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The end of the app store innocence?

We have a number of startups in our portfolio that build iOS and Android apps.

To my knowledge, none of them pay for traffic to their apps.

But they constantly get pitched by different 3rd parties with the promise of better exposure and distribution in the app store. 

Some offer to buy low cost traffic on Google adwords and then deep link into iTunes.

Others have cross platform in-app ad networks that distribute apps.

Others have figured out ways to “optimize” within the rules of various app stores.

I know plenty of big and small companies that pay for distribution. And it’s quite possible and maybe inevitable that our portfolio companies will pay as well. Maybe some of them already do this and I’m just not aware of it. 

But it’s a bit sad to me. The notion of an app store has many flaws – most notably that Apple can block or hold up a new app from their users. But I did appreciate that an individual can build a meaningful business by building an app. If current trends continue I worry that this will become much more difficult.

I hope I’m wrong. Social networks, blogs and other social apps should continue to provide the most meaningful and important sources of traffic to your apps. If my friend tells me to try out an app, I’m gonna do it. 

But everything I hear is that these optimization and paid techniques will become key things to consider to getting your app out there.

So perhaps I’m just being naive. 

What do you think? Will the highest bidder get the most exposure as we saw with Facebook apps. Or can a meritocracy win out in the end?