July 24, 2007

Second Screen Experiences

Last Wednesday morning I attended a seminar titled “Web Managers Roundtable,” a monthly seminar series held at different locations throughout Washington D.C. bringing together internet experts to speak to business and organization web managers and discuss topics of interest. This month the topic was online video.

Much of the dialog was, as one would expect, business-oriented, offering advice and strategies for audience members to incorporate video or to improve video-use on their companies’ websites. In addition, a couple of interesting social issues were raised during the discussion.

Charlie Herrin (SVP of Product Development and Technology at Comcast Interactive Media) spoke about “second screen experiences” wherein individuals will look for information about a TV program they are watching, while watching the program. Or, they are simply web-surfing other topics while watching television. The spread of broadband as well as the increased sales of laptops enables such multitasking. In a 2005 Kaiser Family Foundation study of young people’s media use, researchers found that 26% of the time young people are using media, many kids are actually using multiple media at once. This “second screen experience” or “media multi-tasking” is an interesting new behavior people are adopting that organizations and advertising are incorporating into their business models.

At the same time that people are multitasking, both Herrin and Hope Fulgham (CEO, Piazza Advertising, Inc.) suggested that users like their web experiences to be interactive. Users tend to want to shape their web experience to their liking as well as to interact and share that experience with others. Herrin and Fulgham indicated that the social and community-building aspects of the online experience are what interests their consumers the most. Considering that, as Amanda Lenhart and Mary Madden found, 55% of teens have an online profile on sites like MySpace and Facebook where users can both shape their own experience and participate in a community, this trend will probably only continue as these teens grow into adulthood.

Our experiences with media as well as some of our social behaviors are changing with the ever-growing internet. Online video represents one of the most recent, and, for some, most fun advances in the Web experience. Online video is being used in a variety of ways, including self-expression, community-building, advertising, and/or supplemental content for traditional media. Perhaps soon enough it will be as common as email.