Multi-Screen, Multitasking Consumer May Not Want Your Message

I always say that it is good to have science fiction and science facts. You need science fiction to dream about what might be possible -- but ultimately, science facts rule and help to frame your understanding.

Last week I “attended” a seminar presented by eMarketer and Akamai called “The Multiscreen, Multitasking Consumer.” I put “attended” in quotes marks because the seminar was a webinar. (I have no relationship with or shares in eMarketer --or Akamai, for that matter.)

So let’s look at some multiscreen facts, and then think about where that leaves us.

First of all: Kudos to the people who put “multi-screen” in the title of the presentation instead of referring to any screen as first, second or third. I have said before that the definition of what is the first screen depends on the user’s location at any given time. When I am on a train, my mobile device is my first screen, while at home while watching TV it might serve as my companion screen.

So what is the place of each screen in the video viewing mix today among U.S. citizens 18 years and older? Well, TV’s share is more or less flat since 2010, while the share of desktop viewing has stalled, and mobile device growth is slowing down (+150% in 2011, and +50% in 2014).

Let’s be clear: TV is still important in the mix. It’s hard to grow usage share if device penetration is close to 100% among households (as is the case with TV). Cord-cutters exist but still make up a tiny fraction of the overall population. Last quarter there were 150,000 households that cut the cord. Although that is double the number versus a year ago it is clearly not a tsunami (data from Leichtman Research Group). The other two screens are apparently also reaching share saturation point.

It won’t surprise you that the young ‘uns do more multitasking and multi-screening than old folk. As in twice as much. I see this every day with my 13-year- old son. He is, like me, a big football (OK, “soccer”) fan, but his idea of watching a match with me involves him using his iPad running Clash of Clans at the same time.

Per Nielsen, TV-related companion activity translates to most people (41%) either looking up characters or players related to whatever it is they are watching, 29% emailing or texting friends about what they are watching, 18% only reading about what others are saying about what they are watching, and 12% voting or commenting on the actual show.

But the kicker is that most people, like my son, do stuff on their companion screen that has absolutely nothing to do with what they are watching. They check emails (70%), they do work-related stuff (16%) , or even shop online (25%).

So what does this mean for marketers? For starters, I would say: Good luck trying to get your witty TV-program-related social media post noticed, liked or shared. Viewers using their companion screen aren’t looking for you  -- and, to be honest, aren’t necessarily all that interested in you at that time.

There is a time and place for commercial messages, and social/digital content is certainly potent. But the true challenge is to figure out when your target audience is open for your business. It might not be when they are multi-screening, multitasking.

1 comment about "Multi-Screen, Multitasking Consumer May Not Want Your Message".
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  1. Demos Ioannou from DCI Consulting LLC, November 18, 2014 at 9:51 a.m.

    "time and place for commercial messages, and social/digital content is certainly potent."

    Potent? Is that an empirical descriptor o an aspirational one? Volumetric work needs to be done, then the bubble can deflate properly.

    Let's face it; this subject is the 800 pound gorilla that no one wants to acknowledge. Meanwhile, the smart bet is to be ON the path to purchase, not a detraction from it.

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