Wetpaint CEO Ben Elowitz on the Future of Digital Media
Which do consumers want? To tune-in live for their favorite TV shows? Or to get news about them all day long? The answer, my friends, is both.
Not coincidentally, I have big news: My company Wetpaint has just been acquired by Viggle, the entertainment platform that rewards users for watching their favorite TV shows.
Viggle and Wetpaint make an excellent match — we both bring cutting-edge technology to serving the passionate audience of television fans — and in this partnership there is incredible potential for synergy. But that’s not the only reason I’m excited: By combining forces, Viggle and Wetpaint are creating a media company that has what it takes to become the ultimate digital media company. Together, we have the potential to overcome the problems that the media industry has been struggling with since the dawn of the digital age.
Digital Quarters readers know that all of my waking hours (and probably most of my REM cycles, too) have been spent developing a vision for the future of media. And I know lots of other media CEOs who are losing sleep pondering the same. Everyone’s been dying to know: How do you build a sustainable (let alone wildly successful) media company in the digital age?
If my years in this business have taught me anything, it’s that there are three key things a media company must get right in order to succeed today:
That’s why Viggle and Wetpaint make for such a powerful combination. Viggle is a master at incentivizing audience loyalty — their 4 million registered users earn points toward real-life rewards (gift cards, electronics, vacations) every time they log in to their favorite television shows. Meanwhile, Wetpaint’s expertise lies in rapid and sustained audience expansion — with our original content and social publishing technology, we built an audience of 12 million in less than three years.
Above all, Wetpaint and Viggle are committed to delivering brilliant consumer experiences. We are constantly innovating with the aim of better connecting with our audiences, and better connecting them in turn with the media they’re most passionate about. The future of media will be defined by this kind of transformation in the consumer experience — it will be about bridging the online and offline worlds by taking cues from what’s happening in real life and enhancing the moment, rather than distracting from it.
There’s been a lot of buzz recently around the “second screen” concept, which is supposed to do just that. But the second screen experience of Twitter and Facebook is insufficient, to say the least. When I need to log into my Twitter account and type “watching #RealHousewives!” in order to participate, the burden of weaving social media and television together is falling too heavily on the consumer. But Viggle takes it to the next level and actually meets you in your living room — their audio verification technology can automatically recognize the show you’re watching just by listening.
While in the old days your favorite television show was a once-a-week affair, the future is about extending that experience before and after showtime — it’s there whenever you want it to be. Wetpaint’s original content and sophisticated distribution technology make it easy for fans to check in with their favorite shows and stars 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
This “always on” entertainment experience is good for consumers, and it’s good for marketers as well. Together, Viggle and Wetpaint provide an unprecedented level of access to the television viewing audience, allowing marketers to send targeted messages across multiple platforms before, during, and after programming. And combining real-time entertainment with great editorial content is a winning formula in all kinds of new areas that our teams have been dreaming about.
We know that consumers want digital technology to supplement and enhance the entertainment that they love. This will be the key going forward — the second screen that doesn’t pull you out of the moment, but makes the moment (and the moments before and after) even better. That’s what Wetpaint and Viggle are doing together. That’s the future of digital media. And much more than TV is in our sights.