Social Studies

Multiple Screens Are Not Always Bad For Attention

If you watch TV, do you use your smartphone or tablet at the same time? And, if so, do you look up things you see on TV and chat and tweet about the show you’re watching? Or do you do something unrelated like browsing Facebook?

Research from Dr. Claire Segijn in Journal of Advertising and Human Communication Research shows that people around the world, and of all ages, use multiple screens at the same time every day. Of nearly 2,400 people observed for seven full days, 60 percent of them multiscreened at least once, and young people do it for longer periods of time. It is easy to assume that multiscreening has detrimental consequences for advertisers and users, but Dr. Segijn has found that it is not always a bad thing.

For example, “related” multiscreening on TV viewers’ phones or tablets—when viewers discuss or seek more information about the program they’re watching on another device—has a positive effect on their attention to the TV program, creates more viewer involvement, and boosts viewers’ memory and positive attitudes about the programs and brands that they see represented. To advertisers, this is a great indication to encourage related multiscreening. Memory of advertisements can be impaired while multiscreening, but if viewers pay sufficient attention to the screen when an ad appears—either on TV or on a phone or tablet—they can remember it as well as someone who is single-screening.

For advertisers interested in attracting the attention of multi-screeners, there are three key implications from Dr. Segijn’s research: create ads that are creative and surprising, keep it short, and integrate both video and audio to help viewers process information even when their eyes are not on the screen. For users, this research shows that multiscreening isn’t always a bad thing, and it points the way to more active engagement that lets you get more out of the programs you watch.

Dr. Segijn’s future research will compare multiscreening habits in a number of different countries and cultures.

Photo Credit: jpmatth, Flickr CC