Barely noticed last week was the announcement by Yahoo that it was shuttering the IntoNow app it purchased a couple of years ago. “We’re out like Walter White,” the second-screen app's crew quipped at their site. It was a pretty good app in its day. IntoNow experimented with different styles of social media filtering to keep users from being overwhelmed to distraction. It also polished a system of sharing clips/screen grabs that users could distribute and comment upon in their social feeds. That tech made its way into the new Yahoo Sports app to very good effect.
But enthusiasm for dedicated second-screen TV apps has waned as it became clear that less is more when it comes to parallel media use. Most of these apps demonstrated that people really didn't want to tend their tablet or phone during TV viewing. the Twitter feed ended up being the most used item anyway. At this weekend's Super Bowl Fox didn't even put any effort into its app experience. Users simply got access to the TV broadcast stream. Twitter itself was the clear winner.
But as I noted yesterday, Shazam offered a credible second-screen experience on its audio-tagging app by keeping things functional and uncluttered. If you tagged the show once and kept the app live it simply updated itself with new material as the show progressed. The auto Shazam feature listened in background for ads and added them right after each aired for quick replaying. The app even allowed you to buy music tracks used in each of the ads. The overarching timeline feature mixed scoring news with ad clips and music links. In all, it was the kind of second-screen experience the user could simply leave on and refer to at will, although it dispensed with actual social media chatter.
But it worked. According to Shazam this morning, the app was used more than 700,000 time Sunday, more than double the usage rate of the 2013 Super Bowl. And true to the app’s heritage, it was music that drove people to it. Half of the activations occurred during Bruno Mars' halftime performance. As well, 15% or 90,000 activations were like mine, coming from people with the app live through much of the game.
Not surprisingly the two most Shazamed music moments were Bruno Mars songs. But people also activated the app's audio ID functionality to capture the Chevy “Life” ad and Jaguar “Rendezvous” spot. The most Shazamed ads were from Chevy and Jaguar, followed by Bud Light's “Cool Twist” and the U2 Bank of America ad supporting Red.
The jury is still out on what second-screen mobile experiences really will resonate over time with viewers. Clearly, the first wave of dedicated parallel viewing apps was overkill. I imagine some specific experiences like awards shows or reality competition shows still lend themselves to higher levels of interactivity. The experiments go on, and most are attempting to pare down the interactions to very simple and sparing engagements. USA Network, for instance, has been augmenting its “Modern Family” binge reruns with live user voting through a Web site on certain nights. Personally, it feels less engaging to me than it does an obvious attempt to engage, but for reasons that are unclear. Do I really feel part of some community of viewers this way? No, but I am a curmudgeon anyway.
The highly individualized nature of mobile phone use has a tendency to expose just how variegated the media audience is. My guess is that no single or even few second-screen offerings will ever capture wide swatches of people and achieve the kind of ritual use TV itself achieved in the last century. Now that we see ourselves in greater detail engaging with the second screen it may dawn on us that this “mass audience” of TV viewers was never much of a “mass” at all. We were all engaged in the same activity but in a wide range of ways, with many different kinds of attention, interest, perceptions.