App Metrics That Matter

App Metrics That Matter

Everyone wants their app to be successful, right? But not everyone knows the way.

Whether you are publishing Android applications, or publishing apps for iPad, or Kindle, it is absolutely crucial to know the major app metrics that matter and how to measure them. Publishers are thus often curious to know the expected number of app downloads/subscribers/issue opens or anything that affects the performance of their apps. But the fact is, just like many other businesses, so many factors go into the success or failure of your app that it’s not easy to accurately predict what you should expect.

So, here are some of the core metrics that we advise people to pay attention to and some very rough baselines to keep in mind as you’re making plans for your business.

These core app metrics are divided into three categories:

App Downloads:

It purely indicates the number of people who download your app. This is a reflection of your potential audience size, your existing audience size, your marketing efforts, and how lucky you get with Apple or Google promotion. Just comparing your app downloads with the closest competitors, you can define your business goals and strategies.

Another input to this number is how much you’re willing to spend on marketing. A pretty typical number for the app industry as a whole is that a loyal user—one who opens the app at least three times—costs about $1.54 to acquire through standard app advertising networks.

One other indicator is the mobile traffic to your Web site. If you’re a content brand, this gives you a universe of people who are interested in your brand and using your apps on their devices.


Now people have your app, you need them to do something valuable with it. Here are the most common conversion metrics:

Issue downloads: We strongly recommend putting some free content in the app if your normal issues are paid. While you’d think anybody who downloaded the app would download a free issue, unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. We’ve heard of numbers as low as 20 percent and as high as 80 percent—most probably expect somewhere in the middle of that, depending on how well you draw users’ attention to the issue.

Issue or subscription purchases (if applicable): You can get this number from the marketplace (i.e., iTunes or Google Play). The conversion from app download to issue (or subscription) purchase is, not surprisingly, much lower than the download conversion. In the game world, 1 to 5 percent is a commonly touted range; in content publications, numbers tend to be slightly higher.

Issue opens: It’s a measure of how many people actually open the issue after downloading it. Again, people literally expect open percentages of 60 or 80 or 100, and that’s not realistic in any industry. Knowing that 30 percent is a great loyalty figure will help you, your bosses and your advertisers define success in a useful way. This is why multi-channel messaging and in-app promotion is the key to motivate users to open your app.

Retention: This can be simply tracked by using any analytics provider like Localytics. It’s often overlooked, but for recurring revenue businesses, it’s pivotal. It will tell you of all the people who used the app in a given week, how many are coming back after one, two, etc. weeks. Across the app world, if you are getting 30-40 percent after 90 days, you’re doing great.


These stats go beyond the conversion metrics discussed above and tell you what people are actually doing in your app. All of these can be analyzed using your analytics provider dashboard.

Page views: Depending on your analytics provider, you can measure total page views per visit which will tell you how far folks are getting in the issue, or you can look at individual page views, which will tell help you identify your most popular stories. The analytics tool, Localytics allows you to know the time spent per page, which is interesting to see if people are reading your long-form stories. In general, again most people do not go through more than a few pages. So, expect a significant drop between the cover views and those of internal pages.

Time spent: Similarly, a measure of how long people are staying in the app. Don’t be surprised to see a few minutes as the average—remember, most users are not that engaged and they drag down that figure—but look at the number spending more than 10 minutes. That’s your number of engaged users.

Links clicked: This can be a really interesting measure of whether or not people are engaging in your interactivity, whether that’s triggering a movie, a web link, a popup, etc., and you can compare across pages to find your own baseline percentages. This, in fact, is great info for your designers.

It’s a wrap

With this roundup of the essential app metrics and with the help of awesome analytics tools, you should be able to save time and define your objectives before launching your app. Wish you all the success in establishing your own baseline conversion numbers.