Marketing and Research Consulting for a Brave New World
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We all see the articles that seem to support Steve Jobs’ contention that we are in the post-PC era.  We read about computer sales being overtaken by sales of mobile devices.  We hear how the smartphone is the most important device in our lives.  We know about the value of Apple stock. It all seems like validation.digita stranger

However, advertisers and media companies care about how to reach consumers in relevant ways and guess what…the computer (desktops and laptops) is still alpha dog among digital screens.

First, there are the impressions numbers.  Computers still are the primary device for accessing the internet both in terms of reach and minutes.  The latest report from comScore shows that computers account for over half of internet minutes with smartphones in second place, accounting for about 30% of time.

But now from AOL, we see research that proves that even among three screen owners, the computer-based digital content experience is generally PREFERRED to the experience on other screens.   I was the consultant on this study, working with my on-going research partner InsightsNow, Inc.

So how did we determine that the computer is the screen that still offers the most satisfying digital experience?  Knowing that many users will access the same site from multiple screens, and believing that publishers seek to maximize intent to revisit their site regularly on ANY AND ALL screens, we viewed this as a coalitional game where the screens were viewed as players in the game. We used something called Shapley values from game theory where you estimate these values by creating an experiment that tests all combinations of screens for viewing chosen content and calculating the lift that a particular screen gives in intent to revisit. While there are other important elements to the design, this is the central idea.

Greg Stucky, Chief Research Officer at InsightsNow said, “Given all the articles on the importance of mobile in the trade press, and all the excitement about mobile in social networks and at industry conferences, we didn’t expect such a clear and conclusive win for computers.”

My own take is that this research ties out nicely to what relative CPMs are suggesting since, in general, computer display advertising commands considerably higher pricing than smartphone advertising.

Now, just because computers are GENERALLY the most important screen, that doesn’t mean publishers only have to worry about the computer-based content experience. The intent to revisit was 50% higher when content was viewed on all three screens vs. on only one screen. Also, the relative value of each screen did vary by type of content and also by demographic.  For example, as you might imagine, younger users more highly valued smartphones vs. older users.

Marketers and publishers should quantify such findings for their own situations using solid evidence and not rely on general industry beliefs which often turn out to be mythology. Regardless of the relative value of each screen for a given marketer or publisher, it certainly doesn’t seem that the computer will be joining the museum of obsolete devices anytime soon.

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