Tea For Two: Faux-Convergence

Last week an interesting bit of data was out on the wires.

A new survey suggested that a growing number of Internet users are both watching television and surfing the Web at the same time.

The Internet research firm comScore found that almost half of Internet users have both their PC and their television set in the same room. Almost half of them – approximately 20 million people - watch TV and use the Net at the same time.

The study has should have significant implications for advertisers. What it suggests is that the Internet is either becoming a powerful distraction for TV viewers, when advertisers would like them to be watching commercials; or that advertisers could take advantage of the reinforcing nature of a media mix that realizes itself instantly. Reinforcement is a common disguise for “frequency.”

While I was watching the Raider/Steelers game Sunday night on ESPN, there happened to be a coach’s challenge. Not uncommon since the revival of the instant replay (which I am so happy about). The commentators asked viewers to log onto the website and cast their vote as to whether or not a play should be overturned upon the ref's review. Within a minute and a half, more than 90,000 people cast their vote. These guys weren't using their PCs during commercial, they were using them right then and there, during programming.



What we are talking about here is a kind of primitive convergence. Certainly not the kind of device convergence that Nicholas Negroponte and his ilk at the Media Lab might have predicted, but something else.

It isn’t just a Neolithic form of iTV, but something else. It could be seen as an extraordinary research opportunity for those media companies and their advertisers that are paying attention. Knowing that as many as 10% of a viewing audience is going to the web during programming to "lean forward" into the media they are consuming provides an extraordinary occasion to run supporting media, do surveys, collect data, and all sorts of things that before now could only have been accomplished using teams comprised of dozens of people and the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars for sample sizes the fraction of what can be had right here, right now, with the TV/Web tag team.

Just imagine what can be learned about audiences. Where are they? Who are they? One thing I discerned from watching the votes count up and the percentages of those who supported a call-reversal vs. those who did not was what coast most of the voters were likely to be on and thus, where the TV audience weight actually was. A pro call-reversal was to have been to the Raiders' advantage, a con call-reversal to the Stealers. Two thirds of the voters were pro call-reversal. Now, I don't know a lot about sports or human behavior in general, but I do know something about football and football fans. And no matter how objective the fan tries to be, particularly when it comes to a Raider/Steelers rivalry, fans will always vote with their hearts. If you are looking for fans who try to be noble and objective, look to fans of baseball and pitching.

So, just from the little bit of data (number of votes, percentage pro or con) it appeared to be that there were more viewers watching this national broadcast on the west coast than the east cost. I have no real data to support this, but this is just an example of how, without even trying, advertisers could start using the TV/Web tandem, still as separate devices, to conduct research that would aid in better targeting their advertising both on and offline, and making it more effective.

It is possible for advertising messages to have a cumulative effect, and in the instance where a same or similar message is being communicated to an individual in two different media that operate in two very different ways, advertisers might be able to not only learn a great deal about their audiences both on and offline, but boost the effectiveness of their advertising.

In this case, 1+1 might just equal 3.

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