Acquisition Tool — Becoming a Toy: Part 2 (Shazam)

What is Shazam?

Eugene Leychenko
3 min readMay 17, 2016

Shazam was originally a mobile app which uses a few seconds of a sound to identify which song is being played. It created an acoustic fingerprint based on the sample and compares it against a central database for a match. If it found a match, it sent information such as the artist, song title, and album back to the user.

Shazam for iPhone 2.0 debuted on 10 July 2008, with the launch of Apple’s App Store. The free app simplified the service by enabling the user to launch iTunes and buy the song directly if the user was on a Wi-Fi connection. To reiterate, Shazam was one of the first iOS apps, ever.

Shazam use cases can be broken out into four categories: Recognition/Identification, Search — When users want to know more about an artist or song, they can now quickly search for them in the app to listen to top tracks. Shared Discovery — fans can share their discoveries to friends with just one tap. Shop — once a song is identified, the fan can purchase off of iTunes.

When Apple launched iOS8 in 2014, one of the most useful and practical of these new features was the addition of Shazam, which has been seamlessly incorporated into Apple’s intelligent personal assistant Siri function.

Shazam now became the listening feature to the third screen movement.

Third screen

In 2013, a study from KPMG found that 60% of American television viewers are devoted multitaskers, watching TV and accessing the Internet at the same time.

Twitter recognized this and built for it.

Twitter sees you using a TV show-related hashtag, a character’s name, even a key phrase from one of a handful of designated shows. For this experiment it’s American Idol, Big Bang Theory, @Midnight and The Blacklist. A dialogue box pops up on your iPhone Twitter Timeline (at the top) and invites you to try out Twitter TV Timelines. If you accept, you’ll see a very unusual Twitter interface.

Google Patent

Back in 2012, Google was awarded a patent for “advertising based on environmental conditions.” In other words, Google has patented the technique of using environmental factors gathered through a device’s sensors to target ads at users.

The patent reads, “A web browser or search engine located at the user’s site may obtain information on the environment (e.g., temperature, humidity, light, sound, air composition) from sensors. Advertisers may specify that the ads are shown to users whose environmental conditions meet certain criteria…An audio signal that includes a voice instruction from a user of the remote device can be received, and the environmental condition can be determined based on background sounds in the audio signal.”


Can an innocent “toy” such as Shazam be used for 1984-style spying and ad targeting? Only time will tell. However, it is not too far fetched to derive at a conclusion that the “toy” we welcome into our home-screens will soon turn into revenue generating machines.

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Eugene Leychenko

Writing about business strategy and well executed development. Running (web & mobile development from NYC/LA)