New Yorker Cover Sells iPhone App

By Steve Smith
06/01/2009

In a curious reversal of digital media polarity, the recent cover of The New Yorker featuring digital art created on the iPhone has proven a windfall for one mobile phone application developer. Steve Sprang, the author of the Brushes iPhone app that artist Jorge Columbo used to develop the June 1 cover of The New Yorker has now sold over 40,000 copies of the program. Sprang told The New York Times Bits blog that the best selling day this far was last Monday, with 2,700 copies of the $4.99 app sold. Sprang says he saw a bigger boost from the launch of the magazine cover than he did from days when Apple featured Brushes in its iTunes store, which is considered the most effective way to popularize a new iPhone app.

Well, iTunes featured status was the most popular way to sell a mobile app until now. Sprang was unaware that a New Yorker cover had been made from his app until a newspaper reporter called him for comment.

The magazine cover in turn spawned a torrent of media coverage. ABCNews featured the application, embedded at Sprang’s site. And Sprang is clever enough to ride the wave of publicity to higher sales. In tandem with the New Yorker cover, the author is discounting Brushes to $3.99 for a limited time.

Apple splits gross revenue from paid applications with the developer at a 70/30 rate favoring the author. So far, Sprang should have cleared more than $100,000 on this app. Who says there is no money in mobile yet?