A new startup called IntoNow has been generating some buzz with a social TV app for the iPhone/iPad. Founder and CEO Adam Cahan told WebProNews about how it works, and why users will find it useful for entertainment content discovery based on what you have in common with your friends' viewing habits.
"About 60% of people watching television are also connected to the Internet, so they're doing something online while they're watching TV," said Cahan. "If you dive a little bit deeper, what you find out is that the vast majority of those people are communicating with their friends or doing something related to the actual content that they're engaged in. So what we tried to do was create a really easy way for people to connect with their friends around the shows that they love."
"One of the biggest technical achievements was the fact that we could do it against live TV," he said. "We do it across 130 channels of live television, and so what we basically designed was a way for you to press a button, and simply say 'this is what I'm watching, and this is literally what I'm doing right now,' and be able to connect with friends."
It's important to note that the app doesn't work only with live TV, but also with online content.
As far as what makes IntoNow useful, he drew upon some comparisons to location-based services like Foursquare, Gowalla, etc. "The television or entertainment industry right now is a little bit like where those location-based services were before GPS existed," he said. "Basically what you have is people typing into a box, 'Hey, I'm watching House,' or 'I'm watching the VMAs.' That's not really a terrific user experience, nor is it frankly an easy way to connect. You can be saying something like, 'I'm watching the music awards,' and I'm saying '#vmas', we're having two disjointed conversations. What we found with location-based services is those services never took off when people had to type in, 'hey, this is the restaurant I'm at.' That was kind of the fire that got us going."
He called the service a mashup of TiVo and Facebook, and explained what makes it such a useful tool for entertainment discovery in the above video.
So why use this over simply sharing directly through Facebook/Twitter?
"We're not actually saying, 'hey, we need to own that conversation," explained Cahan. "If you notice in the app, the first thing that we suggest you do is share. Share it on Facebook. Share it on Twitter. Share it anywhere you want. Frankly, we already know based on the links that we generate, that a lot of the conversation is actually happening on a place like a Facebook or Twitter. So, all we're trying to do is seamlessly establish those connections. So really, it's about getting recommendations, and about getting a sense of your tastes, your friends' tastes, and then starting to come back to you with ideas around things that we think you should like."
Cahan talked a little bit about privacy, as the subject is bound to be on users' minds from time to time. He said that People often ask if they're shipping audio from the device, and that the answer is no. "We can't hear anything that's going on in the room or anything like that," he assured us.
Users can always delete what they've done, but everyone sees the public stream. Things that happen between friends are locked down. You can only comment on friends' material, and you can get notifications when you're both watching the same show.
Eventually, the conversation turned to monetization. Many startups simply build their audiences and worry about how to monteze them later. IntoNow already has a few things in mind for the future.
"If you're watching a commercial on TV, press that button - that green button, and see the response that you get back," said Cahan. "So right now, the response that you get back is, 'hey, you're watching a commercial.' What we're doing going forward is enabling those commercials, meaning, I'm watching a Pepsi commercial...Press that green button. Here's an offer from Pepsi. I'm watching a car commercial. I'm actually really into this car...Press that green button. Here's more information about the Audi A4. Here's more information about where you can find it...all of that kind of stuff. So we very much want to activate it and enable a lot of those commercials to add value back."
"The other thing is, when you think about the landscape of different players here, there's also content owners," he continued. "We know in a validated way, 'hey, this is what you're watching. You are watching Jersey Shore Episode 3, and by the way, are you watching it live or not. Is it actually on air...' So you think about the content industry, what they're really focused on is loyal viewing and also live viewing. We have the ability to validate that that's what you're actually doing, so we're talking with a lot of content owners around, 'hey, let's create a program for your audience - that is if you ID live, every single episode while it's on air, and do that throughout the season, here's some...who knows what that is. Snooki's going to give you the fist bump...who knows?"
"The other area is in terms of general advertising, clearly we have a good understanding of ‘psychographic’ segments," he added. "Here's all the people who like crime. Here's the people who like comedy..."
IntoNow is the number four free social networking iPhone app after Facebook, Skype, and Twitter. While it's only available for iOS right now, Cahan says you can expect Android and web versions soon, and they're looking to get their app pre-installed on TVs.