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Mobile Web speeds up TV's second-screen adoption

There is little doubt that brands and publishers are constantly looking to connect with mobile users through television. Although applications have traditionally been used to bridge both channels, marketers need to also eye second-screen mobile Web sites to reach a wide group of users.

Recent initiatives from Nissan and Showtime Sports point to marketers using mobile Web for stronger second-screen interaction. According to some experts, developing experiences for the mobile Web specifically could help marketers sync their multichannel efforts more than apps, leading to faster consumer adoption.

?Mobile Web allows a faster user response to initial calls-to-action,? said Matt Garrity, director of business development at Canvas, New York.

?Whether it's from a mobile ad, email link or an on-air promo, today's smartphone users appreciate avoiding that download period,? he said. ?A smooth and quick intro to a second-screen experience will only positively impact user adoption.?

Mobile interaction
One of the primary challenges with second-screen TV experiences is asking consumers to not only download an app, but also use it conjunction with what they are currently watching on-air.

Brands have traditionally used a variety of apps including Shazam, Viggle and GetGlue to tie TV advertising and content together with mobile users. In addition to requiring consumers to fork over prime real estate on their devices, consumers might also be confused by the number of options available.

Although there are still challenges, asking consumers to type a URL into their mobile browsers takes one step out of the process, which could help boost interaction.

Additionally, a mobile site allows any mobile phone or tablet owner to interact with content, regardless of the device that they are using.

For instance, Nissan recently rolled out a second-screen mobile site for the launch of the second season of GT Academy TV series.

Using a mobile site, consumers can vote on polls, watch video clips and interact with content from the show in real-time (see story).

With consumers often watching television while interacting with multiple mediums, TV networks are using a slew of mobile tools to connect with viewers. Although many TV networks offer mobile sites, very few use them to create a dialogue with viewers.

Additionally, with technologies such as HTML5, mobile Web experiences are increasingly resembling apps with richer content.

?The TV networks should be looking to design customized second-screen experiences in addition to utilizing the mass market products,? Mr. Garrity said.

For example, Showtime Sports recently worked with Canvas to revamp the company?s mobile site with a responsive design approach. Via the mobile site, consumers can view information about upcoming matches, watch videos and browse through photo galleries (see story).

Slower adoption
Mobile and TV have gone together for quite some time.

However, there are significant challenges in connecting what a consumer watches on TV to a relevant, tailored mobile screen.

Social media plays a key role in how consumers share what they are watching on-air with friends and family, often through mobile devices.

?For the most part, mobile is what consumers are doing during commercial breaks,? said Dave Martin, senior vice president of media at Ignited, El Segundo, CA.

?In some cases they are engaging more deeply with the content on their big screen by doing things like looking up information on actors, writers and back stories,? he said. ?But what we?re seeing more often than that is consumers picking up their phone or tablet to check in on Facebook instead of sitting through commercials.  We?ve seen some clever ways to make TV more social, but none of them have really hit a tipping point yet.?

Regardless of whether a mobile call-to-action on TV promotes an app or a mobile site, context is key, per Mr. Martin. For instance, a spot promoting an app might be more effective for a news organization for consumers to receive news alerts. On the other hand, a call-to-action for a mobile site might be better geared for an audience that wants to quickly flip through cast information.

Added value
Marketers also need to be looking at the type of device that consumers are accessing content on while watching TV.

According to recent research from Google, 77 percent of the time consumers spend watching TV is with another device. Specifically, 49 percent of consumers use their smartphone while watching TV (see story).

Given smartphones users? tendency to use their devices for more action-driven, quick bits of information, a mobile site instead of an app might make more sense for a brand to use, according to Matthew Cava, strategy director of mobile solutions at Vibes Media, Chicago.

Since mobile is often a second or third screen for consumers watching TV, the second-screen experience must give users an upfront, clear value.

?As a second-screen companion with a TV show or movie, a mobile site is a better experience,? Mr. Cava said.

?When you see something and quickly want to interact, but don't want to take time away from the TV screen, a mobile site is the perfect tool ? quick and easy,? he said.

?The expectation is to provide a specific landing page to discover specific content. When you think about an app, you're expecting a deeper engagement that you will spend some time with."

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York