The Phones Have Ears

“Content is king,” they say, and from it comes context. But what of people consuming multiple forms of content at once? Multitaskers are the new black.

Zample, a media recognition software service, is trying to capitalize on the multiscreen trend.

Shawn Patrick, the company’s chief marketing officer, spoke with RTM Daily about the company, which last week raised $2 million in venture funding.

Essentially, zample offers a free SDK that app developers put in the background of an app. That SDK uses the phone’s microphone to listen for surrounding content. In the case of zample, it listens for television.

Back at zample headquarters, the company ingests over 100 live TV channels, fingerprinting all national ads, TV shows and movies, so that its SDK can know what a user is watching.

When a consumer is on a couch watching Conan, to use Patrick’s example, the app knows that Conan is on. Ads related to what's on the TV screen can then be delivered to the app.

“The nature of impulse buying has changed,” Patrick said, referring to a recent Google report on multiscreen behavior. “That’s what happens when people are seeing ads more and more in line with the content they are consuming.”

There is a risk of consumers being creeped out with their phones “listening” to the room; the movie “The Hills Have Eyes” was a horror flick, after all. However, going off the success of apps like Shazam and Viggle, people seem at ease with their phones listening in return for content. The difference in this case -- and it’s a big one -- is that the returned “content” is an ad…or is it?

Patrick theorizes that, taking into account the sea of multitaskers and their impulse buying habits, advertisers will use zample to deliver “offers” instead of “ads.”

There can be a clear difference. As long as it’s not in the form of an infomercial -- call NOW! to receive a second item for free! -- contextually relevant “offers” being sent to a user’s phone based on what they are watching on TV could change the game.

Zample is starting with a connection between mobile apps and TV, but the company isn’t limiting itself to those two screens. They have already begun testing with images as content, from Twitter feeds, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.

Multitasking consumers are both a blessing and a curse to advertisers -- they have more options and ways to reach the consumer, but it’s harder to do so in an orderly fashion.

Zample seems to have given up on the notion that consumers will someday always consciously use their “second screen” to link to whatever they are doing on the “first screen.” Sure, it happens -- Twitter and prime-time TV shows seem to get along well -- but when consumers aren’t syncing their screens, zample wants to do it for them.

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