Big media companies like CNN and Fox have embraced Microsoft’s Bing Pulse technology for letting viewers vote on controversial subjects being debated on television, but Microsoft’s ambitions go beyond the major broadcasters.
Today Microsoft is making available a simpler, cloud-based self-service version of Bing Pulse, with the hope that all kinds of groups will want to use the software. The service could come in handy for event organizers wishing to make the viewing experience more interactive. It could also help organizers make decisions about content on the fly and thereby achieve more targeted results.
Just look at how CNN used Bing Pulse while airing President Obama’s speech on ISIS in September. As soon as the address ended, CNN reported that Obama had gotten positive feedback from audiences when he called ISIS a terrorist organization.
“They were really kind of ahead of the news curve,” Greg Shaw, senior director of corporate strategy at Microsoft, told VentureBeat in an interview. “They were the first to sort of frame the discussion, because they had already crowdsourced what America was saying.”
If this expansion of Bing Pulse proves successful, Microsoft could find itself with a nice new way to generate revenue while drawing on the thousands upon thousands of servers backing up its growing Azure public cloud — and not only from the big companies Microsoft has focused on in previous decades.
Plus, Microsoft could make itself a known entity in a market where historically it has been providers of hardware — namely, clickers for the people in the audience — that have done well. That diversification counts for something as Microsoft deals with competition in so many other markets.
Microsoft first started thinking about devising new audience-engagement software in late 2012, with the idea that it could be useful for the U.S. president’s State of the Union address.
“Why is it that we have to sort of, you know, wait for people like you — journalists — to tell us what was said and what people thought?” Shaw said. “Why not sort of crowdsource the opinion and create a means for people to express whether people agree or disagree and answer questions?”
And indeed, Microsoft announced Bing Pulse in February 2013, right on time for the big presidential speech.
Bing Pulse 2.0 will cost much less than the software first rolled out last year. It will follow a freemium business model starting sometime next year. For now, the beta version is free to use.
The new software gives several options to admins. Once they’ve created accounts, they can type in questions to ask audiences and create custom answers. In addition to displaying questions that viewers can answer, admins can disseminate “pulses” that run through the duration of an event. Audience members can respond online — on desktop computers or on mobile devices — by saying they strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, strongly disagree, or are neutral.
From there, admins can monitor responses over time and even filter based on political party, gender, and other characteristics.
It’s designed to be easy to implement. Over time, though, Microsoft will add new features, like managing the analysis of audience responses and incorporating social feeds into the service, Shaw said.