The 2012 Election Was a Turning Point for the Second Screen and News Broadcasting

BY Tris Hussey

Published 16 Nov 2012

The election is over, but some of the effects of the election will be felt for years and years to come. And I don’t mean the results of the election, either. I mean how we followed the results election night. During election 2012, most people who followed the election did so on TV, but almost a third did so online at the same time—the second screen. Now, what does that mean from now on?

More and more shows (Walking Dead and Copper come to mind) and movies (Avengers) have incorporated the “second screen” experience into viewing entertainment. This goes beyond just watching TV or a movie and looking up someone on IMDb or checking a fact or trivia about the show, these new second screen apps tie in with scenes (often with audio sync, which I think is freakin’ magic) and offer details and commentary that make watching the show better.

During the election results last week, while there weren’t audio synced apps (kinda impossible I think) with results, lots of us watched TV with devices so we could check different parts of the whole story. My friends and I were tracking the various gay marriage and marijuana referenda around the country. Having four iPhones and an iPad mini at the table let us jump from source to source to see what the results were looking like.

I would go from watching CNN on TV to checking details about races on the CNN iPad app, then switching to a couple of the other apps I had locked and loaded for my election watching pleasure. Heck, I even took pictures of my screen and the TV and posted them to Instagram.

And according to Pew Research, my friends and I weren’t alone:

Television remains the leading source for news and information about the presidential campaign, but voters are increasinglyturning to the internet for election coverage. Television plays an even more dominant role in election-night coverage: Virtually all voters who followed election returns watched on television. Even among the roughly third of voters who tracked election returns on the internet, most followed on TV as well.

(via Section 4: News Sources, Election Night and Views of Press Coverage | Pew Research Center for the People and the Press)

Sure, we were the minority this year, but next go round in 2016? Yeah I’m betting more than half of people will be watching the election results with a second (or third) screen. Oh and this isn’t about social media and the election, because “online” doesn’t equal “social media”. Online is just…online, using the Internet:

Bear in mind that while lots of folks will assume that “online” equals “Facebook and Twitter,” it really just means “online” — ask Nate Silver and the New York Times. Only 8 percent of voters said they followed the returns on social networks. But Obama voters (11 percent) were much more likely to do so than Romney voters (4 percent).

(via Nearly a Third of Voters Watched Election Night on TV and Internet – Peter Kafka – Media – AllThingsD)

As the title suggests, I think the 2012 election is a turning point for second screens. I emphasize “a” because the second screen phenomenon isn’t new this year or this election. However, I think major news outlets are wise to the fact that we’re not going be content with just watching the news on TV, we also want more information about the stories on our tablets and smartphones at the same time. Maybe they will figure out a way to sent out a special tone or code on the screen that we can use to sync our tablets in with what’s on screen. Really, think about how many times you’ve been watching a story on the news that you were interested in and just wanted more about it, but the segment is over and the website hasn’t been updated (or doesn’t delve further into the story than the segment did). What if the savvy news program figured this out and primed their site with a lot more information. What if we could just get that information automatically while watching the segment automatcially.

That’s where the second screen and news is going to go. Maybe not soon, but I think by the middle of 2013 we’ll see the first experiments. CNN has a powerful engine with Zite, they could certainly make an app connecting the connect of CNN with the matching algorithms of Zite to offer hundreds of related articles in a few moments. Imagine this…

“Key in Bengahzi on the CNN Second Screen App powered by Zite for all the background on this story…” and see articles, maps, photos, commentary, blog posts…all right there for you to dive into.

Possible? Oh yeah. Going to happen? Count on it. When? Soon.

Like I said, the election was a turning point…putting us into the fast lane of the second screen for news reporting and broadcasting.