Pay-per-install networks vs. pay-per-download networks: which one is the better monetization choice? And, for that matter, what’s the difference between the two?

Whether you’re a software developer, an advertiser, or a publisher, you’ll be able to make use of either network to monetize. But though their names may sound similar, they couldn’t be more different.

Pay-Per-Download (PPD)

A PPD network can be one of two things. Usually, it refers to a network that allows you to lock content behind a hyperlink. To unlock the downloadable file, such as a piece of software or some other digital content, users must complete an action. Third-party merchants develop these actions and pay you for each completed action.

Though users aren’t technically paying to download the content, these networks are still referred to as “pay-per-download,” since you get paid for each download.

Another use of the term is for a network that serves as a marketplace allowing you to upload and charge for digital deliverables. A site such as Payloadz, for instance, allows you to upload files and charge users to purchase those files.

Pay-Per-Install (PPI)

A PPI network couldn’t be more different from a PPD network. This type of network is specifically designed to help software developers and advertisers market, distribute, and earn revenue from software.

Specifically, a PPI network operates by advertising through a pay-per-install smart installer. Advertisers, developers, and publishers can take advantage of the PPI network partners either paying to advertise their own products, or by earning income from advertising through the network.

This type of network clearly only works for software developers, typically desktop software developers. This monetization solution offers an alternative to charging for the end product, which is a notoriously difficult proposition in today’s marketplace.

Which One to Choose?

Software developers can earn from either type of network, and there is some overlap in form and function, though the compensation model is different and they offer different benefits.

Which one is right? That depends on your offer and your business goals.

Here are some of the main differences:

Audience – The audience of each network, that is, the potential customers, will be different. A PPI network such as CodeFuel, offers a respected network of developers, publishers, advertisers, and a user base that is highly targeted.

The audience of each network will vary, and for PPD networks, that depends greatly on the marketers who are using that network to monetize their downloads.

Advertising – PPI networks allow software developers to customize the installation funnel and customize the installer’s appearance. It is here that they place advertisements and third-party promotions. A PPD network is like a combination between affiliate networks and advertising networks.

The compensation model isn’t commission based, but marketers and publishers often pick and choose third-party offers specifically for their audience.

Analytics – Both types of networks offer analytics for tracking and improving campaigns. Installers such as InstallFuel give you the ability to track the number of downloads, the number of aborted downloads, advertising conversion rates, and real-time data.

Most PPD networks offer analytics as well, with all the metrics and data you need to optimize your conversion rates and better understand your audience.

Income – Which pays better? It’s impossible to tell. This depends on the size of your audience, how much you’re receiving on average per download, and what your product is.

While PPD networks issue payment for each download, users must have a decent incentive in order to compel them to complete the offer. That being said, if you are offering a completely functional software program, a PPI network is usually the monetization method of choice. You’ll have a quality audience, increased downloads, and increased distribution.

Platform – PPD networks operate exclusively through hyperlinks, so your campaign is as cross-platform as the web. An effective PPD campaign would rely, of course, on the responsiveness of your delivery platform, whether it’s through a website, social media, email, and so on.

PPI platforms depend on the network you choose. Most major desktop platforms, such as Windows and OS X are supported. Due to the lower monetization potentials of Linux and other less-common operating systems, PPI networks typically aren’t a viable option.

Though both PPD and PPI networks can earn money and do overlap somewhat, they clearly have their differences. Generally speaking, complete software programs and tools will be better served by a PPI network, which specifically targets software users and backs up their monetization platform with robust distribution and promotion tools.

Anyone interested in monetizing smaller pieces of digital content, such as media files or resource files, simply can’t use PPI networks and would be better off pursuing PPD networks and related technologies.