three monitors with currency signs

The Death of “Three Screens”: Content Has No Limits

Gee RanasinhaMarketing

Not so long ago, many marketers used to talk about the notion of “three screen” communication. Essentially, the concept was recognizing and adapting marketing collateral to follow the “Three Screens” of Computer, Television and Mobile.

The thought processes were along the lines that, even though convergence continues to move forward, each “screen” has a unique and specific role in media consumption. More than that, the Three Screens needed to work together to help create a cohesive experience – customers have certain “consistency of message” expectations that needed to be met.

Back In The Day When Screens Were Screens

Let me give you an example. Supposing you wanted to watch a TV show, but you couldn’t get in front of a television at the time it was due to be broadcast. What you used to do was set the video recorder and record the show, watching it at a time that was more convenient for you.

Today, TV shows continue to be scheduled on a set day and time. However, now they can be viewed in a variety of places. Not just on the internet via YouTube or on the TV station’s own “catch-up” website. But via your SlingBox, or on your cellphone or tablet. More and more content is simultaneously broadcast over the web – from sports to Royal weddings.

The Three Screen rule became ubiquitous. Even Microsoft got into the act, publishing a report on how Three Screen thinking (using MS-powered tech, naturally) can help create a higher brand awareness and increase conversation rates.

How Relevant Is 3-Screen Thinking Today?

However, I’m not sure how relevant Three Screen Thinking is any more. Not so much because we’re now living in a world with more than three screens. But because we don’t count screens in the same way as we used to.

Your customers are now connected to you – and each other – via an increasing array of media channels and devices. A TV, for example, used be a box in the corner of a room that relayed content from a finite and regulated list of providers – i.e. TV stations. Today’s TVs have USB ports, integrated DVRs and wireless internet – they’re not TVs in the same sense of the word. The same can be said for cellphones, computers – and even coffee makers.

So why, as marketers, do we continue to separate the experience that we get from one screen compared to another? Do our customers make such a delineation? A screen is a screen is a screen.

What’s the difference between listening to a podcast and listening to the radio? Or reading my copy of The Economist as printed material that arrives in my letterbox two days after I’ve downloaded it on my iPhone, read it on my laptop, or listened to it on my iPod? Even the blog that you’re reading right now can be read from the KEXINO website, sent to your email inbox, viewed in your RSS reader – or even downloaded to your Amazon Kindle device or application.

Which Screen Is the Main Screen? All Of Them

The tools for seamlessly integrating content across “screens” are still new, and we’re all still working out how best to use them in ways that will attract, engage and maintain audiences. But technologies such as HTML5 are bound to continue to blur the lines of what constitutes a particular format, for a particular device.

And that’s exactly how it should be.

Content is content. The delivery mechanism for that content is, by and large, immaterial. The only screen that REALLY matters to me is whichever one that I happen to be looking at right now.