Future of TV Social Media GIF

Viewers: TV networks are coming for your keyboards bearing GIFs


By Adam Flomenbaum, Co-Executive Editor

August 6, 2015 | 5 min read

TV networks understand that viewers – when they are tuning in live – are not only sitting there on Facebook and Twitter discussing the show they’re watching. Distracted viewing is a very real phenomenon but it encompasses making one’s bed, doing one’s dishes, and, of course, texting and emailing. Social is only a small part of the equation.

And so, networks are now, in addition to trying to capture viewers’ attention, trying to capture their mobile keyboards. Yesterday, we interviewed FX’s SVP of Digital, Jason Phipps, about the network’s new emoji keyboard featuring all of its shows. Said Phipps: “With emojis a person can quickly convey their feelings or position on a topic, and with multiple emojis a person can tell an entire story in a completely new language and medium.”

But if emojis (taking them, in this analogy, as single images) are worth a thousand words, aren’t GIFs worth even more than that? This was the premise of a New York Times piece on Monday by Mike Isaac titled, ‘For Mobile Messaging, GIFs Prove to Be Worth at Least a Thousand Words.’

The article highlights the rise of Riffsy, the year-and-a-half old startup that is leading the charge of making GIFs mobile-friendly by way of keyboards.

For more on how GIFs will continue to feature prominently in the social TV conversation, we spoke with Riffsy co-founder and CEO David McIntosh:

Found Remote: How is Riffsy currently working with TV networks?

David McIntosh: TV networks share content from their shows with us, and we help Riffsy users find and discover those GIFs at the perfect moment to capture their feelings or emotion. We make it easy for our users to share content from our partners when texting and messaging with friends, family and coworkers.

FR: Why are GIFs helping add to the social TV conversation outside of how Twitter, Facebook, and even text messaging are already being used?

McIntosh: GIFs are the new trailer. On mobile, 3 to 5 seconds is the new 3 to 5 minutes. GIFs are a visual format -- not only do people get a tease of the show, but they use moments of the show to express emotions and interests in their conversations.

FR: What TV series from the past few years results in the most popular GIFs being created and shared from it?

McIntosh: Friends has been incredibly popular in the keyboard. The GIFs were popular from the start, but with its release on Netflix at the beginning of the year, we've seen even more engagement.

FR: For a few years, the use of GIFs seemed to have died down. What do you think explains its resurgence?

McIntosh: On desktop, GIFs have long been a novelty on forums and websites like Reddit and Tumblr. Now, Riffsy is spurring a surge in GIF usage by making it fast and easy to share GIFs everywhere on mobile. The length of the GIF is perfectly suited for short mobile attention spans, and GIFs capture feelings and emotions by tapping into shared cultural moments and interests that are difficult to express by typing on a qwerty keyboard, particularly in a constrained mobile environment.

FR: How can brands, agencies, and publishers use Riffsy to speak to consumers?

McIntosh: Riffsy is visual language that’s used to communicate daily with friends and family on mobile. Riffsy users personalize their language with collections of GIFs from their favorite TV shows, characters, and other interests. Riffsy offers brands the opportunity to be the conversation and tap into Riffsy’s scale of billions of views per month.

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