There’s an interesting article in today’s New York Times, Serving Up Television Without the TV Set that talks about the change in television viewing habits of consumers as a significant migration away from TV sets and on to computers.

The article cites a recent Nielsen Media Research study that found one in four Internet users had streamed full-length television episodes online in the last three months, including 39 percent of people ages 18-34, and more surprisingly, 23 percent of those 35-54.

It’s fascinating to me that the New York Times failed to mention another significant movement in the TV viewing habits of consumers known as ‘Double Dippers’ — or viewers who enjoy surfing the Internet while watching television.

According to Solutions Research Group, 37% of the U.S. population over the age of 12 use their computers while watching television at home now surf the Internet while watching TV and 34 percent of viewers between the ages of 12-34 are text messaging at the same time. Fully 62 percent of double dippers surf the Web while watching television for content that is not related to what they’re watching. And, 25 percent of the double-dippers go online for information specific to the programming they are currently viewing.

The double dipper segment represents a significant opportunity for marketers. This multi-tasking audience requires a layered approach to communications where messages start in one medium and seamlessly continue into another. Here, marketers need to pay close attention to message context (does it work in the chosen channel or are you retro-fitting it from TV to the Internet because it’s efficient?) and storytelling. By this I mean, how can you effectively close one door during a television commercial break and open another online while continuing to tell the same story?

Look no further than MTV to see how this mulit-platform approach to communications is being structured. Viewers of Total Request Live (TRL) can use the brand’s Web site to go behind the scenes of TRL during commercial breaks. Here, they see what’s happening with a featured guest, commentary, or upcoming song. If you’re a marketer, it’s worth observing and taking copious notes to better understand how to speak to a new generation of consumers who think more horizontally than vertically and use multiple inputs to make all sorts of decisions.

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