The quickest way for a startup to get users is to pay them to use the service. The quickest and cheapest way to get users is to get someone else to pay them. At least that’s the philosophy Scoople is applying to its Facebook application, in a new partnership with Fans of Apple.
Scoople is a startup that takes the daily news, and then applies gaming mechanics to it with a dash of social interaction on the side. It’s like the proverbial water-cooler, but on the Internet, with millions of people, and with an incredibly smart computer powering the discussion.
The service works in two parts, with the company licensing advanced grouping and summarization algorithms from Columbia University. This allows Scoople to automatically process all of the news that’s happening in the world, in real time. Then, taking this massive volume of information, Scoople uses human curators and editors to pose questions based on the news of the day, pushing users to interact with the news.
While the summarization part of the service is impressive enough, the real future of the company lies with the question-based side of the service. Users have the option of voicing their opinions on curated questions like, “Does Romney have trouble connecting with voters?” and “Will FaceTime over cellular be important for you when picking a carrier?” Users are then ranked on a leaderboard, depending upon how accurate their answers are and whether or not they are also able to predict how the majority of people will vote.
Scoople has existed only in the iOS App Store until now, and it has done well according to the company. However, the platform lacked some of the necessary social elements that a polling and community-driven service must have to really take off. That’s why the company rolled out a Web-based application on the Facebook platform last week, and is announcing a new partnership with the community group Fans of Apple.
As part of Scoople’s new Facebook application, there will be a dedicated portal for people that are sent over from Fans of Apple. The questions will be posed by Fans of Apple, and will all revolve around the technology industry. It will be a micro-community inside of Scoople, which both companies hope will drive growth and interaction. Later on this year, the partnership will be extended to Fans of Apple’s new website, which will have deep Scoople integration, according to Fans of Apple.
The partnership between Scoople and Fans of Apple was struck up when the two companies “found each other” in late 2010, according to the head of Fans of Apple, Bert Chiu. “In life, some things just seem to ‘fall in place,’ and this is clearly one of those favorable situations all businesses would like to have happen to them,” he says.
From Scoople cofounder Alain Mayer’s perspective, having Fans of Apple onboard as the first partner for the Facebook application make sense from a number of angles, chief among them being that Apple fans are some of the “most expressive fans” in the world, which lends itself naturally to a competitive and game-based service like Scoople.
The new partnership will not only give the new Facebook application an immediate injection of users via Fans of Apple’s 900,000 strong “Like-base,” but will also provide Fans of Apple with a place to show which users are most active, reward users, and create a true hub for the group.
This all brings us to the part where Fans of Apple and Scoople buy new users. It may sound coarse, but it is the most effective way to word it. As an added incentive for the Fans of Apple Facebook group, users will be given one of a range of iTunes gift cards if they are at the top of the leaderboard at the end of a week. It’s not a scalable solution by any means for either Fans of Apple or for Scoople, and Scoople is aware of this, according to Mayer. But it will likely provide an immediate injection of growth into the service in these early days.
One interesting anecdote about the move to Facebook, in addition to iOS, involves Scoople skipping over Android for the time being. According to Mayer, this isn’t a slight against Android, as the company plans to be “on every major mobile platform” eventually, but more a realization on the part of the company that the combination of Facebook and iOS is more pressing and useful than Android.
This partnership is largely a one-off for Scoople, as it isn’t the core focus of the service. It will provide a boost of users at the beginning but isn’t sustainable. According to Mayer, the long-term goal of Scoople is not only to become the place people go for news and opinion, but also to become a source on current-day topics for larger data-crunching companies.
Maybe when Scoople does decide to start selling and licensing aggregated data, they’ll actually be able to cover the costs of gift cards for their users.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]