Following today’s launch of the anticipated YouTube Music application, music video streaming app Vevo, which distributes videos to YouTube and counts Google as an investor, is also introducing a new experience of its own. The company today is rolling out a completely revamped mobile app, initially on iOS, which reimagines the Vevo application as one that’s focused more heavily on personalization and curation.
Personalization is a feature that’s becoming increasingly important to streaming services today, whether music, movies or otherwise, as consumers struggle with the vast array of on-demand content we now have at our fingertips. Music fans are no longer dependent on things like terrestrial radio or linear TV – as in MTV’s golden era where it showcased new music videos – in order to be exposed to emerging artists or listen to music from popular bands. Instead, they can simply launch an app and start poking around.
In Vevo’s case, it needs to quickly build up its knowledge of a user’s interests, as it can’t really lean on prior data – even the company admits its mobile app had not been a priority until now.
To do so, it’s introducing an onboarding experience where users will offer input on their favorite artists in order to train Vevo’s recommendation algorithms. This is very much a Tinder-like experience where you swipe to indicate your likes and dislikes. During beta testing, Vevo users were so heavily engaged in this part of the app that some were spending 10 minutes swiping on various musicians, says Aaron Burcell, Vevo’s VP of Products.
Your likes and interests are then taken into account in other ways in the updated app. For example, a Spotlight feature will display the latest content from favorite artists, and Vevo will now automatically create a playlist for you that contains your favorite artists as indicated by your onboarding selection. Your push notifications are also only specific to the artists you like, so you’re not feeling so spammed.
In addition, while you’re watching videos, a “recommended” section will point you to other videos you may also like, based on factors like the current genre, as well as your location.
The location element represents Vevo’s attempt to better localize its experience for its international user base, the company says. Where before, it would have some localized content, it will now offer a localized experience in 14 markets. That means, for example, if you live in Germany, your push notifications will be in German.
The app is also more engaging than before as it mimics a YouTube feature that lets you swipe on a video to minimize it to a small thumbnail overlaid on the screen. This allows you to continue to use the app while you listen to the music and watch the video. While minimized in this fashion, you can do things like add songs to playlists, save tracks and favorite items.
Under the hood, the app has been improved, too, as Vevo has abandoned its old technology stack in favor of something more modern, more performant, and iOS 9-ready. However, it has yet to take advantage of new iOS/iPhone 6s features like Spotlight search integration or 3D Touch. But the app is noticeably faster than before, even to the visible eye, the company says.
Vevo, a joint venture controlled by Universal and Sony, has had a symbiotic but tense relationship with YouTube over the years, and Vevo’s decision to announce its app’s debut on the same day that YouTube also rolled out its own dedicated music app is yet another example of that.
But the two are quite different beasts. YouTube Music offers more than official videos from established artists, as it includes things like fan mixes and covers. Another big difference between YouTube Music and Vevo is that the latter is fully ad-supported, while YouTube (through YouTube Red subscriptions) now offers a way for users to opt out of ads entirely.
The company today has a catalog of 150,000 HD music video, exclusive programming, live concerts, and sees over 12 billion monthly views worldwide. The majority of those views, of course, come through Vevo’s relationship with YouTube.
The updated app’s rollout is one of the first steps Vevo is taking under its new CEO Erik Huggers, who previously built and launched BBC’s iPlayer and Intel’s OnCue, that later was acquired by [TechCrunch parent] Verizon and launched as Go90.
“[The new app] is media-forward. It’s a beautiful app. It’s very much focused on getting to the content they want right away and personalizing their music experience,” explains Burcell.
“The app is indicative of the direction we’re going in, in terms of putting the user in front,” he adds. “We’re helping them share with us what kind of music tastes they have, so we can can deliver the content they want. Previous iterations of the product we’re nearly as smart.”
The updated Vevo app is rolling out now on the iOS App Store. In the future, similar personalization will arrive in the company’s other products, including an updated Apple TV app.