Is Jersey Shore the future of interactive TV? Snooki could be the face of the TV of tomorrow and The Situation its abs, but narrow contest rules will keep tagging from replacing tanning in their gym and laundry routine for now.
MTV and IntoNow are running a contest for viewers who "live tag" the show's last six premieres of the season. The good news is that anyone meeting all of the criteria has an excellent chance of winning. The bad news is the criteria is so narrow that few people will qualify. Many people starting now will probably have no idea they already missed their chance to enter via IntoNow.
IntoNow's app uses an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad's microphone to listen to the ambient TV audio in your room, compare it to a backend database and detect what show you are watching. You've then tagged (a.k.a. checked in) that program and can share it with friends or see who else is watching.
Here's one way to look at the narrow funnel determining who can qualify for this contest:
People who have an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad AND
Installed the IntoNow app AND
Became a registered IntoNow user AND
Heard about the Jersey Shore contest announcement February 16th AND
Watched the Jersey Shore season 3 episode 8 premiere on February 17th at 10 p.m. ET AND
Live tagged the episode using the IntoNow app AND
Watched and live tagged every remaining episode premiere each Thursday at 10 p.m. ET through March 24th
That's going to be a very small group of people. I live tagged the March 10th episode and saw 426 others did the same during the one-hour premiere. How many of those 426 IntoNow users do you think also tagged every episode premiere since February 17? Even if you count the tags for every re-airing of the episode in the same week, that won't be a lot. The episode I tried only went up from 426 to 723 live tags in the week since it premiered.
There was only a day or two between IntoNow's press release announcing the contest and the episode 8 premiere. That left little time to build audience awareness. If the rules had not been so restrictive, there might have been more time to leverage Jersey Shore fans to try the IntoNow app and vice versa.
Also, the IntoNow site could be clearer about the contest qualifications. The promotional page has text at the top saying, "Tag the remaining premiere airings of this season’s Jersey Shore and enter a chance (sic) to win a trip for two to the Season 4 premiere party and event! You’re automatically entered to win! It’s that simple!" This makes it sound like you only have to watch and tag the remaining two episodes. However, smaller print in the right rail says "Tag the remaining six premiere airings," which could only have been accurate the first week of the contest. The rules, linked from nearly invisible grey text on a darker grey background in the site footer, are clear that you have to tag every one of the six episodes. So anyone who did not already tag the February 17th episode and every premiere since cannot win via the IntoNow app.
There is some hope for Jersey Shore super fans who are late to IntoNow. The contest is accepting up to six mail-in entries. See section 4b of the rules for details. The work-to-reward ratio seems a little out of whack here. Viewers can either a) make sure to be in front of the TV with iPhone in hand and live tag Jersey Shore every Thursday at 10 p.m. ET for six weeks to get one entry, or b) mail six postcards to get six entries. You normally want to reward effort with more chances to win, not fewer.
There were a few oddities in using IntoNow to tag Jersey Shore. The app's page for Jersey Shore showed a badge for "Exclusive Contest." However, it was not clickable (tappable?) and I couldn’t find any way to get information on the contest in the app. Also, for some reason the page said the episode on TV was "Season 2, Episode 24" when this was really Season 3, Episode 11. The episode title on the app screen was correct, though.
When sponsors use new technology, this places a higher hurdle for users. You can easily end up forcing users through so many hoops that very few will bother to enter. This can happen with mobile technology or contests for user-generated videos, for example. Companies should consider the goal of the contest. It's fine to have a small number of entries as long as the companies involved know that up front. Perhaps the purpose of the contest is just to build awareness of the technology or to run an early test and it doesn't matter how many actually qualified to win. IntoNow certainly has more to gain from this contest than MTV does. But I have to wonder if a lower barrier to entry wouldn’t have made it more fun for users, provided more incremental viewer engagement, and increased the return to both companies for their efforts.
Meanwhile, I'm off to find 3x5" postcards for my six mail-in entries. I could really use a tan and some abs.
Wes Williams guesses much of the slang on Jersey Shore is not safe for work at Scripps Networks, where he is Director of Online Production.
For more, see his personal site, LinkedIn or follow @wesw.
Contact Wes at firstname.lastname@example.org
Standard disclaimer: I am expressing my own opinion. The content published here has not been read by or approved by Scripps Networks Interactive and does not represent the company’s views.