Facebook Wants to Eavesdrop on Your Entertainment
In its eternal quest to know everything about its users, Facebook has introduced an optional feature that encourages them to share information in status updates about whatever entertainment they're currently enjoying. The idea is to compete with Twitter as a discussion forum for hot TV shows -- and of course, to provide marketers with more data for targeting ads.
Facebook is rolling out a new feature that encourages users to share their entertainment experiences on mobile devices.
The new audio identifier uses the gadget's microphone to listen in on any content playing. When posting a status update, a Facebook user will see an audio icon moving on the screen, searching to identify a song, TV show or movie. If it finds a match, the user can choose to share it.
When users share a song, their friends will be able to preview a 30-second snippet. In the case of TV shows, posts will include information about the season and episode being watched so as to encourage conversation among other users that are watching but avoid spoilers.
The feature is optional, and users will have to turn it on to enable it. The sound is not stored, so it won't be possible to use the feature to record ambient audio. If users do decide to enable the feature, the posts will be like any others on Facebook -- users can choose who sees them and who doesn't.
Android and iOS users in the U.S. can expect to see the feature roll out over the coming weeks.
Facebook's move comes as social networks are competing to become the primary second screen for discussions of shows and music. However, creating that hub is about more than just giving users another option for their status updates, said Alfred Poor, senior technologist at aNewDomain.
"This is not about customer engagement and doing something to please Facebook users," he told the E-Commerce Times. "It's about trying to make even greater profit for Facebook. This feature indeed has a social element, but the primary value is that Facebook can sell this information to advertisers and other clients."
Facebook has been slower than some of its competitors to recognize the importance of those advertisers looking to capitalize on a second screen, but it's about time it launched such a product, said Peter Koeppel, founder and president of Koeppel Direct.
"It's a way for Facebook to compete more effectively against Twitter, which boasts a sizable audience that tweets about TV shows while a show is airing and now allows ads targeting people having a conversation on Twitter about a TV show," he told the E-Commerce Times. "It also enables Facebook to compete for TV advertising dollars by targeting the same audience that is watching a particular TV show."
Race for the 2nd Screen
Facebook's approach to becoming the No. 1 second screen is a good one, said Renaud Fuchs, director at Alvarez & Marsal Europe.
"Facebook's strategy is smart here, because it makes it Facebook-centric rather than TV-centric," he told the E-Commerce Times. "It's clever, because the approach so far has been TV-centric, meaning a TV show is telling their viewers to use social media to tell their friends they're watching a show, and including a hashtag. But this is coming from within Facebook, so it makes the post inherently about Facebook rather than only about a certain TV show."
Only time will tell if users -- especially the younger ones that Facebook needs to attract and retain -- will adopt that approach to sharing their digital entertainment habits, said Poor. The company also might have to iron out legal issues to make sure it is not playing content that's been obtained illegally. For right now, however, it's a sure bet that Facebook will reel in some extra ad dollars from the feature.
"Whether this helps stem the outgoing tide of Facebook's relevance among younger users remains to be seen," he added. "I'm not sure that it will bring back the younger users -- but it appears to be doing just fine with older users. I expect that it will likely make money for Facebook."