Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Candy Crush Effect: How Apps for Boredom Monetized Mobile Addiction


“I’m so bored.”

How many times a week do you utter that phrase? If it’s at least once, you’re in the same boat as roughly 63% of people. And according to the same report that drew that conclusion, how bored you are depends on several factors -- like location and other demographics. But chances are, we all have at least one common outlook on boredom: It can be remedied by the internet.

That often manifests itself via mobile, where 90% of our time is spent on apps. And under the app umbrella, here's how our time is broken down:
Messaging and social: 68%
Entertainment (which includes apps like YouTube): 44%
Gaming: 33%

To add further insight, 70% of that time on mobile social apps is spent consuming media. What do these factors indicate? All in all, we use our mobile devices to stay amused.

App developers are no dummies, either. The most strategic ones know that this boredom can be capitalized to earn revenue. But how does that work? Well, much of it has to do with psychology and -- we hate to say it -- how our brains are wired for addiction. We examined the research done in this area, and tracked down some of the apps that best monetized it.

The Psychology of Boredom

Why We Get Bored

A Chicken-and-Egg Scenario

Despite our use of mobile apps to relieve boredom, that might be what’s causing it in the first place. Researchers at Temple University have found that our increased attachment to mobile devices is making us less patient and more impulsive -- both of which can precede a lower tolerance for lack of stimulation. It’s harder for us to sit still, because the technology is always there for us to check and scroll. And the more we use it, the less time we can spend resisting it.

That’s corroborated by findings of cognitive neuroscientist James Danckert, whose research has led him to think of “boredom as a deficiency in self-regulation,” he explains. “It's a difficulty of engaging with tasks in your environment. The more self-control you have, the less likely you are to be bored.” And what’s another word for a lack of self-control? “Impulsive” -- a trait more of us seem to be experiencing with increased mobile use.

Why We Use Mobile to Alleviate Boredom Anyway

“People will work very hard to relieve boredom,” writes Maggie Koerth-Baker for Scientific American -- which is why, she says, we indulge in impulsive behavior, like binge-eating or other unhealthy activities, in order to alleviate it. But she goes on to explain that the answer to that often lies in novelty, using the example of an educational computer program designed for students with higher boredom levels, which insults the user every time a question is answered incorrectly.

Granted, we don’t spend all of our time on mobile devices being insulted -- despite that common nature of social media -- but it does provide a certain sense of novelty. It’s an instant remedy for inactivity that allows us to consume media, win games, and communicate with others. And our addiction to these devices -- which is rampant enough to have actually earned a name: Nomophobia -- works just like any other. We begin to need more of it in order to be satisfied.

And, in a nutshell, that’s how app developers monetize what they create -- by leveraging our addiction. But which apps did it best? Have a look at our top picks.

3 Apps for Boredom That Became Big Money Makers

1) Tinder 

When Time magazine profiled the founders of Tinder in 2014, author Laura Stampler summarized the dating app flawlessly:

Users are shown photos of nearby potential matches and can swipe right to ‘like’ and left for ‘nope.’ Mutual right swipes result in a match, followed by the prompt to either send a message or ‘keep playing.’ This ‘Keep playing! Keep playing!’ mantra has led to an epidemic of 500 million swipes (and 5 million matches) a day.”

Notice the language Stampler uses here: “Epidemic.” Even if you’re not particularly interested in dating, the swiping becomes addicting -- an inevitability to which I fell victim during my own days of singledom. I found myself swiping while standing on a subway platform, sitting in a waiting room, or even when watching mindless television. It became a way to occupy time, more than it was a way to meet people.

Perhaps that widespread behavior led to the unveiling of Tinder Plus: A paid version of the app with such premium features as being able to go back when you accidentally swiped the wrong way (“Rewind”), or being able to view potential matches outside of a certain local radius (“Passport”). Plus, it gives you the option to go ad-free. But there’s a catch -- Tinder Plus costs twice as much if you’re over 30, which has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.

I can see how these features might be appealing, especially when my own swiping increased. Before I deleted the app -- which is a story for another day -- the more I used the it, the less intrigued I was becoming with my potential matches. I was becoming bored. But I was also addicted to it, under the false belief that the more I swiped, the more likely I was to have that boredom alleviated. It aligns with psychology explained above. If I hadn’t deleted the app, my boredom may have motivated me to pay up for the ability to expand my options.

Today, Tinder has 1.7 paid members, illustrating the willingness of people to pay for more novelty.

2) Pokémon GO

When I recently visited a friend out of town, I noticed that she would furiously go about business on her phone whenever we were walking somewhere. “Are you lost?” I asked her, assuming she was looking at a maps app.

“No,” she replied. “It’s Pokémon GO,” a game that allows people to “catch” game characters by traveling to real-life places, and reap the benefits online, via the app. It is, in its way, a form of VR.

I was surprised -- mostly because I thought that the Pokémon GO craze had passed by Halloween, and this visit took place several months later. Was my company that boring? Or had my friend become addicted to a game that she initially began using out of curiosity and boredom?

I wasn’t the only one asking those kinds of questions, which explains why numerous psychology publications set out to explain how our brains process apps like this one. In fact, Internet Gaming Disorder has officially been classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a type of addiction -- one that “prompts a neurological response that influences feelings of pleasure and reward, and the result, in the extreme, is manifested as addictive behavior.”

That aligns with research showing that people more prone to boredom are also more inclined to fall victim to drug and alcohol abuse. And while it could be argued that addiction to a mobile app might not be as severe, it still follows the same psychological process and path of usership -- more is required to reach satisfaction. That could be why the app experienced such monetary success when it began to provide in-app purchases, which ended up accounting for $2.3 million of revenue each day, and totaling $342 million by the end of 2016.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February Social Media News: Weather on Facebook, SNL on Snapchat & More


10 of the Biggest Social Media News Stories This Month

1) The Washington Post starts curating content for Snapchat Discover.

The Washington Post announced it would become Snapchat's first editorial partner to provide breaking news updates on the platform. The Post will publish multiple times per day as headlines break in its print and online newspaper editions so Snapchatters can easily consume the content in a more visual way. Snapchat is all about innovative visual content, and this step moves Snapchat in the direction of becoming a content destination site instead of just a content sharing site. Here's what it will look like on the Discover tab (when a Snapchat user swipes to the left):

Source: The Washington Post

2) Saturday Night Live produces its first skit exclusively for Snapchat.

NBC's Saturday Night Live produced its first short comedy sketch published exclusively on its Snapchat Story. Snapchat plans to produce a series of shorts from Saturday Night Live and other shows on the network. To watch the next short, add Saturday Night Live on Snapchat (@nbcsnl).

SNL is a viewewship juggernaut -- almost 11 million people watch it each week. If it sees success with posting original content on Snapchat outside of its regular distribution strategies on YouTube and other social media platforms, marketers might consider producing their own "shorts" on Snapchat and seeing how they perform.

Source: Saturday Night Live via Snapchat

3) Snap Inc. files for $3 billion initial public offering (IPO).

Snapchat's parent company, Snap Inc., filed for a $3 billion IPO on February 2nd. After rebranding as a camera company and launching Snapchat Spectacles in September 2016, marketers eagerly waited to hear what they would do next.

Snap Inc. now faces intensified competition from other social media platforms with larger user bases that have adopted features similar to Snapchat's. For example, Instagram launched its own version of Stories last year, and it currently has more users making Stories than all of Snapchat's total user base. Marketers should keep an eye on how Snapchat evolves and which platform is better suited for ephemeral content for their audiences.

Source: Securities and Exchange Commission

4) Snapchat launches first original reality show on A&E Network.

Snap Inc. announced its forthcoming partnership with A&E to produce "Second Chance," an unscripted reality television show about breakups on Snapchat. The show will diversify audiences for both Snapchat and A&E and get existing Snapchat and A&E audiences on the other platforms. Marketers who aren't already advertising on Snapchat may want to start doing so as it grows its audience even further with original content.

Source: Deadline

5) YouTube launches mobile live-streaming for creators with 10,000 subscribers or more.