First there was the book, then the Facebook widget, and now the Viral Loop iPhone app, which went officially live today. It just goes to show that marketing a book ain't what it used to be.
While the Facebook application tells you what you're worth in dollars to Facebook based on your level of engagement, your friends' activity level and your "influence"—defined, in part, by how well you spread the app—the Viral Loop iPhone app is a predictions market—the first to earn its own iPhone app. Simply put, users who download the Viral Loop Predictions Market from Apple's app store or iTunes get $10,000 in play money to bet on the future. (If a user runs out of money, there are ways to raise more capital, like, well, buying the book.)
Along with StudioE9, which created both applications, I partnered with InTrade to handle the back end. Initially I'd planned to handle things—creating the predictions, monitoring forums, etc.—but it soon became obvious that would be a gargantuan undertaking. InTrade is perhaps the most successful predictions market on the Web, and comes with a large and enthusiastic audience, which places thousands upon thousands of bets every year.
On InTrade, there are several categories of predictions—including technology, politics, financial, entertainment, arts, and user-generated predictions, which everyone can bet on. There are also discussion threads, where users can bicker with one another, gripe about rules or offer their two cents.
Some recent InTrade predictions include:
- The Google Lunar X Prize to be won on/before 31 Dec 2012. Thus far, out of 332 InTrade.net users, 35% are betting this will happen.
- Microsoft Windows 7 to be released on/before 31 Dec 2009: 99% of the 73 prediction votes cast believe this to be true.
- Barack Obama to be Democratic Presidential Nominee in 2012: 81.3% of the 4,496 predictions cast predict yes.
- Lindsay Lohan to bare all for Playboy: 87% say this is likely, with more than 11,000 users betting.
There are also short deadline predictions, like "The Dow to close 25 points higher than previous close." No matter what your interest, there are probably predictions you can bet on at InTrade.net.
The Viral Loop Predictions Market for the iPhone works with the free virtual money side of InTrade, which also hosts a predictions market where people gamble real money. That's legal overseas (the company is based in Ireland) but being that we live in America, we facilitate only the InTrade.net side of the predictions market. It's a game, nothing more. Anyone wanting to bet real money can't use the Viral Loop app for that.
What does a predictions market have to do with the book and widget? The truth is that most people hate being marketed to. So you have to offer value if you're going to ask someone to buy something of yours. InTrade is a thriving predictions marketplace, and if you want to engage with it over your iPhone you have to go through us. That runs $1.99, since we have to cover development costs, which were pretty steep. After a user logs in there is an unobtrusive ad for the book, a description, and a link to Amazon to buy.
Does an ad like this work? It's too early to tell. But I do know that 13% of the people who downloaded the widget and clicked on the "buy the book" ad ended up purchasing Viral Loop on Amazon. It's a decidedly soft-sell approach. Below is the official press release.
What do you think? Let me know at ViralLoopBook@gmail.com
NEW YORK, NY, and DUBLIN, IRELAND, Oct. 19, 2009/ Viral Loop LLC, founded by Studioe9 and VIRAL LOOP author Adam L. Penenberg, today introduced an iPhone application powered by InTrade, The Leading Prediction Market. The application, the first prediction market available on the iPhone, makes it possible for InTrade users to log in to their account and make predictions (trade contracts) as to whether future events will occur or not.
This new app created by Viral Loop and powered by InTrade also works in conjunction with the Viral Loop Facebook application that tells users how much they and their friends are worth—in dollars—to Facebook, based on their level of engagement, their friends' level of activity, and their social "influence."
"We are thrilled to partner with InTrade to bring this exciting new iPhone application to market and complement the Viral Loop Facebook application," said Elizabeth Brown, co-founder of Studioe9, a leading Web design and social marketing firm. "All of this springs from Adam L. Penenberg's new book, Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today's Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves (Hyperion, Oct. 2009)."
The Viral Loop Facebook application, which functions as a proof of concept for Penenberg's book, has been downloaded more than 8,000 times since its release four weeks ago, its user base growing by the hundreds every day.
"Offering an iPhone App extends the reach of Intrade and prediction markets generally to a larger audience. This will increase the engagement, excitement and the information quality for the benefit of all. Therefore we are delighted with this overdue development and to be working with Viral Loop," said John Delaney, CEO of InTrade.
About Studioe9: Studioe9 is a digital studio that focuses on connecting clients to emerging communities and new technologies to enable them. Studioe9 creates Web sites, online video, mobile applications, social media, casual games and more. Clients have included Little Pim, Air America Radio, Office Depot, Sony-Ericsson, Cingular, Cornell University, and many others.
About Adam L. Penenberg: Adam L. Penenberg is a contributing writer to Fast Company magazine and a professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Forbes, The Economist, Mother Jones, Slate, Wired, and in many other publications. He was portrayed by actor Steve Zahn in the movie "Shattered Glass," which told the story of Penenberg's outing of serial fabulist Stephen Glass of The New Republic. Viral Loop is his third book.
About InTrade: InTrade allows members to transact in the most innovative, transparent and exciting way on political, financial, current and similar event futures, with Intrade members trading directly with one other. InTrade has provided data to CNBC, CNN, FOX, WSJ, FT, New York Times, 7 Federal Reserve Districts, more than 50 major universities and graduate schools in the US, the ECB, Cato, Bank of Japan, Bank of England, presidential candidates and major and boutique Wall Street firms. InTrade's prediction market is a manifestation of the wisdom of the crowds, and its crowd-sourced predictions have been shown time and again to be accurate. "InTrade makes more accurate predictions than I have ever come across," remarked John Stossel, former correspondent for ABC's 20/20.
For Viral Loop, contact Elizabeth Brown of Studioe9 (firstname.lastname@example.org)