Mashable: Why Entertainment Will Drive the Next Checkin Craze

by Jennifer Van Grove

In recent months, a crop of services have popped up that re-purpose the checkin concept, popularized by Foursquare, and connect it to media and entertainment, as opposed to location.

In theory, the idea of checking-in to cultural concepts (like media, music, etc.) and not places is one that doesn’t jive in the real-world. It would follow then that the apps that provide this service — GetGlue, Philo and Miso — are silly and far too extreme in ideology to attract anything more than a testbed tech audience.

In practice, this alternative checkin behavior is one that is more cultural and familiar than anything the location checkin offers. In fact, it emulates the way we experience entertainment in our everyday lives. The desire to share is unchanging — it’s how we share that will continue to evolve with the help of social media and entertainment checkin services.

The Culture of Entertainment

Television shows such as Mad Men may not be monster hits when it comes to traditional ratings measurements, but those who do watch tend to do so religiously and with a fervor nearing obsession.

Watching Mad Men is a shared experience, whether you’re at a viewing party or alone in your bedroom, simply because of the culture surrounding the show. There’s a connected feeling you get when you experience a new episode for the first time. That’s why passionate viewers, if they’re socially inclined, are the type of people who will no doubt run to Facebook and Twitter to share their anticipation and viewing experience with the world.

Philo, Miso and GetGlue all have mobile and web applications explicitly designed to support and enhance that very natural entertainment-driven social behavior. They’re all using the checkin model so that app users can check-in to content, though each has its own slightly unique approach.

Philo is hyper-focused on live television. Viewers use the iPhone app or web to check-in to the live content they’re watching. Philo pulls TV listings directly from cable providers, so viewers can even see the content that’s trending locally and pinpoint where to watch it. App users earn show-specific awards based on their behaviors and work their way up a Hollywood-style ladder to earn “Director” and “Executive Producer” “credits” for shows.

Miso is also about creating a social television watching experience. The alpha service currently has iPhone, iPad and web apps that support TV show or movie checkins. It bills itself as “Foursquare for TV” and has its own game mechanics and badges that are designed to hook viewers with the promise of unlocking additional content.

GetGlue’s iPhone app extends beyond just television content and supports checkins for books, wines, topics, celebrities and video games. Rewards come in the form of stickers earned from app activity. GetGlue has been around for years attempting to master social recommendation via the browser. With the move to mobile, the company can marry checkins to the social intelligence previously harvested.

When it comes to game mechanics, each service is employing its own variation on the badge and point model made popular by Foursquare. GetGlue has stickers. Miso has badges and fan clubs. Philo has awards and hierarchy. These digital rewards systems are nothing more than tokens — mere memorabilia — of our minor television achievements. And yet, each service is hoping that its game mechanics and rewards are more enticing than the competition’s.

The Checkin Connection

Foreign as it may sound, the act of checking-in to television shows or other entertainment entities creates a culture connection between media consumers with similar interests. Philo, Miso and GetGlue provide services that allow individuals to make social connections to culture, and that’s what sets them apart from the Twitters and Facebooks of the social networking world.

It’s this cultural relevance that will create digital bonding experiences and will propel this trend to television watchers outside of the web-tech bubble.

Consider that the checkin has been a place-oriented notion for most of its short life. In a just a few months time, however, all three services are showing exponential growth and repetitive engagement behaviors that television networks are salivating over.

GetGlue, for instance, saw 5 million ratings and checkins in the month of July alone. A single episode of True Blood accrued more than 3,000 checkins.

Miso CEO Somrat Niyogi believes that the shared television watching experience, powered by the simplicity of the checkin, will be a breakout hit for mainstream audiences because it mimics offline tendencies and caters to the second screen behaviors of television viewers who use the web while they watch TV.

In fact, a recent Nielsen study indicates that three out of four Americans use the web and TV simultaneously. That same study showed that just 7% are consuming online content related to the TV show they’re watching, but Niyogi is confident that Miso can capitalize on this dual screen trend and even stimulate a renewed interest in television.

Niyogi says the iPad will help to open this door, if only because one study showed that 98% of iPad users use the mobile device while watching TV at least once per day.

Tweets are Temporary, Checkins are Forever

On the surface it might seem that these destination checkin sites do nothing more than make the sharing experience more complex. The argument that you can just as easily tweet to the world that you’re watching The Real Housewives of New York is a fair one.

The problem is that these temporal updates have a limited association to the entertainment content being consumed and they’re ephemeral at best. A tweet will solve your immediate need to connect with other show fans and share the television experience, but that tweet has very little lasting value.

Enter the checkin. That explicit activity the user takes carries a lot of weight on any of these services. At any given time, staffers can pull data to measure popularity, television trends, engagement and a whole slew of other fascinating facts about user behaviors.

For the user, though, content is king, and their checkins will help Miso, GetGlue and Philo shape their entertainment experiences through intelligent behavioral analysis and social-based recommendations. None of the services are incredibly sophisticated just yet — GetGlue is probably the most advanced thanks to its recommendation engine — but that’s the direction things are headed.

Philo CCO Greg Goldman has 14 years of television production experience under this belt, and he’s already seeing this potential realized thanks to his service. He describes Philo as shaping his own television watching experiences every night, simply because he can see what’s popular with other viewers. For Goldman, Philo presents television viewers with a new opportunity for show discovery.

Niyogi sees a similar, albeit more complex, vision for Miso’s future. He’s anxiously anticipating “the day where you open up the app and it tells you what you should watch right now. And it’s perfectly accurate.”

Industry Matters

After talking with GetGlue, Miso and Philo, one thing is crystal clear — networks are clamoring to take part in the television show checkin trend. Each service has its own relationships — some are public like Miso’s TNT partnership, but most are still stealth. All speak to the mutually beneficial relationships that exist between social entertainment services and television networks.

AdaptiveBlue CEO Alex Iskold confidently reports that GetGlue is “working with over a dozen top entertainment brands including HBO, Showtime, PBS, Random House, Penguin, Universal, Warner Bros, and more.”

Networks not only see value in checkin data but opportunity in checkin behavior. Philo’s Goldman has the most industry experience and insider knowledge. He was formerly the Executive Director of Development at ABC and asserts that Philo is “talking to everyone.”

He points to his service’s ability to track engagement minute-by-minute as one of the key reasons why networks are pursuing relationships with them.

For instance, when it came to the season finale of The Bachelorette, Philo was able to pinpoint exactly when engagement levels spiked on the service and ascertain that audiences appreciated Ally’s decision to break with the formulaic nature of finale show.

Of course, networks are also interested because they see an opportunity to truly engage viewers and create a cycle that keeps audiences tuning in each week. The ultimate end game is to boost ratings, and these apps have the potential to help them do just that.

Too Much of a Good Thing

While each of the startups approach entertainment checkins in a provocative manner, there’s certainly no need for three services that essentially do the same thing.

It’s way too early to make predictions. We’re still on the cusp of an emerging trend, but eventually there will be one clear victor.

GetGlue has an advantage on the recommendation engine front. Philo’s live TV focus is inherently network-friendly. And Miso really gets why and how users will use its service.

A solid case could be made for each, and yet one will dominate, just as Twitter killed off its competition and Facebook finds itself leaps and bounds ahead of the rest. Right now, though, it’s still anybody’s game.


Posted by Ted • Sunday, August 8, 2010 .