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23 January 2019

Second Screen with News Programs? Not a Good Idea

Using a second screen when watching TV is becoming increasingly popular and TV news programs are also jumping on the bandwagon. They offer additional content hoping to enhance the viewing experience and, ultimately, to forge stronger bonds with their audience. But does it work? A study in Computers in Human Behavior suggests that for informative programs, offering second screen applications may not be a good idea.

Take aways

  • Viewers who use a second screen while watching TV news get less information from the news and like the program less.  
  • Simplifying the presentation format on the second screen does not solve these problems, because people are just not good at multitasking 
  • News producers should reconsider offering second screen applications, as it does not meet any of their goals

Study information

  • Who?

    121 university students (mean age: 22, 83% female)

  • Where?

    The Netherlands

  • How?

    In an experiment, all participants watched a TV news program. One group used a second screen to look up supplementary information, another group used a second screen that presented the information (no looking up required), and a third group only watched the program. Afterwards the researchers tested the participants’ memory and liking of the program.

Facts and findings

  • Participants who used the second screen remembered and recognized around 40% less news facts from the program than those who did not use a second screen. 
  • Participants who used the second screen also liked the program less than the ‘single screeners’. 
  • A simpler version of the second screen (presenting the information so that the user did not have to do any clicking, navigating, etc.) made hardly any difference: memory and liking were still lower than when only the program was watched. 
  • The explanation for these undesired effects was that using a second screen led to a high ‘cognitive load’: the effort of our brain to process information from two screens at once is so big that it makes understanding, adequately storing information and liking the program extremely difficult.