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One screen just isn't enough.
More and more Americans are regularly bouncing between different devices to disseminate and absorb information, as well as to communicate. Sometimes we move from one device to another, sometimes we use multiple devices at the same time. Sometimes we're using one device to enhance the experience of another, and other times we're just absorbing multiple streams of media through multiple devices for no reason at all.
It's called multi-screen usage, and it's a behavior that is growing and changing. It is changing how we send and receive media and information, changing how marketers and advertisers target us and changing how makers of devices and services are moving forward with their future plans.
Multi-Screen Usage: How The Devices Break Down
The granddaddy of all devices is the smartphone, which is the Jack of all trades. It does everything pretty well and is always available. We stare into it more than even the good old TV.
Television comes next. It is on even when it's just background noise or if we're paying attention to other devices. Laptops are work and productivity devices that we use for specialized tasks. Tablets are entertainment devices and command the least of our attention. Like smartphones, we often "stack" tablets with other devices, like when you browse the Internet on your tablet to expand on something you just saw on TV.
Evolution of a Multi-Screen Culture
As early as 2012, Google described a "multi-screen world" in which "cross-platform consumer behavior" was driving everything from advertising to media. It divvied up the phenomenon into two main categories:
- Sequential screening: Moving between devices.
- Simultaneous screening: The use of multiple devices at the same time.
To this day, most simultaneous screening continues to consist of television plus another device. Nearly three-quarters of smartphone owners use their phones while watching TV. When it comes to sequential screening, search is the most common bridge between one device and another. Although individual "interactions" with our televisions last longer, our smartphones are the backbone of our digital worlds. We use them more times per day than any other device, and they are the most common jumping-off point for multiple-device usage.
2015: The Year of Second-Screen Ads?
The dominance of multi-screen usage is not lost on advertisers. Most of us own smartphones, and most smartphone users browse while watching TV. It has been predicted that 2015 will see the rise of second-screen ads. This technology uses mobile-based advertising synching and listening programs to detect an ad on a television. When it does, it then beams a follow-up ad to the same device that detected the original television ad.
Multi-tasking has reached new heights. Not only does TV no longer dominate our attention, it can barely keep our attention where it's on right in front of us. The nearly perpetual use of multiple devices throughout the day, every day is permeating nearly every aspect of our digital lives. If the smartphone is the central hub, tablets, TVs and laptops are the extended spokes. No one knows what 2015 will hold for sure, but one thing is certain — one device is no longer enough.