The long anticipated wait is over. When CEO and co-founder of Dijit Jeremy Toeman (@jtoeman) told me in May that he wanted to launch a new 2nd screen app focused on consumer search, recommendation and discovery, I had some pretty high expectations. The concept of Discovery has been something I have written about in this blog a number of times, and by every account to date, it is something that is hard to deliver on because it is part approach/sophisticated algorithm integration and part UI/UX (user interface / user experience). There are a few decent apps in this space already (BuddyTV, Matcha, Fanhattan), and they all have different strengths and weaknesses, but NextGuide has made a strong entrance into the marketplace in its 1.0 release on iOS for the iPad.
The first thing you notice when you download the app is its relatively quick seeding algorithm (process for determining something about your likes and dislikes). It will quickly ask you what services you have available (linear broadcast provider, Hulu, Netflix, iTunes) and then if you connect it to your Facebook account, will pull “likes” from your Facebook (including those about things other than movies and TV), offer a few popular categories (eg vampires, major genres) and then start to create an easy to navigate browse recommendation stream for you.
The interface is something akin to a neatly arranged collection of movie and TV show cover tiles of varying sizes (presumably sized by your strength of preference or sponsorship) and then are given some indication of their origin (friends recommendation, popular, new release, etc). You have the option to swipe over to any specific category (like your favorite football team or your collection of favorite TV shows or movies) and it will try to generate categories for you from within the detailed information page of a TV show or movie. It also gives you a time-based view (inking in your linear broadcast TV channel line-up) and even offers a pretty robust search capability. And of course, all of the social features you'd expect are available in the app.
Its initial short comings (it is version 1.0 after all) come partly from its integration with your living room devices (if you have DirecTV, it will control the DVR for you and even launch Netflix or Hulu to your iPad, but nothing further yet) and partly from the strength of its metadata (it confused some of my Facebook likes for specific movies or TV shows for similar shows/movies of the same name). It does present you content source options from which to watch a movie/TV show once you hit "watch" but is currently limited to iTunes, Netflix and Hulu (no Vudu, Amazon, etc). The jury is out on the actual strength of the recommendations themselves. So far, it has a decently clever way for you to tell it which episodes you have and haven’t seen in a series (to recommend the next one, but not an easy way to mark a whole season as "watched") and the UI is very good at allowing you to browse in a very personalized manner, but I need a week with it before I can really say if it is recommending content with a strong understanding of my preferences or helping me actually discover new content.
Overall, this is an exciting new development for the consumer, giving them more options to leverage an app that is even in version 1.0 is already delivering decently on all five major 2nd screenfeature sets (Simple, Seamless, Social, Stimulating, Discovery) with a UI/UX that looks very promising.