TuneIn has rolled out a major update to its service adding a social layer to its streaming and on-demand platform.
Among the new features, any station a user has previously bookmarked on TuneIn has been converted into a follow. Stations can send out status updates, in this case called ‘echos’ to listeners.
Huh? Is this social aspect really necessary? I used to be able to mark a station as a favorite, so I can easily come back and listen to it again. Now I’m following radio stations, the same way I follow Alyson Hannigan and Sarah Michelle Gellar on Twitter?
In any case, just calling yourself a social network doesn’t mean that users are going to treat you like one. And while there are some very successful examples of social networks designed for a specific purpose — see Instagram — others have struggled, usually because that activity is already happening on Facebook or Twitter — see all the “second screen” talk-about-TV apps.
If it does work, then perhaps CEO John Donham will achieve his goal of attracting “hundreds of millions” of users. And if that happens, then TuneIn will have a better shot at generating real revenue, which is an issue for the company so far.
Okay, so now we know why they’ve done it, but we also have the issue of bringing eyeballs… or is that ears? Anyhow, we also have the issue of bringing users to the TuneIn service so they can deliver advertising to a captive audience.
Let’s talk usability. Have a look at my home screen of the TuneIn app:
“TuneIn is better with friends?” Um, it was fine without friends.
Anyhow, you can see it has a Twitter-like feel, and shows me programming is on the radio stations I “follow.” That is, only the stations that have programming added into the TuneIn database. Those without programming info (I don’t see 94.3 The Shark) don’t show up in the home page. That’s not good. Makes me think stations I’m interested in are getting lost in the shuffle.
Now here’s my “following” list on my profile page:
I marked these stations as favorites in the past. This is the only way I can see all my “presets” and select one of them. By “ignoring” the social component, I can use TuneIn the same way I’ve done before. I’m already on Twitter, in fact I already follow some of these stations already on Twitter. From an end-user point of view, there’s really no need for TuneIn to turn into a social network. It remains to be seen what kind of return on investment TuneIn will get from this change.