Thoughts on the Dual Screen Phenomenon | 9xb Digital Agency

Thoughts on the Dual Screen Phenomenon

#bbcqt. #bbcHIGNFY. #laterjools. Recognise these? They’re Twitter hashtags displayed at the beginning of three programmes from the cornerstone of the BBC’s roster.

Back in 2010, Chris Kimber, the BBC’s managing editor for Music and Audio blogged on their decision to include the hashtag on Jools Holland:

“It's clear to us that the trend for watching TV with two screens - the television and a laptop - is becoming more mainstream. If you haven't tried it before, it can add a whole new experience to watching TV, or in fact listening to the radio. It can be funny, insightful, annoying and exasperating in equal measure.”

Little did he know, laptops were only the beginning.

What is the dual screen phenomenon?

According to a study conducted by Econsultancy in 2012, you’re now more than likely to be viewing TV with another device in your hand, or within touching distance.

You might be prompted to search a product following an advert, or you may be casually browsing the web whilst the television serves as mere background noise. Chances are though, you’ll be on a social network. Eight in ten Facebook users and about two-thirds of Twitter users admit to using social networks while channel surfing. And it’s our social television watching that we’ll discuss in a post that tries to understand the why of dual screen habits.

We should be careful here not to limit our understanding of the dual screen phenomenon to simply Twitter and Television. In this blog post, however, Twitter’s relationship with TV typifies what we want to illustrate. Whilst we could easily point to more complex applications of social dual screening, in essence, they’re driven by the same thing at their core.

Let’s start by how the second screen changes the role of you, the audience member.

The Global Village

In the words of Mark Kobayashi-Hillary from Computer Weekly, ‘the very term broadcasting starts to become redundant when the broadcast is only one component of the entire entertainment experience’.

The operative word here is ‘experience’. In the early 1960s, media theorist Marshall McLuhan used the term ‘Global Village’ to describe how the globe has been contracted into a village by electric technology.

McLuhan’s argument centred on the effect of mass medias have on everyday contemporary life; the way they shape our perception of the world and how we can behave in it. In particular, he focussed on what he perceived to be the disembodiment effect of television. It’s worth revisiting this theory when thinking about what drives the dual screen phenomenon:

At the heart of the dual screen phenomenon is our longing to become active audience and community members. Whilst the television allowed us to experience events in real-time, mobile internet allows us to connect with others and share these experiences in an online neighbourhood.

Whilst he concerned himself with ‘the tribal man created by the new electronic media’, it is more fitting for us, on a digital marketing blog, to bring the discussion to consumerism.

So what, if anything, does this change is audience behaviour mean for business? It would be too easy and too clichéd to sit here and say the dual screen phenomenon is ‘a game changer’, the same way social media ‘gurus’ would have done a decade ago.

The dual screen phenomenon is driven by offline forces: traditional media, legitimate celebrities, corporate spending. For businesses targeting mass consumers, having a properly implemented display/print/ TV/Web campaigns is as mandatory as it ever was.

What is worth considering though, is how the dual screen phenomenon will change the environment people experience your marketing activities. In this new environment, the consumption of your marketing message is less likely to be passive.

How this should change the content in your media channels is a topic for another post.

Image credit: mbiebusch on Flickr