If Foursquare and GoWalla are the trendy social services of 2010, perhaps 2011 will belong to GetGlue, the most popular media and entertainment checkin service in a burgeoning market that has really hit its stride in 2010. Whereas location-based "check-ins" is relatively new to our psyche and social behavior, we've been sharing the types of media that we've been consuming for years. Whether telling friends your most recent CD purchased, the last movie you watched, the book you are reading or television series you're into, media is inherently conversational.
GetGlue, a social entertainment network developed by AdaptiveBlue, allows its users to check-in to the television shows and movies they're watching, the music that they are listening to, and the books that they're reading. There are also check-in options around bottles of wine, video games, celebrities being discussed and topics they're thinking about. The more you check-in, the more the service learns about you and can recommend shows, movies and books that might interest you (in a very Amazon-like way). And much like Foursquare, there are gaming elements like points, badges and even physical stickers. When you earn seven different stickers, the service will ship them to you free of charge. Moreover, you can share your GetGlue check-ins on other networks like Facebook and Twitter.
"From the beginning, the idea with GetGlue was based around my belief that entertainment is very naturally cross-vertical," says GetGlue founder and CEO Alex Iskold. "If you think of it in magic quadrants, Facebook is perceived by people as a great place for friends to connect, see pictures and send messages. Twitter is admittedly a news network, and Foursquare, GoWalla and the others are location-based services. It was clear to me that social entertainment was the missing piece, because we're always consuming media."
As of mid-October, GetGlue had more than 650,000 users, after beginning the year with only 30,000. And September was the company's biggest month yet, with users checking in and rating shows more than ten million times. Data for social check-in is not yet tracked by a neutral party like Comscore. But to put those numbers into context, according to Iskold, GetGlue has five times as many users rating TV shows as TVGuide.com. Iskold also says that GetGlue is on par with IMDB.com in terms of television and with Yahoo! Movies for user movie ratings. When HBO's hit series Boardwalk Empire premiered in September, one of every eight tweets on Twitter that referenced users watching the show came via the GetGlue service.
GetGlue is certainly not the only service in this space, with Philo, Miso, Tunerfish, TVGuide.com's web-only service and TV.com's recently-launched Relay all clamoring for market share. But what has separated GetGlue from competitors, up to this point, is that the company has been around longer than its competitors and their aggressive and consistent venture funding. AdaptiveBlue was founded in 2006 as a social recommendation engine. The New York City-based enterprise has received two rounds of funding from Union Square Ventures, totaling $6.02M, and Iskold says he expects another round of financing in the coming months. Another distinguishing characteristic of GetGlue that sets them apart is the partnerships with major media brands and their reach (none of the other services can claim 10 million check-ins and ratings in a month).
In terms of partnerships, GetGlue boasts purely co-promotional TV deals with HBO, Showtime, AMC, FOX, PBS, and Discovery Channel. They also have agreements with Sony Pictures and Universal for movies and with musical artists like Maroon 5, Gorillaz and more via Creative Artists Agency. What all of that means for users is a level of enhanced rewards for checking in. The company makes money through affiliate relationships when users click through from the site and app to buy books, movies, and more. For the network partners, they're gaining valuable information not just in the check-in data but also in the check-in behavior (or to put it simply, how consumers are actually consuming the media, be it live, on-demand or on DVR). Many of the other brands also have partnerships with major networks, but they are done in a much stealthier way than GetGlue, who is out talking about and promoting the brands they are working with.
Just last week, GetGlue and HBO announced an exclusive partnership for fans of True Blood just for checking in on the service, the first such deal for GetGlue and a great physical reward for users who have been consistently checking in (and a great point of separation from competitors). The discounts take advantage of GetGlue's unique segmentation and separation of user levels. All users receive 10% off, there is a 15% discount for Fans (Truebies), a 20% discount for Superfans (Makers) and a $50 gift card for one Guru - the most knowledgeable fan of True Blood as voted on by his or her fellow users. The users can use the discounts to purchase any True Blood merchandise in the HBO online store.
"We've been experimenting in this space, because HBO is an inherently social brand with programming that tends to inspire conversation, and for whatever reason, GetGlue had the biggest reach," says Sabrina Caluori, HBO's director of marketing and social media. "For us, we see it is a way to reward our brand ambassadors and super fans. What's pretty fascinating as well is that it tells us a lot about our consumer behavior. We can see how many people are checked in during a live broadcast versus potentially time-shifted or on-demand viewing, and then look at when they're using these services. That will help us moving forward."
Looking ahead, Iskold wants to continue partnering with more and more big brands including networks, movie studios, musical artists and book publishers as well as growing the recommendation system. Additionally, he has even more grandiose plans for the company moving forward in terms of their customer rewards and discounts. Iskold says that sponsored branded stickers from big brands like a Burger King or Coca-Cola could lead to future revenue, and he would also like to find a way to discount your cable bill.
"I'm envisioning a service where if you check in a certain number of times, you could get $10 off of your monthly cable bill," he says. "Now that's an incentive that consumers would respond to. That's a month of HBO that's being paid for."
One of the more fascinating data points that will be available with time is what devices users are checking in on. A July Nielsen study indicates that three out of four Americans use the web and TV simultaneously. That same study showed that just 7% are consuming online content related to the TV show they're watching. Presently GetGlue doesn't share the device that the user is checking in on, but as that data begins to accumulate, that's an expected benefit for partners. What they are doing is creating a new advertising model that could change the way brands look at media, says Iskold.
"What we're seeing is that when people check-in on GetGlue and share that activity, that message reaches millions of people in their existing networks," he says. "So in actuality, if you're checking in to Mad Men, that check-in becomes an ad for Mad Men. And when these messages flow down the networks, it's coming from people you trust and follow, not from a banner ad, so you're more likely to click on it. And because of that, the networks and big brands are excited about the way that these targeted messages can travel through the social channels. We're essentially an amplifier enabling the message to travel."