Look Beyond Mobile To Put “New York” To Work

Earlier this week I happened to catch a commercial for VH1’s new reality show called New York Goes To Work where one of the former contestants on season one of Flavor of Love is out to try and do some form of work and if she does a good job, she’ll win $10,000, but not, she gets nothing. The twist is that “America gets to vote each week”. In order for “America” to vote on what her next job will be, VH1 has arranged for us to take out our cell phones and text in our vote, similar to how it’s done on most major reality game shows like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, and America’s Best Dance Crew. 

I’m perfectly fine with campaigns and, in this instance, TV shows to utilize a mobile component because, let’s face it, everyone has a cell phone. But the quagmire here is what about those who want to participate that either (a) have cell phones but no data plan, (b) have cell phones but limited data plans/need to pay per text messages, or (c) do not have cell phones? In order to encourage participation in your show and garner more viewers, is the end game to have people vote by phone? I would disagree that this is the only method of engagement.

In my view, I’d imagine that VH1’s goal to increase viewership and make the show more interactive than it already isn’t. It’s not the first time a television show has gone this route. But for New York, shouldn’t the aim be to drive more people to participate and watch the show? Then why leave it to the mobile route? I don’t think too highly of the New York character (I’ll admit it), but the fact that I get to vote to put her to work appeases me and motivates me to find out what I can do to make the show more enjoyable. So I’d be inclined to participate, but only up to the point where I find out that I need to pay per vote/text  just to cast my weekly selection. 

I stopped by the VH1’s website where they promoted New York and saw that there wasn’t that much more information to make the show more interactive. They do post videos of past episodes and summaries and a biography about New York, but where does it say what the job selections are each week? For this, I give the music channel a big “FAIL” for not utilizing the website enough. Am I to believe that in order for me to find out what degrading of a job I can vote for, I need to be watching VH1 24 hours a day 7 days a week? That’s absurd and a big turn off.

There is a rules selection on how you can vote. It is accessible as a downloadable PDF, but that’s not too big of a deal. Upon reading the section about “Important Disclosure”, there’s a paragraph that made it a little bit more complex than simply voting:

Standard wireless carrier text messaging rates apply to each text message sent and received. In addition, a premium text messaging charge of $1.00 will apply to each text message Vote (as defined below) submitted (the “Premium Charge�). This charge will be billed by your wireless carrier and will show up on your wireless phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. Each time you vote you will receive a New York Challenge-SMS game download for your cell phone, with an approximate retail value of $1.49. You will receive a “thank you� text message following your text vote. You receive an additional text message containing the SMS game following the airing of the corresponding episode. Contact your wireless carrier for text messaging pricing plan and details. By submitting your Vote via text message you understand and agree that you may receive additional text messages from Sponsors relating to this promotion that may also result in texting fees. Your cell phone must have the capability to send/receive text messages and download SMS game downloads.

So not only are you  charged $1.00 each time you vote, but you’re also receiving a downloadable SMS game that you must be able to play on your cell phone – perhaps excluding some cell phone users because of their technology capability.

I would guess that in order to avoid and minimize your costs to both you and your customers, maybe VH1 should have looked at the landing page option for voting. There they could have had the weekly job choices and offered the viewers/customers the option to vote in addition to the mobile application. With a majority of those using either a Blackberry, iPhone, iTouch, or even Google Android, most people will be able to look at the web through their mobile browser and vote. It does seem that you can vote more than once so I doubt that VH1 is looking at unique votes. But before you pounce on me for saying that smartphone users will already have a data plan and will go ahead and vote by text, then at least consider that if you do it by mobile web, then people will be more inclined because they will not have to pay to voice their opinion. That and you can exploit their smartphone capability by creating a mobile application that can be distributed through ecommerce stores like the Apples iTunes Store or other vendors.

Let’s hope that the goal is not to rack up money for people to participate. That would be a bad move on the part of engagement. There are many other forms of engagement that will be more appealing and possibly less costly but definitely more interactive. You just have to take advantage of them.

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."