Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Simplifying TV+Web Multitasking By Using Bookmarks

TV+Web multitasking is a growing user phenomenon, but media companies are still afraid of it. Bookmarking can be adapted to make this simpler and less intimidating all around -- and this becomes even more powerful when using DVRs.

The idea of providing links to facilitate interaction that relates to a video program has been around for years, but the concern remains that it is too much for viewers to follow links while viewing video -- that they will be overwhelmed and miss too much. (This applies whether the links go to the Web, which may be on a second screen, or they are links to special TV-based interactive content, which may be on the TV screen.)

I suggest some new paradigms will enable flexible multitasking in the age of DVRs and VOD.

  • Task overload from video can be minimized by letting users link-and-pause, pausing the video while they pursue a tangential link, then resuming the video -- this is described in another post.
  • Task overload from links can by minimized by using bookmarks. Bookmarks can provide a complementary facility that lets people defer the links and then follow them later.
  • The combination of link-and-pause plus bookmarks allows for a flexible multitasking flow in which the viewer can decide when to pause the video while following a links, and when to defer the links while continuing the video.

These bookmarks are much like standard Web browser bookmarks (or "favorites"), but it is helpful to organize them as they relate to the video -- such as by program, and by time into a program. That way the viewer can go back and find links corresponding to a particular program segment (such as details on a sports play or on a news story, or relating to the program in general).

Links can also be organized by advertiser -- for those cases where we are interested in a product, but don't want to break the flow of our TV viewing. This works even when we skip an ad with our DVR but still notice that it was there. That helps makes advertising win-win, since advertisers would love to increase their exposure and close the loop -- and consumers would find it makes advertising more useful and relevant.

That also provides a way to counter the biggest negative effect of DVRs -- that ad-skipping is eroding the advertising revenues of the TV networks. Bookmarked ads can counter that trend and increase the effectiveness of TV ads, by providing new forms of engagement, making the ads more directly responsive, and getting them to work even when skipped by many viewers. Instead of resisting the use of DVRs, I suggest that TV networks accept the fact that they are coming quickly, whether they like it not -- and that if they try it, they will like it.

This kind of flexible multitasking is an aspect of what I call coactive TV, and is described in a brief article, along with a scenario of how a typical multitasking flow might play out.

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