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I Scrobble, Therefore I Am

I gave a talk this morning to some publishing and film executives and in it found myself talking about Scrobbling (the practice of accumulating consumption data to build a profile of a user's tastes, which can then be displayed on profiles, shared through widgets, or more interestingly used by the content distributor to power content recommendation). Which is kind of funny because Scrobbling is not exactly a new concept (Last.FM has been doing it for years). Yet in spite of the fact that intelligent content recommendation would seem to be a highly attractive opportunity for content producers and distributors, the practice  seems to have rarely been applied outside of music.

Some of the examples I ended up talking about however, seem to be doing just that. Social TV Apps like Peel, for example, that capitalises on the trend toward multi-screening (a US Yahoo/Nielsen study published earlier this year found that 86% of mobile phone owners use the internet on their handset whilst watching TV, and there was an eye-opening Digital Clarity study of 1,300 British mobile internet users below the age of 25 that found that 72% used Twitter, Facebook or other mobile applications to actively comment on shows as they are watching them) by turning your phone into a remote and providing a guide that learns the shows you like and recommends content based on that data. Or sites like that aggregates content from a number of paid and free video on demand services, enables you to rate content and connect with likeminded people,  but also scrobbles what you watch and rate in order to learn your taste and make recommendations.

Which leads us to Zite (shown below) – the 'personalised iPad magazine that gets smarter as you use it'. The interesting thing about Zite is that as well as learning from what you click on, how long those articles are and how long you spend reading them, it also scrobbles the stories you don't click on so that it can learn what you don't like.

Which leads me to my point. Akin to the one I have bored people with often when I talk about Flipboard. The brilliance of Flipboard is not only in its seamless execution  and experience, but in the fact that they combine both professional and social content curation and in doing so make for a far more rounded, appealing, and useful service. As it is with content curation, so it goes with scrobbling content. We seem to be back to the thorny issue of control. Content driven apps that put the user experience at their heart work. Even if that does mean providing services that open up the app to content other than your own.

Scrobbling apps

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