Home Smashing the Passive TV: New Check-in Apps Make Entertainment Social Again

Smashing the Passive TV: New Check-in Apps Make Entertainment Social Again

Do you want to chat with friends who are watching the same TV shows you are or reading the same books? Do you want to check in to record and share a history of your offline entertainment activities? Many startups think you will and the number of apps for that is growing fast.

The latest entry into the field is from GetGlue, a startup that offers a popular plugin for social Web browsing, that just announced its iPhone app for entertainment check-ins today. The service stands out in the field as one of the only offerings that features books and other activities, and it has an excellent recommendation feature that’s sure to be adopted by competitors in time. What are other startups doing in this market? Below we offer a feature comparison between GetGlue and competitors HotPotato, Kickfour, Tunerfish, Miso and Philo.

How The Apps Work

Are you having fun watching a TV show, listing to a song, reading a book or just thinking about something? Entertainment check-in apps will let you find the title of what you’re engaged with, and then “check in” to record the experience, leave a comment, see what other people and your friends are doing at the time, and more. Most of these services offer badges, rewards and elite status designations, sometimes with editorial benefits. Additional promotional activities are sure to come from advertisers in time as well. It’s an emerging field, but one that’s beginning to feel crowded already.

The TV industry is hoping these kinds of applications will help it strike back against audience attrition and provide a new channel for content producers to market their work. “From a business perspective,” says Comcast’s social technology group senior director of product, Mike Berkley, “it’s about providing awesome marketing channels for content providers. The analogy is that Foursquare (in theory) is a great marketing tool for local businesses… these TV check-in apps are a great tool for TV networks.”

From a user’s perspective, there is potential for fundamental change in the way we do entertainment. “TV as a form factor does not natively invite interaction,” Berkley says, “but it is an ideal consumption experience for rich media. That’s why mobile and iPad are so important, as the input devices.”

In several cases, entertainment check-in apps are going beyond TV, as well.

Which App to Use?

Here’s how six of the players in this market look, feature by feature, as far as we can tell so far.

Beyond Checking In

What’s the biggest problem with most of these apps? Not enough people use them yet, so it’s not terribly social. There are a few apparent exceptions. Miso has Google funding and is already well on its way towards popularity. World Cup games are actively discussed on Miso, in real time. The iPad app Miso announced yesterday is absolutely dreamy looking.

HotPotato is the best designed, and at tech events can provide a common back channel. GetGlue already has a popular Web presence, so it’s far more active than some of the others.

Still, they need something more. That’s where GetGlue is strongest: It offers personalized recommendations, including among new releases from the world of music, movies and books. That means it provides immediate value, even if no one else you know uses the app. GetGlue even includes a section for topics you’re thinking about, complete with viewable YouTube movies about those topics.

Long term as well, check ins alone are unlikely to prove sufficiently captivating. “The critical thing,” says social mobile engineer and researcher Nitya Narasimhan, “will be the kinds of add-on features (beyond check-in) that can create stickiness. Right now, the focus seems to be just shared experiences but I think that features like the social discovery credits where you are credited for incentivizing someone else to watch the program – those are interesting.”

That’s what the Comcast-built Tunerfish does, in fact. If someone else clicks on a link to a show that you’ve shared, you get credit for that in the system.

What will all of this look like in the future? “It’s hard to say,” says Comcast’s Berkley, “because there is so much rapid change at the moment. The TV screen is about to explode. There will be tons of innovation coming to TV over the next 12 months – TV will be dramatically redefined.”

Are you ready to get social, via mobile, with your offline activities?

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