Picture 50 GetGlue and Fanvibe Talk about the Non Geo Check InWe’ve written quite a bit on this blog and others about how check-ins aren’t just for places.

On the user experience side, it’s faster and easier to check in on your phone than it is to type a status update.  On the business side, structured check-in data tied to an object (place, product, merchant) is far more useful and valuable than free form status updates scattered in an unstructured firehose.

Conceptually, it seems to be a no brainer that check-ins are destined to expand beyond the realm of location sharing.

And indeed, it’s already happening.

Today we’ll hear from two of the thought leaders in bringing the check-in gesture beyond location; Alex Iskold of media check-in network GetGlue (site, iPhone, iPad, Android) and Vish Prabhakara from sports check-in network Fanvibe (site, iPhone).

I asked Alex and Vish a series of questions about the rise of the non geo check-in, its strategic importance to brands and marketers, and how this space might evolve.

Here we go.

Q: Can you talk about the importance of the check-in gesture as it relates to your company?

Alex (GetGlue): Check-in on GetGlue is a light-weight way to share the entertainment with friends.  Watching a show or listening to music or reading a book is something that people enjoy all the time and GetGlue makes it easy to tell everyone.

Vish (Fanvibe): Check-in is a great feature for fans to announce “I’m here and I’m watching!”.  Its taking on such a broader meaning than just physically being at a location – its a signal about what you are doing.  Fans love simple ways to cheer and express their fandom. Checking-in on Fanvibe is the simplest way to do that.  Once you do that, there’s lots of stuff you can do – pick the winner, answer prediction questions, shout (and cross-post to Twitter/Fbook/4sq, etc).

Q: Why do you think the check-in has expanded beyond location?

Alex (GetGlue): There are a few reasons. First of all it is a simple and familiar gesture.
It signifies attention, it says I am here. Compare to LIKES check-ins can
be repetitive and this makes them more powerful. Secondly, it is a cool
concept, it is fun and it resonates with people, which is why it is spreading quickly.

Vish (Fanvibe): People have been saying they are doing things for ever – via text, via facebook status, via a tweet.  A check-in just does that for you in a button, and sends it to the right people for the right context. You can’t tweet every game you watch, but you can check-in on Fanvibe.

Q: What is the value of aggregated check in data to media companies like HBO and ESPN?

Alex (GetGlue): Aggregated check-ins are interested because big brands like HBO are looking to learn more about their audience. There is a big disconnect now, and services like GetGlue help bridge the gap. What is more interesting, is that there is a big power hidden inside the aggregate check-ins.  When thousands of people on GetGlue check-in to Boardwalk Empire, millions of friends and followers are reached on Facebook and Twitter. This is very exciting to the brands, because it drives tune in and brand awareness.

Vish (Fanvibe):  ESPN is great at collecting large checks from large companies – to the tune of about $6bn a year.  However, they make virtually zero compared to that direct from the consumer.  Check-ins let you drive transactions for fans favorite teams, opening up the multiple billions of dollars fans spend every year out of their pocket in a scalable fashion.  In addition, you can do cool, innovative sponsorships utilizing the game mechanics Fanvibe provides.  We’ve already done the Kia NBA Tip-off badge, and there are more coming!

Q.  Can you share any check-in volume and trends?

Alex (GetGlue): GetGlue receives over 10 million ratings and checkins per month.

Vish (Fanvibe): A month ago, we looked at our data and realized we doubled check-ins in the two prior months.  Today, we’ve doubled it again in just one month.  Our growth is accelerating significantly

Q.  How do you see check-ins evolving 1,2,3 years into the future?

Alex (GetGlue): Hard to say, but I can tell you a few things I believe. I think that check-ins
are coupons in the end of the day, you need to provide tangible discounts for
people who are checking in. Also, check-ins maybe around for a long time
because they are a very simple gesture, people get how to do that.

And finally, I don’t think that check-ins alone create sustainable user engagement.
You need more for people to stay engaged, including taste profile, recommendations,
rewards, discounts – more utility to make the service sticky and mainstream.

Vish (Fanvibe): Its all about what comes after the check-in, with the right context.  We provide scores, stats, and more.  Without that, the check-in would be pointless.  That’s why Hot Potato didn’t grow like crazy – it was just a better Twitter. That’s hard for a user.  But the companies that provide lots of value behind the check-in are the ones that will win.

Q.  Will we ever see the implicit / automatic check in overtake the explicit check in?

Alex (GetGlue): Possibly, but I don’t think likely. I am hearing some brands discussing this, but from my personal experience people prefer control and don’t like things that
are implicit.

Vish (Fanvibe): I think if the user opts-in, sure.  I could say “Yes cablebox, check me in to every game I watch”.  Or “Yes, iPhone, check me in to every starbucks i walk into, but NOT every company i’m interviewing at”.  Or I could authorize certain people to see my auto-checkins, and I would have to explicitly share others.  Its a complicated privacy puzzle that will take years to sort out, i believe.

Summary

The check in gesture is still in its infancy.  Foursquare took a behavior (location sharing) that was already happening all over the web in a clunky and unstructured way, and made it fun, simple, and game-like.  It worked.

Upstarts like GetGlue and Fanvibe are doing the same for other pre-existing behaviors – the consumption of media and sports.

With the rise of the mobile device as a computing platform, I believe that the check-in gesture is extremely well positioned to encroach on the status update as a preferred form of one to many updates and self expression.

Bring on the vertical players.

Thanks to Alex and Vish for their time, and if you’re reading this, please check out their apps: GetGlue (site, iPhone, iPad, Android), Fanvibe (site, iPhone).

Update: For more on the non geo check-in, see this GigaOm piece on Meebo.