Advertising Technology

Second Screen Rising

Gavin_260I wouldn’t call myself a second-screen junkie, but my wife might disagree.

My typical stimulant is the Internet Movie Database app, which is always a tap away when we’re watching TV. I’ve always had a strange obsession with searching on IMDB, realizing that so-and-so actor was also in that, or that so-and-so director wrote the screenplay for this. And the IMDB app is the perfect tool for fulfilling this obsession in real time. Why does “Game of Throne’s” Sandor “The Hound” Clegane look so familiar? Oh yeah, he was the heavy who said nothing but “Yurp” in “Hot Fuzz.”

My only complaint – I want my info faster. I’ve still got to type in the name of the show I’m watching (or trust that Siri won’t distort my words into something embarrassing), and sure, after I’ve typed in a few letters the search engine typically realizes what I’m looking up and offers suggestions that are on the mark. But why couldn’t IMDb employ audio recognition software along the lines of Shazam (or even use Shazam’s technology) to realize what I’m watching in a matter of seconds? (By the way, I’m also a pretty big Shazam user, especially when I’m at a bar and hear a tight tune.)

IMDb, you can run with that idea – it’s a freebie from me.

I was pondering this the other night as I was assembling our second-screen session for OPS TV, July 18 in NYC. One participant is whip-smart Stacy Jolna from ConnecTV, a social network revolving around TV interaction. My colleague Joshua Weaver recently interviewed Jolna for an illuminating look at the second screen’s rapid development, where I learned how ConnecTV uses content recognition technology to sync commercials with mobile advertising. I’m also hoping to soon announce a broadcaster joining that session to give its perspective on the best course for second screen monetization.

I believe we’ve past the novelty point with the second screen and are now actualizing its potential – whether that means monetization or pushing data garnered toward multiple purposes. At last year’s OPS TV, Shazam’s Evan Krauss gave an excellent keynote laying out potential uses of its technology platform that became realities over the year – think about Super Bowl and Olympics integration. Twitter acquired Bluefin Labs (another OPS TV speaker), a social TV research firm, because it can see the mammoth data opportunity opening up.

Second screen seems to be in huge discussion wherever I go – an IAB special panel featuring Viacom, ABC, Discovery and more, or the jam-packed MaxxCom Global Media Collaborative, which stuffed my head full of new ideas.

Serious Research, Heavy Findings

Conference organizer Mitch Oscar always puts together a sharp agenda – his opening slide typically is a pertinent New Yorker cartoon reminding us that the fire is far more important than the smoke.

Hence the agenda was focused on what’s burning rather than the fumes: following a fascinating examination of digital and cross-platform subscriber behavior from Conde Nast (subscribers to 12 digital editions grew from 1.7 million in 2012 to 2.7 million in 2013; 40% of all subscribers read the tablet version at least once a month, with 10% using that platform to consume every day) and details about Project Blueprint from ESPN (a expansive cross-platform measurement initiative finding the overlap between TV, desktop Internet, mobile, tablet and, coming soon, radio), Time Warner Cable shared the results of an intense study of second screen behavior.

Researchers in the company’s media lab used biometric, eye-tracking and other post-viewing tests to measure the engagement of a millennial crowd (18-34, which includes me – I can’t believe I’m part of that lousy generation on no-gooders) while they watched TMZ and Conan – with ad breaks. TWC broke them into several different groups, such as solo viewing with no second screen; social viewing plus social networks; solo viewing with synced apps, and more.

The findings were chin-scratch worthy – those viewing by themselves and using social apps were as equally engaged as those viewing in a social setting. Also, social viewers’ dips in attention during commercial breaks were far less severe than those viewing without; during some ad pods, attention actually went up.

Finally, sync apps seriously boost engagement with the program, and brands can leverage that through sponsorship. AT&T sponsored the Conan app, and brand favorability with those users (58%) was definitively higher than sans app (25%).

But these results also have a lot to do with the kind of TV experiences studied. I groaned when I saw a headline the other week asking if the second screen was going to kill the “Mad Men” experience. “Mad Men,” “Game of Thrones,” “Breaking Bad” and other critically acclaimed hits have brought cinematic qualities to episodic television, basically transferring the ability of a good film to suck you into another world and make you forget your surroundings. Social interaction with such TV shows tends to be delayed – for old-schoolers, think next-day water cooler conversation.

People watching a late-night variety show, on the other hand, want to be social in the now, hence TWC’s highly engaged test subjects. Even though this space is quickly maturing, there’s still a ways to go in understanding the best ways to engage consumers through the second screen. Experimentation is in bloom because content engagement strategies need to be developed before their monetization cousins. However, don’t think the latter is that far off.

Where Are Ye, NFC?

Speaking of other developing mobile technology, my band Libel ordered a slew of download cars prior to our participation in the 2013 Northside Festival in Brooklyn. The front of this plastic rectangle features our logo while the back invites recipients to a website where they can enter a code to download our music. It’s better than a CD because it bypasses the music importation step and reduces clutter (I can’t tell you how many CD “gifts” I threw away unheard because they were taking up too much of my desk space).

Giving out the cards, it occurred to me that a scannable QR code on the back could delete one more step, enabling users to skip typing in the link and code and just download the music. QR haters, I can hear you moan, and no, I don’t think this is an ideal solution. Frankly, I’m annoyed at the sluggish adoption of near-field communication (with my harshest glare pointed at one fruit-loving company). I figured by now I could share samples from my albums with potential fans with just a wave of my smartphone – regardless of what I was hoping I could sell an album then and there

The smartphone has become the central location for music consumption, and the tech to streamline the transfer from artist to consumers exists, but I still have to limp through traditional steps like handing out physical cards.

I can’t wait to debate the potential of NFC further at OPSMobile, July 18 in NYC, with representatives from Yelp, HopStop and Fresh Digital Group. As Isobar’s Michael Nicholas showed during his keynote at the previous year’s event, NFC’s potential is nearly limitless, but how are we bringing that potential to life?