Measuring the effects of multiple screen usage

It is common knowledge that as a society, we are multi-tasking more than ever. OTX think we fit 31 hours worth of tasks into a single day, and our lack of down-time is being blamed for our increased sleeplessness.

Seeing some of the Childwise Monitor report data emphasised some of the difficulties that this presents to the TV industry. According to the report, children aged 5-16 spend an average of five and a half hours in front of a screen every day – whether it is a TV, a games console or a computer. But what is most striking is that around a third of children (I think- I didn’t make notes) say that they go on the Internet while they watch TV.

New research from Thinkbox is even more striking. Initial results indicate that as many as two thirds of adults use TV and the Internet simultaneously.

The battle for share of attention is becoming increasingly competitive, and TV is at a disadvantage. TV is inherently a sit-back, passive media. The Internet is lean-forward and active. Some argue that this is the reason why total TV viewing has been going up – people are increasingly utilising it as background noise while they surf the Internet.

So, how does TV ensure that it remains the focal point for viewers? Ideally, it would be through compelling storylines. But, judging by the content of contemporary advertising, it is going to be jumpy edits, fast cuts, bright colours and loud noise. And paradoxically, the more programmes or adverts that utilise these techniques, the less they stand out. Nowadays, silence standing out.

Before this situation can be addressed, the impact needs to be quantified. This could be done accurately – albeit expensively – through a combination of eye-tracking for television, and return path data for online.

Discovering the change in proportion of eyesight-to-screen when a pc is present, and the differences in time spent per page when a TV is on would allow us to measure the relative change in attention. This can be underlined by a survey measuring recall of messages in both media. Some very powerful insights could result from this type of research – what grabs the most attention, how people flip back and forth, and so on.

It is not entirely unreasonable to expect some positive results for TV companies in the research. Counter-intuitively, spending time on the Internet may in fact enhance attention to some programme. According to the Childwise study, two of the most popular online activities were instance messaging and social networking. Could they be talking about the TV programming, and reinforcing the messages communicated to them?

The popularity of liveblogging indicates that this isn’t as far-fetched as one might originally think.

sk

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James Murdoch is wrong about the iPlayer

bbc iplayer
Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/dantaylor/

At the Marketing Society annual lecture, James Murdoch accused the BBC iPlayer of squashing competition.

I completely disagree with this. The iPlayer is dominant, but it is taking a large slice of an inflated pie. Without the iPlayer, the market would be a lot smaller. No-one was complaining of the other video services using 3-5% of the UK’s Internet traffic beforehand.

The BBC is able to devote greater resources to promoting the iPlayer (£131m over 5 years) than its commercial rivals. Since online video is a game-changing technology, I believe that the BBC is justified in doing this. They have used their money to:

  • Fail. All the coverage of the flash iPlayer overlooks the fact that the p2p service floundered throughout 2007
  • Promote. Barely a trail or continuity goes by without the iPlayer being mentioned – commercial broadcasters have a multitude of commitments battling for space and could not give their online video the same level of coverage
  • Populate. As well as in-house productions, the BBC has been paying for ad-hoc deals to bring in third party content (such as Damages)
  • Reassure. Despite everything that has gone one in the past few years (from Hutton to RDF to Socks), people will still look to the BBC rather than a commercial rival

As for James Murdoch’s assertion that it is crowding out competition, I have had a look at Comscore data and that tells a different picture.

Admittedly, the iPlayer only appeared for the first time in March data, and so currently there is only one month of data to compare to. But over the year so far

  • ITV.com total visits and unique users have held constant
  • 4OD total visits and unique users have risen
  • Sky Anytime unique users has fallen but total visits have risen
  • In March, the iPlayer had the most total visits, though fewer unique users than ITV.com (which is admittedly, the whole website and not just the catch-up area)

Now Comscore stats will never be completely accurate, but it paints an interesting picture and one that is at odds with James Murdoch.

And of course, Project Kangaroo will launch later this year. That will completely alter the shape of the competition. In theory, the iPlayer could back down into a secondary role and allow Kangaroo to dominate the market. But how Kangaroo will sit alongside the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 is unclear, and the lure of the ad-free iPlayer may be too great. Personally, I see Kangaroo – attempting to be the iTunes of online video – becoming the first port of call but Interesting times are certainly ahead.

sk

Links – 24th April 2008

Blog-related

Random

As usual, it is all good but for the time-pressed I would particularly recommend:

Blog-related: Kevin Kelly speaks with Robert Rich about the realities of the 1,000 true fans business model, A very good profile on Hulu and Great list of data visualization blogs

Random: An algorithm to help you remember everything you learn, How shoes are wrecking our feet, Great in-street art installations and The type of people that go to gigs

sk

Dilbert shows how not to relaunch a website

 dilbert

The Dilbert website has undergone a redesign, and now incorporates a web2.0 element. What should have been a successful launch has been mired in criticism. Change, and especially a radical overhaul, will always attract dissent from some quarters, but Scott Adams et al made some basic mistakes which have spoiled the new look.  

I really like the participative element of Dilbert, found under the vertical entitled mash-up. The concept is that the final pane of the strip –essentially the punchline – is now customisable. Users are invited to see if they can improve on the original joke. In my eyes, this ticks all the right

  • It is a simple idea that can be easily communicated
  • The interface is extremely easy to use
  • The daily nature means users are consistently drawn back to the site
  • Voting and commenting are included
  • It is searchable

It still isn’t perfect – the profile page could do with more information – but that is what the big fat beta sign is for

So why all the hate?

The mash-up element is easy to use. But as a whole, the new features and layout have compromised the simplicity of the site.

People want to visit the site on a daily basis, read a funny strip and move on. Looking at ways to enhance the experience is commendable, but the core offering shouldn’t be disrupted.

Particularly when Dilbert fans are likely to be the rabid uber-geeks that know about website design and aren’t afraid to share their opinions. The use of flash in particular has come in for a lot of criticism. Linux users are reporting that the new site is incompatible with their operating system. This kind of oversight is unacceptable.

This brings me on to participation inequality – a typology of online users created by Jakob Nielsen. Essentially, a tiny minority account for a disproportionately large amount of content – whether in blogs, social networks or Wikipedia, this inequality will hold true. He labels it the 90-9-1 rule

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute).
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time.
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs

By focusing too much on the 10%, the Dilbert team have potentially alienated the 90%. The minority may be the power users, but it makes no sense to ignore the 90% in order to focus on them

The sad thing is that most of the problems with the redesign could have been avoided by going through a simple process. Conversation.

Yes, the element of surprise would have been lost. But by conversing with users, creating buzz, encouraging ideas and providing feedback, the launch would have been a lot smoother. And by taking the participative element to the next level – actually providing users with the opportunity to invest into the look and feel of the site – loyalty and affinity would have improved considerably

Instead, the site owners are fire-fighting. Rather than focusing on the mash-ups and the increase in visitors, they are now announcing a bare-bones page without the additional features. The pointy haired boss would be proud

sk

Classic blog posts #1: Russell Davies on how to be interesting

This is intended to be the first in an occasional series.

Unlike the links post that I aim to update every Thursday or Friday, there will be no schedule to this. They will appear whenever I am too busy/uninspired to write original posts. (the former is the case this time – I’ve just got back from a long weekend in Tenby).

So, to keep my content ticking over, it seems sensible to populate my blog with the thoughts and musings of those high-quality bloggers out there who inspire me to have a crack at it myself.

First up, Russell Davies’ 2006 post on “How to be interesting”. A must-read for those who haven’t seen it, and well worth a second (or third) look for those who have.

sk 

Links – 17th April 2008

Blog-related

Random

I would particularly recommend

Blog-related: Six mash-ups that inform you about music while you listen, Leadership the Cosa Nostra (mafia) way and Why software and media companies should sometimes encourage piracy

Random: 50 Greatest Comedy Sketches of all time, 20 respectable rock and rap acts that peaked with their debut albums, Look back at the Aeron Chair and Account of a man shut in a lift for 41 hours though the random section this week is of a particularly high quality, and I would recommend all of the links to those with a bit of time on their hands

sk