The practice of second screening is something that has emerged from consumer culture as a result of the widespread use of smartphones and tablets.
When people are watching television at home, it is now common for them also to have direct access to a secondary screen, usually on a portable device with web access provided through a local Wi-Fi connection or mobile network provider.
Second screening has a variety of implications for broadcast media, both of a positive and negative nature.
On the plus side it can be used to create increased user engagement, with companion apps and social networks allowing for enhanced levels of user activity when watching movies and TV shows or playing video games.
Conversely, for TV advertisers the second screen culture can mean that an audience’s attention is divided between their main living-room display and a companion device, so that ad breaks risk being ignored while consumers transfer their attention to the smartphone or tablet in their hands.
But what are the business implications of second screening and how can companies take advantage of this trend rather than see it as an unwanted complication?
With a report from Portio Research claiming that 78% of mobile users in the UK will own a smartphone by 2016, now is the time for businesses to start preparing for an even greater influx of web traffic generated by portable devices.
It is no longer acceptable simply to hope that a standard desktop website will work adequately when used on a handset with a smaller display and touchscreen controls. Businesses need to optimize the experience, creating mobile sites and dedicated apps that play to the strengths of such technology.
The Internet Advertising Bureau found that the vast majority of the biggest brands operating in the UK today have harnessed mobile optimized websites and those that have yet to do so are currently in the development stages of the process.
Second screening has additional implications for businesses which want to engage consumers through the various popular social networking platforms that have become popular in recent years.
These are important because although having a mobile optimized site or a standalone app may be indispensable, hundreds of millions of smartphone owners all over the world only use their device to check Facebook and Twitter.
80% of the people who use Twitter in the UK (or about 9.2 million consumers) do so via a portable device, with 60% doing so while watching TV, according to a recent ComScore study.
In fact two-fifths of tweets posted during peak viewing periods relate to TV shows, which indicates that users are eager to engage while carrying out second screening activities, presenting businesses with a unique opportunity to take advantage of this heightened level of involvement.
Social media strategies can be difficult to unravel and implement for firms not well versed in the ways of this medium, but there are many agencies that provide support and guidance.
Second Screen Contradictions
The central paradox of second screening is that it can both intensify and diminish the engagement of consumers with businesses, depending on the context in which it is used.
Although this might be a source of confusion for those who are just becoming familiar with the concept, it is still possible to exploit second screen culture and turn it to commercial advantage.
Business users can even benefit from second screening during work hours, particularly if a BYOD (bring your own device) culture is encouraged to develop and such practices become commonplace in the office of the future.