Facebook wants you to post about TV so much that it will now start writing the posts for you.
The social network today announced a new feature that uses a phone's microphone to identify a show or movie airing on one of 160 TV channels. Then, if users wish, it pre-populates a post with the name of the movie or TV show, identifying TV shows' specific season and episode so friends can avoid spoilers. The service can also identify songs and start a post with the title of the song plus a 30-second snippet.
The new feature looks like part of the company's ongoing effort to get a greater share of social-TV conversations and to show advertisers that there are second-screen alternatives to Twitter.
In one recent bid to shed light on the volume of TV-related conversations that play out among Facebook users, the company enlisted a U.K.-based company called SecondSync to analyze relevant chatter, and it planned to make those insights available to clients. Twitter subsequently bought SecondSync, making it the latest installment in a buying spree of social-TV analytics companies, following the acquisition of Bluefin Labs and Trendrr.
Users who want to use Facebook's new audio-matching feature on their phones when it becomes available in the U.S. on Android and iOS devices in the coming weeks will have to activate it themselves, the company said. If left on, it will automatically attempt to find a match of a song, TV show or movie playing in the background as a user writes a status update. It can be turned off by tapping a button on the upper-right corner of a phone's screen.
It remains to be seen how many users will proactively add the feature to let Facebook listen in. The social network's blog post is careful to emphasize that the feature is "optional" and stores no sound from users' lives. Also still to be revealed is how accurate it will be. Twitter doesn't currently have an audio-matching feature.
Facebook built its audio-matching software in-house, according to a spokeswoman.
Meanwhile, the field of competitors for second-screen ad dollars is getting more crowded. Tumblr is beginning to make its case more loudly and released a study last month that claimed it hosted more TV-related chatter than Twitter in one 11-day window.