Devices Work Better As a Team: Tablets and Content Consumption

A recent study conducted by BBC World News and released some interesting findings on how people like to consume their content, specifically, news-related items. Among some of the most interesting statistics:

  • Young professionals, the 25-34 year old demographic are the biggest news enthusiasts.
  • Second screening for news is becoming commonplace, with users often using devices in tandem. 83% of tablet users say they have used their tablets while watching television.
  • TV still dominates overall usage, taking 42% of people’s news consumption time compared with laptops (29%), smartphones (18%) and tablets (10%).
  • News audiences expect to see advertising nearly as much on mobile (79% tablet, 84% smartphone) as they do on TV (87%) and online (84%).
  • People respond to advertising across all the screens, with 1 in 7 users indicating they responded to a mobile ad in the last four weeks whilst responses to TV and desktop are 1 in 5 and 1 in 4 respectively.

The BBC study looked at over 3600 owners of various digital devices in nine different countries, including France, the US, Germany, Australia, Poland, and India. The Internet was found to be most people’s second choice for news consumption (66%), in order to “investigate stories further”. Laptops were the second highest device used when looking up breaking news; 24% said that these devices are the first things they turn to. Smartphones came in at 18% and tablets at 7%.

image courtesy Mobile Entertainment

All participants reported that they owned at least three different devices; TVs, tablets, smartphones, and laptops. 43% watch more TV than they did five years ago, and most reported that they use their tablets along with their TVS.

Television news "dominates overall usage", the release adds, with the majority of time spent accessing the news (42 per cent) said to be via television. This is followed by 29 per cent on laptops, 18 per cent on smartphones and 10 per cent on tablets. “The survey found that, rather than competing, different platforms complement one another allowing people to layer their device usage throughout the day," the release adds.

How many tablets are out there?

This rise of tablet use coincides nicely with another study released in the fall by the research firm IDC, which reported that worldwide shipments of computers, tablets, and smartphones grew 29.1 percent in 2012 to 1.2 billion units, with a total value of $576.9 billion. This incredible growth was driven in part by a whopping 78.4 percent growth in tablet shipments alone.

The BBC study reported that people with tablets actually end up watching more TV news, not less, with 43% of these tablet users reporting that they watch even more television than they did just five years ago. Most responded that they use their tablets right along with their television watching; after all, how many of us sit down to watch our favorite programs with our tablets or smartphones in hand to look up information about actors on screen, do a little shopping, or interact on our favorite social networks? These devices are all working together in tandem:

Jim Egan, CEO of BBC Global News said: “Avid news consumers are hungry for information wherever they are and expect to stay in touch on all the devices they now own. There’s been speculation for years that mainstream uptake of smartphones, laptops and tablets will have a negative impact on television viewing, but this study has found that the four devices actually work well together, resulting in greater overall consumption rather than having a cannibalizing effect.” – BBC News

Shopping and content consumption

The study also stated that smartphones and laptops are popular throughout the working day (traditionally, the hours between 8 and 6), with peak use happening around 1 PM. TV usage starts picking up around the 5 o’clock hour, right when the evening news starts to come on, and the highest TV usage time seems to happen around 7 PM.

This tandem use of tablets and smartphones and TVs and laptops is a boon for online retailers. Mobile sites optimized for a great shopping experience – for example, – have seen their sales skyrocket specifically because of this tandem usage. Tablets are especially great for this kind of content consumption, since people tend to use tablets in a casual environment, like sitting on the couch. These bigger screens make shopping easy and fun, and it’s something that users can do while they’re actively watching TV as well. A few mobile shopping stats from the New York Times that bear this out:

  • Mobile shoppers spend an average of $329 per order when they are on tablets, $250 on phones
  • Shopping on tablets far surpassed phones last year, with $13.9 billion spent from tablets, and $9.9 billion from phones
  • By 2016, shopping done from mobile devices is predicted to account for $87 billion, or a quarter of all e-commerce

 Smart developers will take advantage of the shift towards more mobile computing as well as the continued increase in PC computing use, building apps that leverage the consumption mode when it’s needed, as well as the creation mode when it’s required. The PC continues to be the best experience for productivity-focused activities, but tablets and tablet hybrids are definitely closing the gap, especially ones like the Surface that come equipped with a productivity-focused OS and detachable keyboard for work, with easy switching to tablet mode for pure play. It’s not an either/or scenario, as we’ve seen in the referenced study. Most households and work situations these days do encourage input from several different devices; it all depends on the task at hand. We’re seeing the natural evolution of how we as a society use computers in our daily lives – ever more mobile, ever more productive, and especially ever more flexible.

Let’s hear from you – do you use a mobile device while watching your favorite programs or some other relaxing activity? How do you find yourself using multiple devices? Please share in the comments.


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