Michael Sippey, one of Talkshow's co-founders, says that the feature was born out of users holding impromptu Ask Me Anything sessions. But the only way for the audience to chime in was to be promoted to co-host, where they can say anything they want. They could then be removed from the discussion, but adding and removing these guests can be a hassle. The new feature, however, lets viewers submit questions and/or responses, which the host can review before allowing them through. It's like a moderated comments section, but in real-time.
The Q&A feature is entirely opt-in, and is something that a host can toggle on or off. The default prompt is "Ask anything," but you can customize it to whatever you like, such as "What's your favorite Pokémon" or "What's on your holiday wishlist." Hosts and co-hosts can see all Q&A submissions, but only the host can decide what to publish. If a submission is accepted, the person who sent it in will get a push notification. You can then end the Q&A at any time during the conversation.
"It's audience engagement, but more controlled," says Sippey. "It keeps the host in control of the show." He envisions that the feature will be used in AMAs of course, but he also foresees people using it for interviews or audience polling. "It's a way to get feedback."
"It's going really well," Sippey says about Talkshow's progress since its launch. "People who are sticking around are really enjoying it." When asked about the rise of public chat apps -- Public is another one that debuted recently -- he attributes the popularity to a general hole in the market. "Twitter is not great at ongoing conversation; the timeline is a very difficult place to navigate a particular topic," he says. "Facebook is mostly for friends and family, not for public conversations." An app like Talkshow, however, fills that void. "If people are good at it, it can be entertaining content."
Right now Talkshow is sort of a mix of media -- journalists have used it for event liveblogs -- as well as community discussions around topics such as Pokémon Go. "Sometimes they're not producing it for anybody but themselves."
"Is it media? Or is it a chat product?" he queries rhetorically. "We're straddling that boundary right now."