Has content discovery reached its logical end?

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on May 23, 2013

From The News Desk

Shazam released a new version of its iPad app today, with a smattering of new features and options. One highlight is its geographic tagging that allows you to choose a place on a map and see the most-tagged songs in that region. Another is an improvement on Shazam’s attempt to tag TV content. All of these buttress the app’s role as an industry leader, but they also might herald an end – or a waning, if you will – in the era of content discover apps. I mean, how much more can we possibly discover?

When the Shazam app first burst onto the scene in 2010, it was the coolest party trick ever. “Hey, what’s that song?” you ask? Well, here’s an app that will tell you. Music discovery in such a simple manner was new, and Shazam capitalized on an untapped market.

With each new version of the app, the company added greater functionality to make it fresher and more appealing. As a result, the app hasn’t lost any popularity.

“During the last year, we have seen triple-digit growth in the number of downloads of the iPad version of our app,” Shazam CEO Rich Riley says, and the company touts more than 300 million users in more than 200 countries.

As with any discovery app, the real moneymaker is in the backend through advertisers. I’m sure Shazam is doing quite well in this regard, which is why, according to CrunchBase, the company received $32 million in its latest venture funding round in 2012.

The latest version of Shazam’s app continues the trend of cramming more stuff inside. This morning, after downloading the new and improved Shazam, I pressed the “Explore” button and saw what everyone in Brooklyn is tagging. It turns out Macklemore, Miguel, and Wale are all the rage for my neighbors. Not so much for me (who’s Wale, by the way?), and I highly doubt the 30+-year-old music, like Emmylou Harris and Townes Van Zandt, I listen to is going to make it on to Shazam’s top tagged list (although, if it were to happen anywhere, it would in Brooklyn).

It’s a brand new discovery! Do I care? Um, not really.

With the new iPad app I can also tag TV shows. The use value isn’t the same for music – chances are, you probably know what show you’re watching. But this latest version brings you a slew of secondary content related to any show you tag, including cast information, songs played, etc. This feature isn’t new to this version, but Shazam has upped significantly the shows and TV stations the app can tag, including more live programs.

As much as TV tagging is discovery, it’s discovery of a new quality. It’s the addition of a second screen, learning more than just “what is this?” It’s like having a companion reader to "Gravity’s Rainbow," if by "Gravity’s Rainbow" you mean "Modern Family."

The new features are fun, the layout is approachable, but I’m not convinced I need an all-in-one discover app. TMI, man: too much information. I just want to watch the show.

No doubt, music discovery and identification will always be something people want, but in terms of “what’s next?” I’m kind of hoping there is no real “what’s next?”

Once you’ve got a mechanism for simple discovery, everything beyond that doesn’t seem very important – like the endnotes of books or the screen crawl at the end of a movie. Do you really care who the Best Boy and gaffers were?

I may be old-fashioned, but I don’t need an app to link me to IMDB and shove more information into my face, as well as name that tune. Name that tune by its lonesome is fine by me.

[Image courtesy kevindean]