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A US study reveals second screen content is distracted

second screen usageA Facebook study of how Americans use their second screen while watching TV is somewhat bad news for marketers. Only 7% of the people reported looking up information related to something advertised during a commercial break while a commercial break was on. And while the TV show was on, only 4% reported looking at ad related information on their second screen.

So what were they doing?

Well, 82% checked email during a commercial break. Seventy percent checked email during the show. Visiting social media also ranked high with 71% admitting to using social media during a break, and another 64% doing so while the show was on.

Second screens really are very distracting devices! It’s a wonder anyone actually knows what happens in the TV shows.

Other activities people do are shop online, send instant messages, read articles, do work, or call someone. Surprisingly, playing games didn’t make it into the list of activities in the eMarketer article on the study. It’s surprising to me because that is probably the main activity I do while watching a TV show. I pull out my iPad and play one or two of my current favourite games. Since I have a DVR I don’t usually watch the commercials, but I have to stop playing my game to actually fast forward (otherwise I’ll go too far and miss the start of the show!). Whether or not I use my iPad during a TV show is actually how I gauge how good a show it is. If I can’t pull myself away to look at the iPad then it’s a great show.

My daughter too, will play on her iPad or her laptop during shows. In fact, it is almost impossible for her to simply sit and watch a TV show. She’s 18 now and I’m willing to bet much of her generation is the same. They are so used to multiple inputs from mobiles, computers, TVs, MP3 players, and tablets that they struggle to focus on just one thing. When I ask my daughter about it she replies she’ll be bored if she just watches TV.

The article on the Facebook study didn’t break out the demographics, but I’d be curious to see how it plays out and if they surveyed anyone under 18. I also wonder if marketers have tried to assess the impact of traditional TV commercials on distracted young ones. When the next generation can’t focus on just one thing for too long (based on my anecdotal evidence at home and from friends’ families), how will marketers manage to get their attention long enough to get their message across?

It doesn’t look like second screen content for TV shows is the way to go.

Oliver Burt

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