Contrary to stories of overnight fortunes and money-printing fart machines, making money with an iPhone app can be tough. Thus far, your primary options are to charge for it (risky, unless your app is amazing or you manage to pull in a decent amount of coverage), or to place advertisements in the app (which, depending on your users, ad placement, and app usage could work out to big money or barely enough to be called pocket change).
Offerpal Media thinks they’ve found the answer to monetizing iPhone applications. Built around the same system they have in place for development on Facebook, Myspace, Bebo, and a number of other platforms, end users are able to participate in a variety of offers (from online surveys to product trials) in exchange for virtual currency. Users spend this currency on in-app goods, and the developers get paid.
Offerpal will be looking for partners to help them fine tune the system over the next 6 weeks, at which point the program will launch into beta. Each partner application will face a vetting process which, once they’ve opened the doors a bit more, CEO Anu Shukla says should take “around 24 hours.” Though the integration is a bit complex in its current state, Offerpal says they are moving toward a much simpler drag-and-drop integration method.
Just as traditional ads don’t work for all applications, I imagine that such a system might be a hard sell within certain apps – not all of them have a use for a virtual currency system. With a bit of creativity on the developer’s end, however, this might work out to a good chunk of change from an otherwise profitless application.