Why Wishbone is a fixture in top-20 social apps: 3 million teens weigh in

Nearly two years ago, the team at Science Mobile Labs and I began operating under the premise that mobile phones were the new television screens. In fact research now shows they spend twice as much time on mobile devices than with TV or computers, daily. September’s Premiere Week ratings were down 20% compared to last year amongst 18–24 year olds according to Adage.

The key difference between mobile entertainment consumption and TV is that rather than a de-facto destination for entertainment, smartphones are increasingly becoming the place teens go whenever they’re unoccupied. It’s both a place for media consumption and user generated media creation. So Science Mobile Labs set out to build a new paradigm in entertainment, media and content. Today we are excited to unveil that we created Wishbone, and share some key insights.

And as it turns out, teens are unoccupied a lot throughout the day. The space between homework and dinner, in the carpool, waiting for football practice to start, when homework is done, it all adds up to about 6.3 hours. During that free-time, they’re usually creating: whether it’s doodling, gossiping, or taking selfies with different filters. Their media habits are increasingly reflective of that, they like bite-sized media made by their friends more than expensive entertainment packaged by a bunch of adults sitting around a conference table.

So we set out to give them a platform that frames context for the content they are creating, it wouldn’t just get them to share more, it would become its own social barometer where they can voice their choices about content that’s curated for them.

To test this theory, we created Wishbone, a new home for social content aimed that skyrocketed amongst teen girls. Wishbone lets you vote on yes or no questions using “cards” drawn from trending topics in popular culture chosen by a team of curators. To capitalize on downtime, users are sent a dozen cards to vote on in the morning, and a dozen in the evening.

Most apps are always on, forever on your homescreen with content streaming throughout the day. You spend most of your time playing catch up and chiming in. For traditional entertainment, audiences are forced into appointment based viewing. Sure, DVR and Netflix have helped allow us to consume on our own time, but those shows beg 30–60 minutes of uninterrupted time, and that’s just not time teens want to spend.

Doughnuts or Cupcakes. Taylor or Katy Perry. Skateboards vs. Hoverboards. You get the idea.

Things snowballed when we started letting users make their own cards. People were using it to decide what to wear in the morning and what to watch at night.

Boots or flats. Pretty Little Liars or Empire.

They loved it. Within months we had more than 3.1 million monthly users. And they were creating tons of content, approximately 200,000 cards each day which were garnering more than 40 million votes. Wishbone has become a fixture in the top-20 mobile apps for social.

The experiment was so successful, we decided to launch a version for guys. Slingshot, though it doesn’t have user-generated content yet, has already broken into the top-50.

Overall I believe our theory about aligning social content with teen entertainment is proving true. And as hopeful as I am of these two applications, I believe the theory as it will be applied to our future applications can show even greater growth and scale than these. I am excited about the future of these apps and the others we are currently building. I’m especially proud of the team and eager to see what lies ahead for our next year.