Explaining Southern California's economy

Will online media ever converge?

Engagement patterns by device

Matthew DeBord/KPCC

Media engagement patterns vary greatly depending on what device — PC, smartphone/cellphone, or tablet — the user is employing.

I attended a conference about a week ago put on by students and alumni from USC's Marshall School of Business. It's called "E2: Evolution of Entertainment Conference," and it's designed to bring business, entertainment, technology, and media together. Makes sense, as all four are important to the Southern California economy — and to USC students.

The conference is now in its fourth year, drawing seasoned media, entertainment, and business professionals to USC to provide their insight.

On one of the panels, Joe Perez, who just left an executive role at Demand Media, made an interesting comment. He said that he'd just come across some research that indicated PC, cell phone, and tablet users engage in unique daily online and/or wireless patterns. I've created a simple, some might say crude, drawing (right) that summarizes these patterns:

•The top one is PC activity. Engagement peaks twice a day.

•The middle is cell phones, smartphones, etc. Engagement peaks in numerous spikes throughout the day.

•The bottom is tablets. Engagement takes off at the end of the day, after not doing much for the working hours.

Now, you can look at these simple charts and say, "Sure, that makes sense." Most people who study Internet/Web behavior know that there are two main periods of activity during the day. Likewise, anyone who observes smartphone behavior knows that people are frequently fiddling with their iPhones during the day. And if you own a tablet, chances are you use it as a media-consumption device in the evening.

Now, imagine you're tying to make content available across all these devices. You can't use one, converged engagement strategy — you have to use three. There is no covergence. Rather, there's divergence, with each device supporting its own traits and trends. 

This is a nightmare! What you ultimately need is a content optimizer of some sort — an app or utility or online service that can adjust your content so that it can fit into each device when it's being used. I don't know if this is already being pursued. But somebody should look into it!

This is why these conferences are extremely useful. Because they bring information like this forward and provide it to an audience that has a better-than-average chance of acting on it it to have an entrepreneurial impact.

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