Way more stuff is about to become "Shazamable"

By Benjamin Snyder
May 28, 2015

Shazam, the app known for allowing users to press a button and have their phone detect a song that’s playing, is breaking into a new market. The company announced Thursday a new feature that identifies objects in the real world.

Along with the new update comes a bevy of fresh partnerships. Shazam is working with companies like Disney to offer users new interactive content around physical items. A user can open the Shazam app, click a new camera feature, scan a Shazam icon and open the sometimes-exclusive content related to the visual. There are partnerships with a range of other companies and products, including Target, The Wall Street Journal, Warner Bro., Evian, HarperCollins and Time Inc., parent company of Fortune.

Shazam CEO Rich Riley, a former longtime Yahoo exec, told Fortune the new feature lets users tap into a range of capabilities, including the ability “to share, to buy, for more content, [and] for special offers.” Shazam makes money off ads, and Riley’s goal is for the new feature to turn into a viable revenue stream. Still, Shazam hasn’t been profitable since 2006, according to Wired. That being said, it was recently valued at $1 billion after raising $30 million in January.

“Visual recognition is what’s next for us, [including] the ability for users to engage with printed packaging, print ads, books, CDs, [and] a whole world of things,” Riley added. He said that since Shazam is already on so many phones (the company says the app has been downloaded over 500 million times), it offers added convenience to users who may want to access more information from printed material without a hassle. But some may argue QR codes are outdated and underused, while finding more information from a source is as easy as doing a quick Google search (Google is also a Shazam partner) or tapping into Siri for help (Apple’s a partner as well).

While the feature potentially unlocks new experiences for the user, the biggest hurdle to clear will be getting users to understand how and when to use it. “Part of this is about user education,” admitted Riley. Shazam is undergoing a “call to action” to alert readers, customers and users that items are “Shazamable.” The app also features captions announcing the new photo feature.

“What’s different with Shazam is we’re already on the phones,” Riley said of trying to introduce a new user behavior. “There’s no downloading and no typing.”

Shazam, which was founded in 1999, boasts over 100 million active users per month and has diversified its offerings substantially in the last few years. Last year, Shazam added TV recognition. The company’s partnership with Apple also extended to iOS 8 to make the app seamlessly work with Siri. Additionally, Shazam released an app for the Apple Watch earlier this year.

For more on Shazam and its latest news, check out a segment airing on Fortune Live on Friday, starting at 3pm EST. Host Leigh Gallagher interviewed Riley for the program.

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