When the Ball Drops, Do Event Driven Apps Make Sense?

Heading feverishly fast into the new year, this is the last entry until January 3rd.  If you’re like me, you may not have all your plans locked for the New Year’s Eve celebration – but a new App may help you be a part of the largest celebration no matter where you are.  The organizers of the Times Square NYE festivities have released the Times Square Ball App that has multiple features to enhance your celebration wherever you are in the world.  Users will be able to watch a live video feed of the 6 hour coverage provided by livestream or watch the fixed ball camera feed.  Other features include being able to share your NYE photos and find more information about the Times Square celebration and its history. The App seems to be quite rich for such an event, but it poses the question of whether it makes sense to create an App for a single event like this.

It seems that the creators of the App forged a strong partnership with Toshiba to enable some of the shared images through the App to appear on Toshiba’s screen directly below the ball.  Toshiba receives some strong promotional placement in both the App experience and its social sharing features.  But then what?Is the chance of having an image appear on the screen enough of an incentive to download the App?  That seems to be the main gist of their promotional video.  Will people care enough to have the App so that they can stream the video and be a virtual part of the Times Square celebration?  This is the piece that is the most interest to me personally, but I don’t know that it will be what drives me to download the App. They tease that there will be Times Square benefits throughout the year, but it is unclear what they are.

Toshiba has the opportunity to carry the product through the year if they leverage the user-generated assets that are uploaded.  If they find a way to really bridge from one year to the next – or at least into the 1st quarter of 2012 in a meaningful way, then it can end up being about more than just one night.  It is also not clear whether they plan to do so or not.

It all comes back to the concern about building Apps for singular events.  There was an influx of development for movie promotional Apps when the mobile Apps were the new, bright and shiny object.  Most of them were simple with limited use beyond the release.  A few were made with the title in mind, but provided enjoyment beyond and without the film it was promoting.  Other annual events have introduced Apps to help engage audiences or offer value adds.  Their true value to the advertiser or financer is whether it meets their needs or goals.  

I would question their value if it is all about driving awareness for an event or product release.  If the App is developed in the interest of increasing engagement and providing a longer interaction tail and perhaps stronger loyalty, it would be more worth it from the development perspective.  Then its all about development and building something that resonates with users and drives the downloads you can leverage into future growth – whatever your chosen parameter is.

In relation to the Times Square App, I don’t know that its more than a gimmick.  The live component seems valuable only for those on the East Coast and, even then, only if you are celebrating somewhere far from a TV and want to gather around your mobile.  With so many other ways to share your photos on social media platforms without the help of this App, I wonder how many people will care – especially if the chance of having your picture show on the big screen is limited at best.  (I would rather take my chance of having involvement with a big screen in Times Square be related to the Hyundai game that is currently running underneath the Toshiba screen.)

Perhaps they will figure out a way to grow the App depending on number of downloads and increase the value and benefit well beyond New Years Eve. Again, it all comes down to what their goals were for the App…

Here’s hoping you have (or had) a wonderful holiday season and phenomenal New Year’s Eve – and an even better 2012!  See you next year!


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