide these around to match your current mood and it picks a profiled set of songs to match. It's pretty good. And the playlists are always different to that of the built in Genius function of iTunes.

So I liked the app. Yes. And I'd had a pleasurable experience with the dev team when I'd tweeted about it once a while back. They were friendly, responsive... And I know there are many people out there that make a living creating applications for niche audiences.

So I bought the new app. To say thank you.

Take a dramatic pause here ladies and gents. That's a BIG cultural shift. I may be a sentimental early adopter, but that was a very specific piece of consumer behaviour that just unearthed itself. And I have a funny feeling it's not just me that's experiencing it. Commercial platforms like Apple's app store have made it so easy to "vote with your mouse click". In the past, that meant "giving a nod" or sending some traffic. Today, it means $4.99. 

The Internet is the most amazing platform for niche content creators. It not only has an extremely low cost of entry, but it also allows you to find your niche audience, reach them and monetise them. 

Perhaps the chaps at Mood Agent aren't multi millionaires by now. They probably aren't. But they made a cool app. And they got a thank you, from me. With a couple billion Internet users, how many thank you's do you need to make a business?

--- snip ---

Gary Vaynerchuk's next book is about the Thank You Economy. While he's a bit lucky to be the right person at the right time with the right amount of passion and the right amount of seriously hard work - he does have a knack of predicting things. If he's on this bandwagon - so am I.


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