March 18th was the demo day for the startups from YCombinator, a prominent Silicon Valley incbuator. Here, the startups display their product to try and impress investors to gain further stages of funding. One of the most talked-about companies at the demo day was Chatfuel. Basically, its a platform that allows business to set up bots that can hold message-based conversations with users to deliver information. The idea for this type of user experience is not new-Quartz uses it in its new News app. However, Chatfuel is one of the first to aid companies, particularly publishers, to switch to this model as smoothly as possible. All it requires for you to set up a bot is for you to message their bot on Telegram. Why telegram? Well, that’s currently the only messaging platform they support.
But is messaging really the answer to improved user experience? Does it really engage users more? That depends on the user. For example, users that know what topics they want to read about in the news would prefer this new type of user experience because it delivers the exact news that user wants instantly. However, if a user does not know what they want to read about, and wants to explore new topics and different areas, the bot user experience makes it difficult to do this. This is very similar to the argument of Netflix and other streaming services versus traditional cable and satellite operators in entertainment, because users who know what they want to watch would prefer to use streaming services, but users who want to just have a random show or movie appear in front of them prefer to use traditional services. This view is echoed in numbers: the Consumer Electronics Association(CEA) and the National Association for Television Program Executives(NATPE) announced at the Consumer Electronics Show(CES) 2015 that 51% of millennials in a study they ran prefered streaming services over traditional services, which means the amount of people that preferred streaming services over traditional services was the same as the amount of people who preferred traditional service. Therefore, as with cable TV channels today, publishing companies, and other businesses that profit off of number of users engaged, should use both bots and a traditional application approach to give their users the quick, fine-tuned response when they want information quickly, as well as the slower and less refined response when they want to explore information on their freely.