The rise, implications, and benefits of the second screen


Watching television — or even reading a newspaper — with a smartphone and/or tablet device is becoming one of the most popular leisure activities of this “mobile age.”

In turn, publishers such as ourselves are trying to find ways to capitalise on this somewhat new consumer behaviour of real-time interaction, which, more often than not, includes social media.

This type of interaction, referred to as “the second screen” or “the companion device,” has become not just a latest hot topic of discussion all over social media blogs; it is a huge development for the mobile app industry and a target-rich environment for our advertisers.

The trick is being in the right place at the right time. To quote a well-worn expression, where the eyeballs go is where the money is.

Second screening isn’t really a new activity, but more an evolution of the existing ways of interacting with multi-media. We have always asked for the views and opinions of our readers, even before mobile (or laptops for that matter).

But it’s the extended and extensive audience that multi-screens offer (print, online, tablets, mobile, and social media), along with immediacy and simplicity, that is really helping the likes of Twitter dominate the second screen mobile era.

A lesson for news media?!

People are now logging onto Twitter (and Facebook, et al) to see not only what their friends think of news and entertainment, but also what the rest of the world thinks. By logging on, they help create a set of instant reviews, debates, insights, conversations, etc.

All of this leads to a need for companies to get on board this new era.

From our side, I would advocate a scenario in which we offer readers the chance to multi-task, across multi-platforms, using multiple devices to suit their needs. Content any time, anywhere. 

The creation of such will allow for better integration/rapport, better understanding of readers’ needs, and better targeting opportunities for advertisers.

Note: Recent research around “TV and beyond” at the end of 2012 from Deloittes shows that nearly a quarter of all respondents (24%) use second screens.

The most active second-screening takes place among young people. Nearly half of all 16- to 24-year-olds use communication tools such as messaging, e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter to discuss what they are watching on TV.

Some viewers (40%) like being able to send their comments to a live programme. However, 68% would not want the Web sites for products, personalities, or advertisements that have just been shown on television to automatically appear on their computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Paul Lee of Deloittes says that second screening’s impact has been found to be far greater in driving conversations about a programme (or an article for that matter), as opposed to interaction with it directly.

“Second screening may well end up with a similar status as eating in front of the TV: an everyday experience for some, absolutely unthinkable for others. One thing is certain: It is here for good.”

And we all need to embrace it.

Lee adds that browsing the Web while watching television was undertaken “frequently” by one-third of the sample.

“This might be a brand new technology-enabled distraction or it might simply represent the swapping of an analogue distraction for a digital one,” Lee said. “Browsing while watching television typically means flitting between a preferred set of Web sites, often comprising news, sports, e-commerce.”

He argues that time spent on these may be a substitute for reading physical newspapers and magazines, or looking through catalogues.

From my perspective, however, I think there is a growing truth about this. For now and for most, it’s more about complementing rather than substitution.

Print, for instance, remains a cornerstone to Telegraph offerings, alongside a growing myriad of other platforms/screens.

Assessing the return on investment?

Deloittes says that any investment in second-screen content is likely to reduce resources for the first screen content, i.e. should we invest all our funds and creative energies in making our main “screen” content as good as possible?

Or should we blend the first- and second-screen experience? The latter would create more impact via more engaged readers and, therefore, greater revenue potential from both readers who enjoy the experience and from ad sales.

We just need to get the balance right between all of our own so-called screens.

Lee concludes that, in time, creating official second-screen experiences should become more formulaic and more easily reduced to a template. The more standardised second-screen content creation becomes, the easier it should be to attain a positive return on investment.

True, but I feel we should also make sure we don’t lose creativity. We know that creativity delivers strong results in ad solutions, for instance, so we need to retain creative resources and thinking and, of course, be in for the medium/long term.

All this doesn’t happen overnight. Everyone in the news media company’s chain has to buy into it from the start.

What kinds of content works on it? From the TV industry experience thus far, the rise of second screens is one of developing industry-standard platforms and delivering simplicity. Just as we try to do now on our various mobile platforms.

We have to make things simple for agencies and advertisers to both understand and buy into from a creative process. Broadcasters and advertisers are realising they cannot rely anymore on securing 100% of a consumer’s attention.

According to Deloittes, about 24% of Britons use a smartphone or tablet when watching television. Further, a UK government (YouGov) survey for Sky TV in September 2012, found 60% of second-screeners answer and send e-mails with the TV on; 65% surf the Web; and 48% are using social networks.

In other words, they cannot now monopolise the attention of their viewers.

At another level, advertisers are taking advantage of second-screening to drive online sales (e.g. the ads for in-play betting that accompany most televised sports matches in the UK), a strategy that resonates directly with those who have a handset close by.

In all, it seems that the challenge is to integrate content across devices and respond to changing consumer habits by adapting our platforms to create a deeper and more engaging experience. 

So if the content on the first screen is complemented and enhanced by interactive content for the second, we can create much stronger links with our readers and deepen our brand engagement with them.

We can also draw upon the lessons of the music and video industries, now established in the form of iTunes and YouTube (as well as Facebook and Twitter). Music consumers choose the iTunes platform to build their music collections across a myriad of labels and artists.

Consumers will ultimately want to adopt an industry-standard platform — we will all need to monitor this — over a range of selective second-screen apps and devices. While fragmenting our reader base, this does allow for us to pursue specific audiences and offer better packages, such as, say, football audiences or category-specific lists, et al.

In summary, by adopting a second-screen approach, our readers and advertisers will benefit from increased simplicity, increased choice, better engagement, higher user numbers, and increased insights from our user data — all key in delivering consumer satisfaction, good advertiser targeting. and sustained brand credibility.

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