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Multitasking and Second Screening

Second screening has become ubiquitous today. In the research, its most commonly operationalized as watching television news and utilizing other digital media, such as social networking sites, at the same time. If we decide that that technology influences culture and visa-versa, this can have effects on how the other develops.

To attempt to generally comprehend the implications and affordances of “second screening,” we can think about two main categories: news/entertainment and advertising. The first, news/entertainment, is what is happening when the actual programming is playing, the social aspect increases pertaining to the programming, etc. The latter is the implications on how advertisements are consumed, but also what is not happening now that users might be on a second screen while the traditional ad is playing.

Let’s say that you’re watching a television show, on Hulu, of course, with the commercial free plan. You’ve heard the show mentioned by friends and decided to give it a try. The screen alerts you that this popular show is not included with your commercial free Hulu plan and will “play ads before and after the show.” The ad begins.

You go to Twitter. If your friends like this show, what are other people staying under the show’s hashtag—obviously if there is #SPOILER you quickly speed past it as you’re scrolling as to not ruin the show for yourself.

You read a few tweets about the show, then mindlessly notice that the show has started. Immediately the show catches your attention, and you know you’re going to love it.

You must tell your friends who already watch it that you think it is already good, even though your five minutes in.

Then, you tell your Twitter followers.

And a few other people that you know have watched it on SnapChat.

And you recommend it to your Instagram followers on your Insta-Story.

All of this happened in the first 10 minutes, or possibly much less, of the first episode of a show.

While this is a low stakes situation, let’s say that this hypothetical audience from above was assigned a video lecture for an online class. A class that she is in with some real-life friends and is second screening through that lecture. Or how about if it was a news program covering pivotal policy reform regarding a candidate in their state, district, or town. The stakes just got higher. That person’s attention just became a bigger factor in their future decision making.

This video, while a little different than the above scenarios, is an interesting visualization as to what is happening with multitasking and multi-screening for young people. It is next to impossible to really understand what is happening with this young girl, except for the fact that she is narrating what she is doing to her close friend. She is having consistent social interaction, nearly through the entire video. That in itself, surely cannot be a bad thing. What is concerning is the superficial content she is getting from everything in front of her.

In our modern society, it has become harder and harder for traditional media to continue to do things “as they’ve always done it.” The television can no longer hold the modern audience’s undivided attention.

This is where advertising is seeing issues because of second screening. Are they really, due to second screening, or is it something else?

Contrary to popular belief, according to this article, people who watch TV are 74% more likely to follow up on an ad that they see while simultaneously using an alternate digital device. It was also found that people who second screen are more brand aware. The idea of shifting attention is a scary thing for advertisers, but maybe that is an antiquated fear.

Today’s digital world presents a whole new set of areas to investigate for researchers, second screening being a relatively new concept in academic research. Looking into he why, the motivations, of this phenomena will prove to be enlightening for practitioners in mass media to better understand audiences.



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