With social media apps, who owns the user?

Meliza Solan Surdi · February 24, 2009 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/704

Watercooler CEO Kevin Chou on helping brands to build a fan base, but keeping control of the user

Half a billion people are on social networks, mainly to socialize. They exchange and share photos, constantly update their status, and they never fail to meet new people. They are there to talk about their favorite shows and their favorite sports teams. So how do you aggregate these fans and feed that passion? Watercooler has the answers.

In this segment, Bambi Francisco interviews Kevin Chou, founder and CEO of Watercooler, a service that creates applications for fans to aggregate fans around their favorite teams as well as their favorite shows.

(Here's the interview, partly edited)

BF: There is a huge ecosystem around social applications, social application marketing companies. So just explain who are the players in this emerging ecosystem and where do you fit it?

KC: The way that Watercooler is playing in the system is that we're a publisher so that means we own and operate the applications that we have on Facebook and on MySpace that add our application platforms. This is a little bit special in that we can run advertisements, ticketing offers, market research business all within this environment and it's powered by our own server. There is a growing way when people talk about Facebook applications or applications in general. The companies that have typically come up are Slide, Rock You, and Playfish. We are all kind of publishers in our space, also like Flixster and iLike. Se we own and operate our own environment and all the users that use our applications are kind of on our servers and in our own environment.

BF: You, unlike RockYou and Slide, are a third-party-application maker. So you work with big sports teams and networks. Is that the difference between your company and RockYou. Are they moving in that direction?

KC: It's different in our businesses. So Slide and RockYou make pure consuming applications. They're very general and when we first started our company, we did not go through the leads or the media companies. We started creating our applications for consumers as well. So when we first started the company in July of 2007, we launched our first application on Facebook.

BF: Was that the werewolves' one?

KC: No, it was called CSI. That was our first application on Facebook. It was for the fans of the hit show CSI and it gave the fans an ability to get together and kind of talk about the show. Their favorite quotes from the show, as well as their favorite moments and so forth and share that with their friends and family. And so after we started building our applications, we started working with all of the major media companies. So at this point we were working with every major media company as well as several of the studios. On the sports side of our business we are working with about 15 different sports teams.That's just the difference between the business model of Slide and RockYou. At the end of the day we own our applications.

BF: When you create an application, do the brands that you work with also own the end user?

KC: No we generally end up owning the end user still and the brands are basically reaching those users as they're passionately engaged in our environment. So it's almost like you're going to ESPN.com reading your favorite news about sports and then Toyota may come in as a sponsor by owning the user. ESPN still own the user.

BF: OK. When you work with a show like ER or Friends, NBC owns that user?

KC: No, we own that user, but we basically share that data through our new product offering with our media partners. We show them what the fans are interested in in terms of shows progressing along. Fans are really rating every episode of that show. We share that kind of data with our media partners.

BF: And so just to touch on the philosophy behind the decision to own or not own the user. I know since I've been in a situation where we have users ourselves and working with partners. So the question is always,"Who owns the user?" Do you ever get any push back from brands that say they want to own their user? How do you turn them around and what is the value in what you are doing that they would give up something that is not as valuable as owning the user?

KC: We think of ourselves as a media company. Part of our business model is a media business model whereas the difference between Buddy Media and what we do is that we are bringing the sponsor in where our fans are really engaged with their favorite sports teams, and their favorite television show. Buddy Media has a great program where users are only able to interact with just that brand. That's been challenging when you look at the top applications on Facebook. Almost all of them are owned and operated by a publisher with ongoing engagement that excite that users and keep them coming back. A lot of the branded applications that launch and get some interest and excitement. Brands generally move on.

BF: So they basically have to create a new campaign. So this went in a totally different direction. We talked about who owns the user and that is a very important topic but we are definitely going to have you back so we can talk about your different applications and what you're doing to engage the fan base for your client.

Thank you Kevin.

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Kabam is an interactive entertainment company leading the next wave in social gaming, developing and publishing massively multiplayer social games (MMSG’s), including the popular and critically praised title Kingdoms of Camelot and Dragons of Atlantis. Our studios focus on combining the best elements of traditional and social gaming to appeal to a growing audience of players looking for deeper, more engaging social games. The first wave of Kabam’s new games for Facebook and leading media sites have been widely recognized for their depth of play and social interaction.

Kabam started out as Watercooler, whose aim was to make connecting with your friends, family, and other fans of your favorite TV shows or Sports teams more compelling than ever before. By bringing fan communities into the context of your social network, Watercooler enables more engaging sports and TV fan experiences. Fans are able to access Watercooler's FanSection and TVLoop communities no matter where they are on the web: Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Friendster, Hi5, MyYahoo, and TVLoop.com.  Over 35 million sports and TV fans have joined Watercooler's fan applications  making it the largest online fan community.

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Kabam was founded by a team of social networking and community software professionals in Mountain View, CA, in 2006. The company has raised a Series A round of financing from Canaan Partners of Menlo Park, CA.



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What is Wetpaint?
Wetpaint powers free fan-powered websites that are available to anyone and easy to use. In fact, that’s one of the many things that sets Wetpaint apart from other sites on the web. Creating a Wetpaint site is as simple as 1-2-3, so anyone can start a free website they can then share with their family, friends, and the friends they haven’t even met...yet

Starting is Easy
Start by choosing what topic you want your site to be about, then pick from a variety of site styles, whether you want your site to be public or private, and who you want to contribute (everyone, or just a few friends?).

Building is a Snap
Once your site is launched, adding content is easy with the EasyEdit Toolbar. You’ll see that editing a Wetpaint page works very much like a word processor: You can “click” on any open page and start typing. Even better, you can also add photos, YouTube videos, polls . . . it’s all as simple as “click and type.”

Join in the Fun
Not ready to start your own Wetpaint site? No worries...visit Wetpaint.com and search for a Wetpaint community that’s right for you. (We’re pretty sure there’s something for out there for you; people just like you have started more than 1.5 million Wetpaint sites.) Join the site and add your two cents to the conversation.

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