Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Breathing Digital - Is Second Screen a fad or the growing slope of a demographic mountain?

I was having that familiar discussion in London last week about what 2nd screen was and whether or not this was a real market trend or just an overhyped fad.  Of course, it is always hard to know these things before they happen (else we would all be very rich), but in thinking through a new way to answer beyond stating the most recent statistics of 80%+ people using a 2nd screen while watching TV only to hear the the person I am speaking to me immediately tell me they never do, etc, I thought about a key note I saw at a conference in 1999.

That's right, 1999.  Do you remember those days?  The dot com world was still full of joy and optimism about taking over the world and "e-business" was still a buzz word.  I was fortunate enough to see Don Tapscott speaking about his new book, "Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation".  He was engaging and even funny, but what really stuck with me for the last 13 years is the way he described his kids reaction to one of his prouder moments a few years earlier when he was demonstrating how to surf the web on a public television show.  His kids were utterly underwhelmed, "Why don't we film me getting milk out of the fridge, dad, or changing the TV channel?"  His point was that our children who were growing up then (Generation Y) would live and breathe this stuff, and as a result, use it in ways we couldn't even imagine (think Twitter).

I had my own first confirmation of this when my daughter was seven and after returning from vacation, we tried to finish off a disposable underwater camera I had taken snorkeling with us.  She quickly grabbed the camera after the shot and turned it around, expecting to see the digital image on the back--she had never seen a camera in her young life without one.

Now that my children at 9 and 13, I can see giant changes approaching in the way that they live digitally.  They prefer texting over phoning.  They don't use email, opting for Facebook messaging or even Instagram instead.  They will never know what a bedroom or playroom TV is (having lived with an iPad for every other room in the house).  And as I watch them around the living room, it is clear they will likely only very rarely experience a film, TV show or sporting event without a second screen.  While we are currently astounded by the stats in the industry (80%+ using second screens, 30%+ engaging in content related to the 1st screen, etc), these stats are going to continue to grow as the generation Y and generation M (Millennial) grow up and get their own smart phones and tablets.

If you think this is still just anecdotal evidence, look at the two graphs I found on the population age demographic curve and its impact recently for growth in online banking.

Your question shouldn't be "Will this happen with enough scale to matter?"  Your question should be "How do I leverage this changing consumer behavior to affect my business, improve my consumer engagement, or better monetize my part of the value chain?"

Enjoy your summer.


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