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The 411 on Tier-Two Paid-Search Providers

The 411 on Tier-Two Paid-Search Providers Kevin Ryan

Paid listings are becoming ubiquitous on the Web, and advertisers often ask me questions about “other” paid-search options. A survey at a recent online advertising trade event (show of hands) of audience members’ knowledge of other paid-search providers indicated a bifurcated audience with camps in Google and Overture. How sad.

It’s not that I am anti-Overture or Google. Quite the contrary. But with 33% of online ad spending being allocated to paid search and advertisers embracing search marketing at unprecedented levels, there is bound to be quite a bit of competition in an already volatile environment.

Enter tier-two paid search. There are literally dozens of paid-search providers that place advertiser listings on portals in a keyword search. Some second-tier paid-search sites will resent the “back seat” connotation this designation infers, but I don’t intend that interpretation.

These providers can help your site get more traffic and expand your search marketing program’s reach most efficiently. However, there are some key differences in the players to be aware of as you take your search marketing efforts to the next level.

What is Tier Two2?

Since Overture and Google represent the lion’s share of audience reach, the first question advertisers ask is, “Who else is there?” The next level of search listing syndicators includes providers like FindWhat, Sprinks, Ah-ha, Search123, and Kanoodle. Each site offers pay-per-click, keyword-driven, search terms in a competitive environment with listings that are sent out to search sites, destinations, and even desktop search applications.

These providers are certainly no strangers to the consolidation activities running rampant in search today. FindWhat recently merged with UK-based Espotting, a move that will push the organization into head-to-head competition with Overture in the United Kingdom. Search123 was recently acquired by ValueClick, adding, well, value, to the unique selling proposition offered by both companies. Search123 expanded its traffic, and the combined entity will enhance ValueClick’s contextual search offerings.

Situation Trepidation

Since larger paid search sites syndicate to MSN, AOL, Yahoo! and other top portals, the question I most often hear is in the vein of the blunt, “If all the top sites are taken, where will my listings be appearing, MonkeySpunk.Com?” I believe in the Aristotelian teaching method and my response is always, “Do you care where the user is coming from if said user is making a purchase?”

Sure, there are going to be sites in the alleged second tier that may not exist in your bookmark file. Search123 for example, syndicates to AskYourAunty.Com, but it also reaches NetZero, and Juno searchers. James Beriker, Search123’s senior vice president of Search Services, explains the situation this way, “Listening to our customers reports on the effectiveness of our partnerships is paramount to the success of our business. We live and die by the quality of our traffic.” I found a common theme in the providers I spoke to in that each set high standards for the sites in their networks.

Speaking of high standards, it’s pretty refreshing for me to meet someone like Lance Podell, the general manager of Sprinks. I visited that company’s office in Manhattan recently and, in addition to receiving some great information about Sprinks, I found a “Glass is half full” kind of leader who is as evangelical about measurement as I am. While Sprinks may hold a second-tier position in the keyword search arena, when it comes to contextual search, Sprinks is running ahead of the pack. “We maintain rigorous requirements for distribution partners that include post-click activity tracking on the behalf of our clients and monitoring each site individually for performance,” Podell said. He was also quick to point out Sprinks’ readiness to block sites that do not perform well.

The traffic quality question raises a couple of important cautionary notes as you move forward. Some tier-two sites provide immediate or real-time access to keyword listings where as larger sites use editors to evaluate listings for relevancy. Also, on larger sites, if your listing is not meeting minimum click-through requirements, it will get ousted, as it is perceived as not relevant enough. Often this is not the case with some of the sites in tier two. This places the onus of relevancy on the advertiser (very scary) and monitoring post-click activity becomes an important part of expanding the reach of your program.

Money Talks

Big budget advertisers have embraced the paid-search space and skyrocketing keyword bidding can often defy logic on these sites. I have seen click competition drive costs in some business-to-business categories into the neighborhood of forty dollars a click. According to Podell, “Pricing is arguably the best entry point for advertisers to expand a syndicated keyword listing program into other providers.”

Analyses of click costs across major sites reveals click cost percentage savings ranging from the low double digits into the realm of three digits. Consider category killer keywords, hotel and car rental. One recent Friday afternoon, I compared click costs on a few of these sites and leaving traffic as an x-factor for the moment, the tier-two pricing advantage becomes quite clear.











car rental






Traffic Walks

Another in-your-face question facing the tier-two paid-search providers relates to the abysmal drop-off in traffic critical mass. For example, in the first quarter of 2003, FindWhat delivered a total of 90 million clicks to Overture’s 608 million clicks. Using this example and the hotel click costs above, assuming Overture’s hotel keyword searches total one million per month with a 3% click rate, the monthly cost on Overture would exceed $30,000 for as many clicks while FindWhat’s monthly expenditure would be in the neighborhood of $2,700 for 4,500 clicks.

Since click costs can be considerably lower, your keyword list in the second tier may look a bit different than your tier-one list. Advertisers seeking health-care searchers may only include the phrase health maintenance organization due to competitive bidding situations on words like elder care, or even HMO, but on tier-two sites, if the click costs are 300% lower, the advertiser’s ROI model may accommodate the expanded keywords or phrases.

Theory to Practice

In the real world of paid search, click costs do not remain static (at press time, top hotel keyword bids on Overture and FindWhat were $1.26 and $.51, respectively), and not every second-tier provider generates the traffic of FindWhat and Sprinks. However, the answer to the expanded tier paid-search provider utilization question is a resounding, yes. Buying efficiencies and expanded keyword list advantages along with ever increasing distribution strength are making these players a key component of your overall Search Engine Marketing (SEM) program. In my opinion the tiered line should be erased in favor of including these providers as key components of the overall search plan.

About the author: iMedia search columnist Kevin Ryan’s current and former client roster reads like a “who’s who” in big brands; Rolex Watch, USA, State Farm Insurance, Farmers Insurance, Minolta Corporation, Samsung Electronics America, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Panasonic Services, and the Hilton Hotels brands, to name a few. He is currently Director Market Development of IPG’s Wahlstrom Interactive where he provides guidance in directional online marketing to Wahlstrom’s

As a campaign component and reach/frequency driver, this widget comes so close to hitting the mark, it's scary. Rolling off the current "V-dub" campaign aimed at a younger audience, the VW team clearly understands that half a widget's worth is in design, and the other is in user-focused utility.

It really only does two things: show you the Rabbit logo and display free events in a particular large city from Yahoo's upcoming.org. After all, when you're young, hip and broke, you want to find something free to drive to.

The application

The good

  • This widget is a Web 2.0 purist's dream come true: a big brand spending to develop technology that provides user-generated content in a convenient, usable, accessible format. There's no corporate call to action. No link to a VW site.

  • VW is confident that after looking at this Rabbit logo a few times every day, widget users will naturally remember it when the time comes to buy.
The bad

  • There's no corporate call to action? Providing a small text link, even a ZIP code entry to find a nearby dealership, wouldn't be a widget-killer. This BDA is so user-focused, VW has earned itself a little self-serving real estate. Users would feel fine about it, and VW would get a few hundred-thousand deeper exposures, seemingly tossed away.

  • While the Rabbit logo is cool, I had to think for a moment on it. How does it relate to VW? Did they put this on the front of the car instead of the familiar V-dub they want young drivers to know so well? Anytime a user has to stop and think, they're not using the app anymore.
What you can take away

  • Utility = awareness. When it's a utility or convenience first and brand second, everyone wins. Your audience gets a valuable feature that makes their lives easier, while you get persistent desktop real estate and real-time, actionable communication. Oh, and around 30 views per week.

  • What are your customers' habits? What needs do you fill that can be extended as a utility? You already do a lot of this work to understand an audience's relationship to your brand. Look at it again, and think about the ways they use the computer to achieve everyday tasks related to your brand. There's your BDA.

Oh Target, how much do we love your branded shopping? This BDA certainly tests this assumption, offering lots of opportunity to see product, as well as over-branded design and a distinct lack of user focus.

Led bravely by the familiar Target dog, the widget presents a "Pick of the Day," "Tip of the Week," "Gift Finder," "Weekly Ad" and a "Settings" section, where you can set the masthead to count down to a specific date.

The application

The good

  • Yahoo will show you how many times a widget has been downloaded; in this case it's more than 27,000. Even if you consider that a BDA failure, it's still an astounding ROI for exposure: these people are being alerted to a new product on their desktops on a daily basis.

  • For Target's most faithful, it's a hit and a little taste of product and design daily. And the widget collapses itself to just the dog and the countdown when not in use, which is a nice feature.

The bad

  • The site is more personalized than the widget. Why not bring that functionality to the desktop?

  • Surprise! Pop-ups are bad! Widgets often launch browser windows, but there's no standard for when that happens in the experience, so you have to make your own standard and follow it, which Target neglected to do. If one style of button launches a browser, then they all should. It's a challenge that makes a difference in the user experience.

  • Will I really keep it as a timer? It only counts days. Not very useful.

  • Worse than the lack of utility is the Target red that outlines the widget. The contrast between the widget and the desktop burns my eyes. I'm no expert on the most popular desktop colors, but my guess is that most are blue, and that the least popular desktop colors are hues that would compliment this blaring shade of red. I can't even look at this widget for more than a few seconds without it diverting my eyes to any other more reasonable palette on the screen.

  • Wait a second, no video? This was another glaring omission, and a missed opportunity. Target could have used its BDA to let consumers download high-quality videos in the background and to serve alerts to users when they're ready to be seen. People love those Target ads. Why not repurpose them?

What you can take away

  • You've already invested in dynamic web features. Now see their true potential on the desktop, where instead of having to re-enter criteria with every visit, the BDA can remember and do the searching in the background, returning what the user is interested in directly to the desktop.

  • Another practical reuse for retailers is the ability of your BDA to read the same cookies your website left behind. Did your BDA user drop a cart in your checkout process? The BDA can remind your user by displaying those cart items on the desktop, offering checkout at a glance and a click away.

  • Moreover, you can use that cookie information to push behaviorally targeted offers to the BDA. It's just repurposing your existing investment in a context far more convenient than within the web browser.

Coke extends its myCoke online social scene to the desktop, with this real-time list showing which of your virtual friends are online.

The application

The good

  • There's an old marketing wives' tale I'm sure you've heard about the Coca-Cola marketing strategy: if it moves, paint it red; if it doesn't, put a logo on it. Well, that theory seems to be at work here. There's a Coke logo, and you can see which of your v-ego friends (Coke Music users) are online. That's it.

The bad

  • Not interactive at all. You can't click through to the web and open myCoke.com. You have to log in to use the widget anyway. Why not just give me a click to the site and log me in on the way? It would retain a lot more users.

    In fact, there are two clickable links: terms and conditions and myCoke's privacy policy. If you're building a widget for your legal and compliance department, this might be a good place to start. But in this situation, it only highlights the deficiencies.

  • And for a social site BDA, why not offer chat? Creating a BDA integrating AIM, MSN and myCoke would be a boon for all the v-ego'd teens out there.

  • My poor eyes. This is another case where adding a little white around the logo would have gone a long way. As it stands, I can't look at the Coke red against my blue-background desktop pictures for more than a few seconds.

  • And I really can't understand why they didn't just port myCoke right onto the desktop. It already pops out with its own browser window. This is another case where technology sitting just on the edge of what a browser can handle works with ease on the desktop. I've got dual processors trying to churn their way through laborious myCoke loading screens. This could have been done in the background while I was idle on the desktop.

The ugly

  • Yes, it gets worse. The experience surrounding this BDA was actually poorer than the BDA itself. First, it's a Yahoo Widget. But it doesn't appear on the Yahoo Widget Gallery, which is where the myCoke instructions tell you to download it. Luckily, they fixed this a few days in, allowing users to download it directly.

  • No integration? I was emailed shortly after downloading the "Friends" widget to download a widget of all Coke games. No thanks. Looks cool in the email, but their BDA efforts are already damaged goods, leaving me wondering why they didn't add the games to the widget I worked so hard to find and download in the first place.

What you can take away

  • If you can leverage existing habits in open-source technology, go for it! Got teens chatting on IM? Give them a cooler, branded chat client to use.

  • It's easy to make BDAs viral. At the very least, a simple "Send this BDA to a friend" button on the desktop will do wonders for your offering.

  • Make it practical and interactive. Give your users the self-evident path to the next step in the process and they'll thank you with loyalty and an astonishing amount of exposure.

Around two years old now, Southwest's Ding proves that a BDA can make a huge impact on loyalty and sales without being pretty or all that usable. It's just a collection of buttons representing the categories of the website, with a text window showing customized, time-sensitive offers based on your registration preferences.

The application

The good

With only a small sliver of the overall airline market, Southwest's Ding has achieved:

  • More than 1 million downloads.

  • More than $60 million in sales per year from the BDA alone.

  • Incredible loyalty: in an industry where loyalty is everything, 45 percent of Ding users are more likely to make a future purchase from Southwest.

  • This is also a classic example of how powerful perceptions are. Ding is promoted as a constant low-fare searching device: exactly what price sensitive shoppers want to hear. But once they download the BDA, it's a perfect pivot-foot for these users to make clicking through to Southwest.com a habit. Being on the desktop eliminates all the competition Southwest would face in the browser. People are far more likely to start their browser session in a Southwest.com category than they are anywhere else.

The bad

  • The "ding" itself. The sound is cute in a 30-second TV spot. But I'm not constantly traveling Southwest, and the dinging got old, fast. The ability to turn off the sound and just have a visual alert (that isn't constantly blinking at me) might keep more casual users leaning forward.

  • The app is just barely integrated. Ding would do well to show car and hotel offers in its text window as well.

  • It only gets as personal as my flight preferences. Throwing in weather for those destination cities, or even a flight tracker on the desktop app, would make the proposition of keeping Ding active on my desktop a lot more viable.

What you can take away

  • Captivation is king. Feel free to design for attracting users on price. What you'll get by training users on your BDA, and your web interface, will keep them coming back regardless. This is especially true as your demographics hit 34- to 59-year-old users, who will stick with an interface they've been trained on rather than try something new, even if it's better.

  • BDAs for travel and hospitality are like a 100,000-square foot candy store no one else has heard of. It amazes me that no one besides Southwest is making a splash here. Make reservations, see live mileage or loyalty account numbers at a glance. Nothing else out there will serve your loyal customers with more utility and convenience while at the same time keeping those users away from all your competition's ad space on a zillion sites.

The undisputed heavyweight champion of BDAs, iTunes demonstrates that if you find an underserved need and build a highly usable interface for that need, the sky is the limit. In this case, Apple is the brand, iPod is the product and iTunes is the BDA.

The application

The good

  • When iTunes started, it gained momentum purely because no other company offered a way to create and manage MP3 files so well. I've often thought that if Apple decided to make a similar application around the process of filing and retrieving cooking recipes, they'd take over that industry, too. After all, iTunes isn't a whole lot more than a really nice database with ecommerce attached.

  • What makes this possible is the desktop. Managing this information online wouldn't work for all kinds of reasons, but on the desktop, Apple is free from the design restraints of HTML and can build an application specifically suited to the needs of the user.

  • Now that users are trained on Apple's way of managing music files, extending that user experience to ecommerce is seamless. You can fill out the holes in your music library without having to learn anything new. The interface is the same one you've been practicing on with your own files.

  • Welcome to the desktop portal. As you may have seen, the power of a trained user extends offline to physical products both vertically (iPhone, iPod, AppleTV), and maybe, more amazingly, horizontally across products within the same vertical. For example, for jogging, you can you buy the Nike+ service that tracks your progress with the iPod Nano. But when you want to have TV, movies and music at your disposal, there are color screen models, and you can use them all effortlessly with the same connection cord and interface.

  • Another amazing result of filling this space with a usable interface is how good the ecommerce can get. The now-vacant Sam Goody in the nearby strip mall attests to the reality behind more than 2 billion song downloads.

  • And did you notice, no website? Well, you can go to the web for information about iTunes, but you have to download the BDA to buy. I asked if you noticed, because most people don't distinguish between ecommerce through a BDA and a website.

    In fact, eMarketer recently reported that women ages 16 to 25 have voted iTunes their No. 5 favorite website, which is a telling statistic for the future of ecommerce and a very important lesson for anyone interested in capturing the attention of such an influential group. These are the household financial managers who will dictate the success of your brand over the next decade.

The bad

  • Yes, there are problems with iTunes. First, the restrictions cross the line between business objectives and serving your users well. This "beat me or join me" attitude will almost certainly end up defining iTunes as either a fad or a trend. Remember, iTunes is only a few years old. We may end up looking back on it like synthesizers you wear like a guitar or women's suits with shoulder pads.

What can you take away?

  • iTunes really has something for everyone to take away. It demonstrates the BDAs' power to customize an interface completely to your users' needs, as well as the rewards for companies that achieve that level of interface utility.

  • What need is your brand an extension of? Apple looked into the lives of its target users, found where help was needed and created a way to overcome those obstacles (real or perceived) first. As I mentioned, Nike leveraged the Apple BDA in a partnership, providing its customers hardware and software to complement the way they're already using a product.

  • Simple ideas are often the best place to start. Apple did it by creating an application to allow its users to track songs. A laundry detergent company can apply that same helpful concept by creating a BDA timer to remind customers when the wash is done, with a click to the web for tips on stain removal. If you're a household product, a desktop "cleaner" tool with your brand could organize the desktop workspace.

The choices made by the large brands in the BDA space are clear evidence that in this nascent, powerful medium; either you get it or you don't.

But you're lucky because most brands haven't even touched these millions of users yet. All you need to do is understand the life of your users, where your product fits in, and design a bridge making their life easier on the computer,  sponsored by your brand.

More technically, your brand will love BDAs because they recycle well. They can easily absorb the interactive web technology you worked so hard to develop and quickly make it intoxicatingly convenient and powerful. The same goes above-the-line by giving you a direct pipeline to repurpose (or even debut) high-quality, stutter- and artifact-free video.

And last, but certainly not least, recycle your cookies. Put them to use right on the desktop. Build richer profiles from them with metrics you can see in real-time, down to individual users. Then return the favor by giving your users increasingly easier, more intuitive ways to interact with your brand.

With the freedom BDAs afford, it's every brand's chance to communicate without any barriers on the free flow of communication. It's only limited by the needs of your audience, and your imagination as a marketer.


Americans loves reality TV. So, it should come as no surprise that "American Idol" is the most popular show in America. But the reality genre has been around long before audiences witnessed hopeful contestants crumble beneath Simon Cowell's biting criticisms or supported by Paula Abdul's sympathetic, albeit erratic, personality. The key to "Idol's" success lies in what the show introduced to TV: audience interactivity. The show allows viewers to become part of the production, breaking the barrier between stars and audience members.

5 thriving social TV apps

Banking on this notion, TV discovery app startup Peel recently launched the "Idol Interactive Experience," which provides all users the opportunity to air their judgments.

5 thriving social TV apps

As the images above suggest, when contestants perform, their photo is featured above a bar that records audience sentiment -- negative (Boooo!) or positive (Cheer!). During the performance, viewers can continually tap each button to affect the overall registered sentiment. The same rules apply for the judges. As they critique the contestants, viewers are given the ingenious opportunity to evaluate each judge's performance, giving the audience at home the chance to turn the loud, reactive "Boooos!" issued from the show's live audience into personal, yet publicized, sentiments of disgust. After the voting is done, a leaderboard displays the final results with the contestants stacked up against one another.

Though the "Interactive Idol Experience" is only one of Peel's TV services, which include gathering personal preferences and viewing recommendations based on past behavior, Peel's focus on a show that many can't live without, is one step toward providing a service viewers find indispensable. Though the app is rather simple, it encourages audience participation -- the reason why "American Idol" is so popular to begin with.       

As Peel's VP of marketing Scott Ellis told Mashable, "We think we're still just in the first inning here as far as what social TV is capable of." And taking it slow is a smart move, as social TV apps should not overwhelm viewers but engage consumers without distracting them from the TV. In the early stages of social TV, a complicated app will fail. People watch TV to watch TV, and they do not want to work.


I love "Mad Men," and for 17 months I waited patiently. So, as I sat perched in front of the tube, anxiously awaiting this season's premiere, all I could think was, "This better be worth the wait."

It was, and the magic of "Mad Men," with its nostalgia-inducing portrayal of the 60s while simultaneously depicting the timeless ups and downs of personal relationships and professional experiences, reaffirmed my commitment. And GetGlue, an app developer that provides users the opportunity to check-in and share entertainment, chat with friends and other fans, and unlock stickers and other rewards, made "Mad Men" the second most social TV show of 2012 by providing the platform for die-hard fans, like me, to express their anticipation.

Here's a video detailing GetGlue's app:

Like the characters that ramble around "Mad Men's" Sterling Cooper advertising agency, GetGlue is extremely hot right now. After closing a $12 million round of new financing and reaching two million users (who have checked-in more than 300 million times), GetGlue completed a major overhaul of their iPhone app. The new update gives those checked-in the opportunity to enter into multiple conversations with those watching the same shows and offers new TV viewing guides based upon personal tastes, friend activity, and community trends.

5 thriving social TV apps

GetGlue has created a digital go-to world for TV viewers to easily connect with others and express ideas. As GetGlue's CEO Alex Iskold told The Guardian, "The challenge is to keep it simple on the surface, but make it engaging enough for people to use every day." Clearly, success in this new arena calls for gentle user introductions, specifically considering that the app is complimentary to the TV, and must remain so for repeat use. 

And large broadcasters are taking notice, as GetGlue has struck deals with 75 networks, including Fox, NBC, ABC, CNN, HBO, and Showtime. What's most interesting is GetGlue's success with user check-ins. For those in the industry who believe check-ins are outdated or ineffective, Iskold offers a confident response: "People talk about going beyond the check-in, but that's often because they couldn't get it to work. 300 million check-ins on GetGlue tells me that they have always worked for us." Just because a feature does not work for some, doesn't mean that is does not work for all. In a new, bourgeoning industry, companies should be careful not to disregard something simply because others have.


Nearly everyone is familiar with the music identification app Shazam. It's why you no longer get into heated debates at bars over song titles and artists. It is one of the most widely-used, mystifying applications -- imagine my difficulty explaining the use of acoustic fingerprint technology to recognize songs "out of thin air" to my grandmother. And, with 175 million users worldwide, it was only time before Shazam directed its large following toward TV. If you weren't aware, TV content is slowly becoming "Shazamable," as the company applies its audio recognition technology to the TV. But Shazam is not the only company seeking to confuse my grandmother by venturing into TV audio fingerprinting, nor does it provide the best application. That designation should be given to Yahoo's IntoNow.

5 thriving social TV apps 
When Yahoo acquired IntoNow for a reported $20 million in April of 2011, industry experts questioned Yahoo's decision to obtain a TV check-in service amidst a growing sea of them. IntoNow's smartphone app, launched in the beginning of 2011, only allowed users to check-in. However, as 2011 came to a close, IntoNow launched an innovative smartphone and iPad app that easily justifies Yahoo's purchase.

Using audio recognition technology, IntoNow's app identifies the program and, as the company's Adam Cahan told Forbes, produces "highly relevant content. That could be content related to the show on TV, social information of what friends are watching, or loyalty rewards for watching certain programs." What's really impressive, if linked to a scripted program, IntoNow supplies the user with relevant tweets about the show, even tweets issued by the show's actors. In addition, if you're watching the big game on Sunday, the app provides stats for both teams and players. The following is Yahoo's IntoNow promotion:  

As Cahan tells Wired, "We're moving away from text and text input." So, IntoNow's mission is to provide relevant interactive content with a small amount of input required from the user, which is a common theme emerging among successful social TV apps -- engagement sold beneath a guise of not having to be tasked with engaging.


Living in America can create a feeling of isolation, as if our shores are enclosed by cling wrap. But one only needs to cut through this invisible barrier and venture across the pond to discover an app creating a big splash in Britain.

Zeebox is an iOS app that launched in October of last year, with plans of arriving in American in April of this year. By January 2012, it had acquired 250,000 users, which quickly grabbed the attention of Britain's largest subscription TV service, BSkyB. With BSkyB's £10 million investment, Zeebox launched a TV ad campaign that greatly increased downloads of the app, which managed to shock the startup's CEO Ernesto Schmitt, who tweeted:

5 thriving social TV apps

Here is one of Zeebox's commercials that aired, managing to spark an onslaught of new users:

As with other social TV services, this app allows users to interact with friends and congregates show-relevant Twitter and Facebook commentaries. However, what's truly catching the consumer's eye is its "click-to-buy" function. As an ad appears on the TV screen, a click-to-buy button pops up on Zeebox's real-time screen. Clicking this button takes the viewer to a web retailer that sells the item or directly to the brand's website. Although making TV ads interactive in the past has failed, Zeebox's CEO Anthony Rose offers a compelling argument: "By moving this functionality to your smartphone or tablet, and delivering an experience that is synchronized to the show you're watching on TV, we think that Zeebox finally delivers on that magical click-to-buy promise."

In addition, brands can purchase targetable ads to be shown within the app as their brand's commercial airs on TV. And lastly, Zeebox permits broadcasters to build and feature their own interactive, custom branding to appear within the app when specific shows air, making the typically more generic show pages offered by the app more relevant to the consumer. According to paidContent.org, for shows that have utilized this feature, "an impressive 93 percent of users stay using the app features until their show ends."

To more fully understand this app, the following video offers an in-depth look into Zeebox:


I know what you are thinking: Twitter is not a "social TV app" per se, so why is it being featured? The truth is, Twitter still dominates the social TV landscape, with solid help from their app, and to ignore this platform within the article would be to overlook the elephant in the room. Although it hasn't launched an app specific for "social TV," it seems that only in time will Twitter direct its massive following to a new social TV app. One that uses acoustic fingerprint technology to allow users to check-in to programs, presents show-relevant information and stats, or provides TV-viewing guides based upon past behavior, all while offering up its standard recipe for success: 140-character nuggets of expression (in this case, specifically about TV shows).

5 thriving social TV apps

To reiterate Twitter's power, on March 21, Mashable reported that the season two finale of ABC'S "Pretty Little Liars" created the most social noise of any scheduled series in TV history, all thanks to Twitter. According to SocialGuide's report, "Fans sent a whopping 645,000 tweets during the first broadcast, hitting the 32,000 tweets per minute mark. Over the course of the day (a catch-up marathon was playing), 1.6 million tweets were sent by 667,000 users."

Twitter's success should not be ignored, and the company's dominion brings up some valuable questions for those invested in the social TV ecosystem: Would it be in Twitter's best interest to launch a "social TV" app? If Twitter were to do so, what would be the effect on the startups featured above? Or, is a smarter move for Twitter to stay out of the game and increase consumer use by being employed within the social TV apps already launched? Does having a critical mass of followers ensure app success?  


The social TV landscape is extremely volatile, and many apps have proven unsuccessful in this new environment. But, as with any accelerating field, the speeding winds will blow away the chaff, and large monetization opportunities await the companies whose apps provide the most value to the consumer. As Jack Myers predicted at the Social TV Summit in Los Angeles, "Social TV will be an $8 to $12 billion business in 2020." There is no doubt that the blending of social interaction and TV will greatly impact the future, and the apps that best assist the consumer across the shrinking bridge between the two will be the most successful.

Kyle Montero is an editorial intern for iMedia Connection.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Cover art images"Silhouettes of concert crowd," "Businessman holding a blank," "TV and home cinema equipment," and "Digital tablet with applications" via Shutterstock. 

"Peel app" image via Peel.
GetGlue app" image via GetGlue.
Ernesto Schmitt tweet" image via Econsultancy.

Kevin Ryan founded the strategic consulting firm Motivity Marketing in April 2007. Ryan is known throughout the world as an interactive marketing thought leader, particularly in the search marketing arena. Today's Motivity is a group of...

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