Logo for WelectGo mobile app

German mobile app is too popular

It turns out that commuters in the German city of Dusseldorf would rather watch advertisements than shell out €2.60 for a transit fare.

A mobile application called WelectGo allows users to download a QR code that is valid for a single trip.  The catch? They have to select and watch four 20-second ads on their smart phone before they can access the code.

Investing just over a minute in return for a free transit trip sounds like a no-brainer, and tickets are selling out so quickly that the app now warns users that the ticket quota is limited.  What went wrong?  CityLab writes:

The app’s developers really didn’t think this one through….The app only demands 80 seconds of your time before rewarding you with a ticket worth $2.80. If you count the ticket as a form of income, that means users are getting an hourly rate of $120. However much they may dislike watching ads, surely no one is rich enough to turn down a sweet deal like that.

The app developers clearly miscalculated the demand for free transit.  They estimated about 1,000 downloads by the end of the year; instead they got more than 20,000 downloads a month.  Assuming lower demand, they also launched with only four advertisements.

The challenge now for the developers is to fix the balance.  CityLab suggests requiring people to watch more — or longer — ads or to charge for downloads. In the meantime, the transit riders of Dusseldorf have a pretty sweet deal. Link to full story in CityLab.

Image source: WelectGo via iTunes

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