It's an open question whether TV programmers and their advertisers can effectively capture all of that second-screen activity that we know both subjectively and objectively is going on in living rooms everywhere. We know that the smartphones and tablets are out, but how much do these distracted users really want their attention knit across big and little displays? After all, part of the two-screen dance must have something to do with the TV viewer at least subconsciously disengaging to some degree with the first screen in order to engage the second.
Sure, there are lookups off of on-screen prompts and all of that. But marketers risk deluding themselves if they believe people are usually activating a secondary display because they really want to dig deeper into the content on the first.
According to the latest Nielsen survey of device users, 76% of second-screeners using a tablet and 63% of those using a smartphone are just looking up information online, while 68% (tablet) and 55% (phone) are surfing the Web and 53% (tablet) 52% (phone) are on social network sites or apps. In general, it is safe to assume that people use personal devices in personal ways, even when in the presence of the great and powerful TV. Perhaps there are studies somewhere down the line that can surface this presumption of mine, but I think there is something to the idea that second-screen activity is compelling in part because it is not TV.
We know that almost a majority of smartphone owners (46%) and slightly less among tablet owners (43%) do use their devices while the TV is on every day. But it bears repeating that the overwhelming amount of that time is spent on tasks that are disconnected from the TV programming or ads.
programmers surely will want to latch onto the glass-one-fifth-full stats that show 21% of tablet second-screeners and 18% of phone users have read social media conversations about a show. But again,
let’s not mistake that absolute number of people who did the activity once in the last month for habitual behavior. At best it is a potential action among a slice of viewers waiting to be
Nielsen asked whether the user had performed any of these second-screen activities in the previous 30 days. But how much this activity is habitual and more than occasional is less clear. Likewise, 20% and 13% of tablet screeners and smartphone users, respectively, have purchased a product they saw advertised on the big screen, 15% / 10% watched a program based on social media mentions. And 13% / 8% wrote something about a show.
This is all to say that the second screen is undeniably an opportunity for the first screen to engage the viewer to interact, if the
trigger is right. The connection is there to be made if the incentive is there for the user to break from their other second-screen activities that are divorced from the first.
Maybe there is nothing to this idea, but it strikes me that when it comes to activating behaviors on devices, media and marketers have to think about how they are interrupting a user mode. This strikes me as especially true of magazines that are trying to engage a kind of second-screen activity through mobile codes, AR and other activations of print. The magazine reader has chosen a certain mode -- thumbing through an analog medium. Asking a reader to turn into a mobile phone activator is asking them to switch modes.
Granted, the two situations are different. The second-screen tablet and smartphone user in a TV room is already engaged in connected interactive activity. Still, an on-screen prompt is pulling the viewer out of their independent personal media experience and into a conversation and connection with the first screen. Is this a shift in modes that the marketer or media company needs to understand in order to engage more successfully? Or am I suggesting a distinction without a difference?