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October 23, 2012

Tectonic Shifts are Shaping the Multi-Platform Digital World

Even the world’s greatest explorers once thought the earth was flat.

It was perhaps a simple and comforting way to look at the world that somehow made it seem more navigable. But ancient scholars like Pythagoras and Aristotle used data from the physical world around them to generate insights that would reveal the world was actually round – and more complex than originally thought.

The digital media world, too, was once a lot simpler. Previously consisting of the relative simplicity of the computer-based web, the emergence of new platforms such as smartphones and tablets – in addition to the evolution of TV from analog to digital – has made the media world today much more fragmented, multi-faceted and complex.  And this is no longer a theoretical problem; it is one we can observe through the lens of data, just like the Greeks before us. Recent comScore data illustrate just how rapidly the platforms shifts are occurring, with mobile platform consumption accelerating to account for an increasing share of page view activity as the formerly PC-centric view appears smaller and smaller in our rear view mirror.

This trend is not only visually alarming, but it perhaps even understates the case by not accounting for smartphone app usage. Analysis of the top ten web properties online showed that their total smartphone web and app engagement now represents 35% of their total time spent on their properties between the desktop and smartphone platforms. So the transition is not merely underway – it is already here.              

These changing platform dynamics are like tectonic shifts that are continually shaping and affecting the evolving formation of the digital world. While many will behold these shifts with fear of the destruction the inevitable earthquakes will create, they would also be wise to consider that without earthquakes the highest mountains would never have been created.

We must think of this new multi-platform world as one ofcreative destruction; but importantly, it is one in which far more is created than is destroyed and which should enable us to reach new heights. In fact, we are now embarking upon what may be the greatest opportunity for value creation the media industry has ever experienced.

Where does this new value come from? For the most part it derives from either (1) recognizing that utilizing multiple channels in conjunction with one another can deliver marketing efficiencies or synergies, or (2) the fact that more platforms drive incremental media consumption that enhance the ability to reach consumers and monetize content.

To address the first issue, last week comScore introduced vCE Multi-Platform, a revolutionary campaign analytics solution that provides holistic validation of ad delivery across TV, web and mobile platforms. This solution helps quantify the total combined advertising reach across platforms and incremental reach of each medium for a given campaign using person-based metrics such as demographics, reach/frequency and GRPs. By understanding these metrics in a combined and unduplicated view of digital consumer behavior, marketers can be more efficient in building reach among particular target segments versus increasing their ad frequency to improve advertising effectiveness.

Improved efficiency and effectiveness are an important part of the equation, but so too is the incremental opportunity afforded by multi-platform dynamics. comScore has spent the past year pursuing several new areas of multi-platform research and analysis that have unlocked new insights into this value driver, how it manifests and how gains for our clients can be realized.

Facebook Multi-Platform Audience Analysis Reveals Significant Incremental Engagement
Perhaps one of the more visible platform shifts being discussed in the digital marketplace today is that of Facebook. By far the #1 web property in the U.S. in terms of engagement on both desktop computers (13% of time spent in the most recent 3 months, according to comScore Media Metrix) and smartphones (16% of time spent, according to comScore Mobile Metrix –18% if you include recent acquisition, Instagram), many have wondered how the popular social network will navigate the shift towards increased usage of mobile media.

To better understand Facebook’s holistic engagement among users, we conducted research to estimate the total average engagement per visitor coming from both web and mobile platforms. The analysis showed that the average U.S. Facebook visitor, (age 18+, accessing across any platform) spent an average of more than 10 hours per month in aggregate across the two channels – nearly 60% higher than engagement on desktops alone.

Incremental visitors and engagement are becoming such important parts of the equation, and yet the standard view of the market today does not adequately account for that. But comScore is on the case as we develop new multi-platform measurement capabilities to address the need for unduplicated multi-platform audience and engagement estimates.

For 2012 Olympics, More Screens = More Overall Viewing
Earlier this year we undertook a ground-breaking effort with NBC to measure the multi-platform viewing behavior of the 2012 London Olympics. Measuring the TV, computer, smartphone and tablet consumption of Olympics enthusiasts, we found something very interesting:more screens = more viewing.

Now, as we saw in the previous example, one might expect that that the availability of additional screens might deliver an increase in total viewing as opposed to it being a zero sum game. That’s precisely what we observed. But what was really interesting is that the more different screens viewers incorporated into their multi-platform Olympic viewing experience, the more time they spent viewing on their primary channels. For example, those who watched the Olympics on four platforms – TV, PC, Smartphone and Tablet – spent by far the most time per day overall viewing the Olympics at 8 hr 29, but they also spent about 50% more time watching on TV than TV-only Olympics viewers (6 hr 07 vs. 4 hr 19).

 

These findings suggest that platform shifts need not cannibalize from other platforms, and that they can in fact supplement and enhance the value of the primary platform. Platform extension means not just incremental viewing opportunities, but also the possibility of platform complementarities that fuel even higher engagement.

What Does the Multi-Platform Future Hold?
With research insights like these, along with some truly break-through products to help marketers and media companies derive value from their multi-platform strategies, comScore has never been more excited about the future of digital media.

The tectonic platform shifts are inevitable, and they may provide moments of discomfort and uncertainty along the way. But they fundamentally represent an enormous opportunity for marketers to drive sales and for media companies to monetize their content.

Which companies will decide to brave the elements and be first to summit the mountain?

Tags: Mobile, Smartphone, Tablets