As the developer of a free application, your creation could easily sit in the App Store and never be seen or heard of again. It competes with thousands of rivals and there are few ways to promote it on the site. Enter Tapjoy, an app distributor, whose main claim to fame is that it's known for virtual currency within games or apps.
"Tapjoy inserts itself in the virtual goods marketplaces within apps," writes Liz Gannes at AllThingsD. "So instead of paying a few virtual coins to buy a virtual hat or something, a user could earn currency for installing a promoted app. App developers pay 35 to 75 cents for every free app install. And paid apps usually pay Tapjoy 50 to 75 percent of what they charge for their app."
This "cross-selling" means that getting a free iOS app launched by Tapjoy can cost $30,000 to $500,000 and developers said they can expect to pay $15,000 to $30,000 to maintain a spot as one of the country's top iOS apps.
The effect of companies like Tapjoy are nominal, an Apple spokeswoman said.
But until Apple decides to make the App Store a bit more democratic -- or offer legitimate reviews or improve their app ranking -- there will be distributors like Tapjoy looking to game the system and make money doing it. Money can promote a mediocre app while dooming a good one without money for such "cross-selling" to obscurity.