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Monetizing Echo Skills

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rickroms324

Monetizing Echo Skills
« on: January 07, 2017, 07:55:51 am »
I posted this reply in the Echo forums here: https://forums.developer.amazon.com/questions/51893/future-of-high-volume-free-skills.html, thought this would be a good place to post it as well.

One my skills made it to the Customer Favorites area in the Echo app, and I noticed I was getting charged for "data transfer". So naturally, I decided to use account linking then use the "Freemium to Premium" model and charge a small fee for the full-version (using an external website not through the Echo itself).. Guess what happened? I made a little money at first, then 1 star reviews until it has become invisible. People do not like to pay to use the Echo, as the skills are supposed to be free. Another bad thing, I had to set up an RDS and an EC2 (this was after I had set the account linking up) , because my shared hosting DB couldn't handle the requests. At it's lowest price, those are $17 to $20 a month to run the Micro.T2. The skill did make money, but not nearly enough as it fell from existence when the 1 stars reviews nuked it from orbit. So what did I end up with in the end? A little money, and now a skill with low reviews, so even if they decide to monetize in the future, that skill will still be useless. So now I've removed Account Linking, and waiting to get certified to see if the skill can re-cooperate. I have another good skill I'm working on now that I'm convinced will be another hit, but I'm unsure about releasing it until some sort of monetization is available. 

To me, this seems like something that should have already been worked out. When I first started making skills, I did it "just for fun" and for the T-Shirt.  But when real money is coming out my pocket (even if it's just 5 cents a month), I feel I should be compensated in some way.  Even free AWS services would be better than NOTHING. Why should developers waste their time with the Echo without monetization? It's bad enough putting up with the horrible reviews with no way to directly respond to them, and then to pay out of pocket to provide content for Amazon's showcase device  is almost too much to handle.

Good skills take time. That's a fact. Fact spitting skills are nice and all, but good quality skills take time.  I'm not sure I want to spend anymore time with creating these skill.  Amazon if you read this, monetize the Echo!  A multi-billion dollar company not paying the developer who provide content for your device, shame on you.

Offline kevb

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Re: Monetizing Echo Skills
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2017, 08:25:25 am »
Out of curiosity, what did the skill do? Personally, I find most of the skills worthless. I'm not interested in trivia or fact spitting skills. I'd like to know what skills others do find useful.

rickroms324

Re: Monetizing Echo Skills
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2017, 08:29:49 am »
Out of curiosity, what did the skill do? Personally, I find most of the skills worthless. I'm not interested in trivia or fact spitting skills. I'd like to know what skills others do find useful.

My skill is the "Night Light" skill.  You can look it up.  The skill just basically turns the Echo into a night light for 10 minutes.  I also added optional bedtime stories for the full-version and light duration adjustments.  However, it's now free as was mentioned above.  However, the fact that the skill is simple, has nothing to do with the amount of users it was getting when it was in the Customer Favorites areas.  The fact is, I was being charged for data transfer.  Not a lot of charge, probably 5 cents per month... But I was still being charged. To me, my skill is very useful and something that should be popular, but because of their model of not paying us, see what has happened to a useful skill? Nuked from orbit from reviews.  I've also created some other cool skills that are better than others I've seen, look up "Robot Warfare", "Cleaning Buddy", and "Actual Calorie"

The fact is, if another one of my skills starts getting enough users to cost me money while I make none, I will have to charge with the same model, as that's the only option.  And the same thing will probably happen to that skill.

rickroms324

Re: Monetizing Echo Skills
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2017, 08:33:23 am »
Out of curiosity, what did the skill do? Personally, I find most of the skills worthless. I'm not interested in trivia or fact spitting skills. I'd like to know what skills others do find useful.

And that's exactly why we're not getting quality skills, because developer don't want to waste their time for "Fame" or a "T-shirt".  Good developers have most likely moved on!

Offline kevb

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Re: Monetizing Echo Skills
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2017, 09:45:46 am »
The night light skill has been mentioned on here a few times, as some have requested a night light. It sucks you had to pay to keep it going. I would guess that many developers write skills for businesses, like banks, travel companies, etc. as opposed to writing them for themselves. The businesses aren't worried about any small fees as they're a write-off, advertising, cheap customer service, etc.

rickroms324

Re: Monetizing Echo Skills
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2017, 09:50:37 am »
The night light skill has been mentioned on here a few times, as some have requested a night light. It sucks you had to pay to keep it going. I would guess that many developers write skills for businesses, like banks, travel companies, etc. as opposed to writing them for themselves. The businesses aren't worried about any small fees as they're a write-off, advertising, cheap customer service, etc.

Yes, I've thought of that too about big business, but the way they advertise the Echo skills is not just for businesses but a diverse fields of free apps. IKR, I'm still having to pay for data transfer through the Lambda!  Think about that for a minute. I'm creating content that is driving customers to buy Amazon's showcase peice essentially, and I'm paying Amazon for that bahahahah!!! I feel like a sucker with a T-Shirt.

rickroms324

Re: Monetizing Echo Skills
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2017, 09:52:25 am »
The night light skill has been mentioned on here a few times, as some have requested a night light. It sucks you had to pay to keep it going. I would guess that many developers write skills for businesses, like banks, travel companies, etc. as opposed to writing them for themselves. The businesses aren't worried about any small fees as they're a write-off, advertising, cheap customer service, etc.

Which is again why, I'm hesitant about releasing anymore skills.  I have one right now pretty much ready, but I may just keep it for myself if I'm having to pay for people to use my skill.  I get nothing but whiny reviews, and money taken out of my pocket. 

The only option to re-coop the lose is to monetize outside of the Echo itself, and again, it's a failed model as people will review you negatively for charging.  We get blamed because Amazon doesn't pay us... It's a chain reaction!!!
« Last Edit: January 07, 2017, 09:54:44 am by rickroms324 »

rickroms324

Re: Monetizing Echo Skills
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2017, 10:07:13 am »
The night light skill has been mentioned on here a few times, as some have requested a night light. It sucks you had to pay to keep it going. I would guess that many developers write skills for businesses, like banks, travel companies, etc. as opposed to writing them for themselves. The businesses aren't worried about any small fees as they're a write-off, advertising, cheap customer service, etc.

For example, here's Amazon's recent "What's New With Alexa" email.

"New year, new you
Get your health in gear with a little help from Alexa skills. The 7-Minute Workout skill helps you fit in a workout no matter your schedule. Need some help unwinding? The Thrive Global skill offers a meditation to help you get a good night’s sleep.

Enable these skills by saying, "Alexa, enable 7-Minute Workout skill" or "Alexa, enable Thrive skill" and then following any additional setup instructions. Then just ask:"

The 7-minute workout was created by a developer, not a big business...

Now don't you find this sort of pathetic Amazon will use the skills to advertise, but will not let us advertise, or pay us!?? LOL!! :o
« Last Edit: January 07, 2017, 10:09:00 am by rickroms324 »

Re: Monetizing Echo Skills
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2017, 10:59:29 am »
I think it's appalling you don't get paid for creative content, never mind having to pay to sustain it for a company with Amazon's resources. It's not uncommon though (no excuse, just noting); writers, photographers, and many other creators of content find they're expected to hand over their work for 'exposure' from which they 'might attract paid work'. Looks like development work is no different; nobody expects to pay for anything they see online. I wonder what they think such creatives live on.

rickroms324

Re: Monetizing Echo Skills
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2017, 12:47:06 pm »
I think it's appalling you don't get paid for creative content, never mind having to pay to sustain it for a company with Amazon's resources. It's not uncommon though (no excuse, just noting); writers, photographers, and many other creators of content find they're expected to hand over their work for 'exposure' from which they 'might attract paid work'. Looks like development work is no different; nobody expects to pay for anything they see online. I wonder what they think such creatives live on.

And you know, I enjoy making them, but come on, charging us for "data transfer" seems ridiculous when we're not getting anything in return! Like the Amazon underground apps, at least they are getting paid per usage, so I can see why they should pay for AWS services, but for us Echo developers, we get a T-shirt, and are expected to keep these skills running with high volume users then foot the bill.  Lol, appalling to say the least.  Especially when some of our skills were (or are) in the customer favorites sections.  In fact, at one point, my Night Light skill was sitting right next to Expedia for crying out loud!

I'll probably not make anymore until further word comes in about monetization. I'm finishing the one I'm working on now, then I'm done until Amazon decides what they are going to do.  Hey, maybe I could start a T-Shirt business and sell my dev T-Shirts!? BAHAHAHAA
« Last Edit: January 07, 2017, 12:49:06 pm by rickroms324 »

rickroms324

Re: Monetizing Echo Skills
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2017, 12:52:37 pm »
I think it's appalling you don't get paid for creative content, never mind having to pay to sustain it for a company with Amazon's resources. It's not uncommon though (no excuse, just noting); writers, photographers, and many other creators of content find they're expected to hand over their work for 'exposure' from which they 'might attract paid work'. Looks like development work is no different; nobody expects to pay for anything they see online. I wonder what they think such creatives live on.

Yes, and when I charged for the skill, of course my skill was destroyed by reviewers complaining about "This should be free".  Well... Take it up with Amazon. I'm not paying out of my pocket for high volumes of users just so I can have fame.

rickroms324

Re: Monetizing Echo Skills
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2017, 02:23:06 pm »
Here I created a petition to any developers out there who want to sign: https://www.change.org/p/amazon-pay-amazon-echo-skills-developers

Re: Monetizing Echo Skills
« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2017, 03:21:14 pm »
I think it's appalling you don't get paid for creative content, never mind having to pay to sustain it for a company with Amazon's resources. It's not uncommon though (no excuse, just noting); writers, photographers, and many other creators of content find they're expected to hand over their work for 'exposure' from which they 'might attract paid work'. Looks like development work is no different; nobody expects to pay for anything they see online. I wonder what they think such creatives live on.

Yes, and when I charged for the skill, of course my skill was destroyed by reviewers complaining about "This should be free".  Well... Take it up with Amazon. I'm not paying out of my pocket for high volumes of users just so I can have fame.

I wonder how many people know there's an ongoing cost to you beyond the work involved in making the skill in the first place. I hadn't known that - at least if I land a written piece, I don't have to rent its space there forever, although some publishers charge for 'reading' and others only pay a kind of royalty based on overall sales. Even so, that's not the kind of on-cost you have.

Re: Monetizing Echo Skills
« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2017, 04:38:24 pm »
I'm upset reading this.
I realized there was an initial charge for getting something developed and submitted (part of the reason I never did it)
I don't mind creating something for free and giving it away but don't charge me to make it and to distribute it.
I guess this is why it is hard to find a good developer.
Oh and this month it is a free hoody! A T shirt won't keep you warm enough while your advertising freely for them this time of year! >:(

rickroms324

Re: Monetizing Echo Skills
« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2017, 04:41:47 pm »
I think it's appalling you don't get paid for creative content, never mind having to pay to sustain it for a company with Amazon's resources. It's not uncommon though (no excuse, just noting); writers, photographers, and many other creators of content find they're expected to hand over their work for 'exposure' from which they 'might attract paid work'. Looks like development work is no different; nobody expects to pay for anything they see online. I wonder what they think such creatives live on.

Yes, and when I charged for the skill, of course my skill was destroyed by reviewers complaining about "This should be free".  Well... Take it up with Amazon. I'm not paying out of my pocket for high volumes of users just so I can have fame.

I wonder how many people know there's an ongoing cost to you beyond the work involved in making the skill in the first place. I hadn't known that - at least if I land a written piece, I don't have to rent its space there forever, although some publishers charge for 'reading' and others only pay a kind of royalty based on overall sales. Even so, that's not the kind of on-cost you have.

I think there's a lot of confusion to end users about who actually creates the skills.  Some I think believe Amazon actually creates all of them! Amazon creates some of them, but not most of the good ones (what few good ones there are). It's not the end-user's fault I suppose, they were told skills were free and when we need to ask them for money for Full-version of the app, they don't like that. So who get punished? The developer and good skills fall off the radar from bad reviews. 

It's not a big cost by any means, but it is a cost for data transfer none the less.  Now more advanced skills that use databases can be costly especially with high volumes of users. It would be different if we were getting paid per usage, I wouldn't mind paying for the services. In fact, the AWS services are great but RDS and EC2 can be costly.  I suppose DynamoDB is an option, but I don't see myself switch to nosql, I have no time to learn that nor re-write all my apps!!

Anyway, we'll see what happens.  Maybe my petition will someday take hold lol