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Second Screen Apps Not Ready for Prime Time

I’ve decided to pay attention to second screen apps, but not allow myself to become distracted by them.  Professionally, or personally.  What the ultimate potential is is still unclear, but right now – let’s just say there are issues.

Start with the idea of a rich palette of parallel content, information, e/m-commerce and social streams aggregated for your lean-forward engagement while you attempt to enjoy your lean-back linear program consumption experience.  The afternoon of the Super Bowl, I downloaded Viggle to try out during the pre-game and game coverage.  About an hour before kick-off, I opened the app… it recognized what I was watching…VERY COOL!  Then it asked me some trivia questions, which I answered.  Some right, some wrong.  It asked me to rate some commercials…fun.  Some opinions about the game…everyone likes to root for/expound upon their team.

So far, so good.  But about the end of the first quarter, the novelty was wearing off.  Answering trivia questions was getting boring.  Rating commercials maybe the most interesting idea, especially in the context of the Super Bowl, but while rating one commercial/checking back for results, I’d miss the next two commercials.  And I quickly migrated directly to Twitter for the social piece.  By halftime, I abandoned Viggle (forever, so far)… I missed big plays and cool commercials while monkeying with Viggle, and the pay-off in terms of fun/enhancement of the viewing experience wasn’t even close to sufficient to keep me engaged.  Since that day, Viggle regularly tries to convince me to watch shows I have no interest whatsoever in – this ability for programmers to promote tune-in is probably the big USP (unique selling proposition) of Viggle, and for me anyway, it’s just an epic fail.

The parallel content idea, then, has some issues.  I can see how highly selective, highly relevant parallel content is a good idea…I see a story about symptoms of a disease circulating in local schools, I can immediately see a complete list of symptoms, for example.  Or products featured in commercials are immediately available for purchase via Amazon 1-click – cool.  If I’m in the sports fanatic sub-segment of the sports-viewing sub-segment of the total population, real-time box scores as I watch the game is quite compelling (almost the only compelling demo example I’ve seen).  But a rich palette of multiple aggregated related feeds?  Not so sure.

Now set aside the whole “parallel content” idea.  For now at least, I’m convinced that the real second screen focus for TV should be social.  One of the great realities of social media is that TV programming & news are top topics of conversation.  Strategic use of social media to drive tune-in and then engagement during the program has the potential to re-establish a strong reason to tune-in to the live linear presentation of a show (as opposed to DVR’ing it or watching later on Hulu or Netflix).

I’m not convinced that integrating social media into this “rich palette’ of parallel content is going to enhance our ability to develop these social strategies and experiences around our linear content.  As a matter of fact, my instinct is that second screen apps may actually detract from those efforts.  Complicate/clutter matters for users and distract TV programmers/promoters from the real prize – social media (mainly Facebook and Twitter).  This is a really important point…do you want to push your second screen app/experience, or really drive your audience engagement via Facebook and Twitter?  I’m not sure you can do the former without impeding the latter.

So I’m fascinated by second screen apps.  Taking the pitches (seen a bunch, and new ones sprouting like weeds), playing with some of the apps, monitoring the literature…trying to keep an open mind.  For now though, as the boss (Dennis Swanson) says, sometimes it’s better to be a settler than a pioneer.  I think there’s a lot of programming (in the traditional TV sense) and U.I. work still to be done, and ultimately something coherent and worth really pushing may emerge.  But I haven’t seen it yet.

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This entry was posted on August 2, 2012 by in Uncategorized and tagged , .
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