Times Internet has relaunched its social network, itimes.com, turning it into an interest focused network which allows users to create interests or follow interests of their preference, centered around different topics and content. The company mentioned that the network is focused on building communities around topics of discussion, and on curating content in addition to allow users to discover them.
The site features over 5,000 interests, at the time of its launch.It also features a live leader board that crowns users as Interest Masters and Superkings, incentivising active contributions in the form of discussions, photos, videos, blogs and polls.
How It Works
Users can register via social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google and Yahoo accounts, and share content with friends on these networks. It also populates interests from networks to offer suggestions. Users can follow interests and post content on interests owned by other users, and even displace them to own that particular topic, or create new interests and update content related to it.
The site also offers auto suggestions and tools to make their interest more relevant such as offering the option to fetch descriptions from the web, add photos from Flickr, related links, when they create an interest. Posts can be in the form of Discussions, Photos, Videos, Blogs, Street Journo posts for reporting local stories, Events and Polls. Users get floating badges for posting content and participating.
The homepage features Hot interests, a feed of what users are updating on the site, trending interests, listing of the leaderboard, and Interest and Post categories, in addition to an omnipresent bar that allows users to search content and post content and create new interests.
Features, Concerns & Monetization
Speaking with MediaNama, Archana Vohra, Vice President, Times Internet, informed that the loyalty engine in the site was built with an intent to highlight people and their interests. She added that the engine is based on an algorithm that rewards users not just on the basis of the number of posts but also on factors like relevance, virality(reposts and shares) and quality of content. Users get floating badges, and own a particular topic of interest till they’re displaced by someone else, she added. If a user posts something which is not relevant, he/she loses points.
On being asked if the network would be linked with MyTimes, she responded that MyTimes was the Times Group’s profile environment displaying a user’s content consumption pattern, while Times Rewards was focused on promoting engagement by offering reward points. However, the floating badges system of iTimes is not linked with Times Rewards.
She also informed that while the algorithm decides loyalty points, the site also has a small content team, which curates posts and decides which content is worthy of appearing on the homepage.
On concerns related to user generated content and copyright violations: Vohra stated that the site has included checks and balances to ensure that content of a certain type is not posted. The team doesn’t proactively moderate content but users can report and flag offensive content.
On Twitter & other social networks: The primary difference, according to Vohra was that iTimes focused on discovery as well as on user contribution focused on interests, and social was just the ability to make content viral, while other networks were focused more on discovery and social.
On monetization: Vohra said that it was still at an early stage but the site intends to use advertising for monetization. She also said that it was open to brand tie-ups for content. At the moment, brands can also create their own accounts and post content.
Mobile apps: She also informed that iTimes plans to launch mobile apps for the service in the next sixty days.
Our Take: The site looks interesting and is certainly a better way of creating discussion forums around different topics, at least visually. But we’re not sure if it will attract a large number of new users. Users who’re active on other social network and the ones who majorly consume content, might not see much incentive in using the site. Also, the site would face a challenge dealing with user generated content, and in checking the credibility of content, specially when it’s allowing users to be citizen journalists. Perhaps, iTimes could also look at offering offline/online rewards for interest leaders.