Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

What you don’t know about the ‘second screen’ and ‘utility’ behaviors of mobile users

Much has been made of the concept that mobile devices are a “second screen” companion to watching television. But those working in mobile also caution there’s more to understand than that.

Mobile devices are a “second screen” at work as well. The desktop computer is equivalent to the TV — it’s supposed to be the main focus, but people simultaneously use their phones for complementary services or diversions.

Outside a workplace, when people are on their free time, the mobile device increasingly becomes a primary screen. Certainly this is true on-the-go when people are away from other devices. But even at home, the smartphone is increasingly a primary screen for many users, with the TV on in the background as a second screen, according to the internal data shared at the summit. The phone may actually command more attention than the TV program, or certainly the commercials.

When people are on their free time, the mobile device increasingly becomes a primary screen.

Another common misconception is that people mainly use their smartphones for utility, to save time and accomplish tasks. They certainly do sometimes, but people also use their phones to waste time with entertainment or games, BuzzFeed’s Dao Nguyen explained.

The better way to think about it, we heard, is that people use their phones to take control of their time and to spend it how they want. Whether busy or bored, the smartphone helps a user restore control over how their time is spent.

This understanding presents opportunities for publishers on either end of a spectrum — helping people save time or improve their lives through useful news and services, or helping people pass time through entertainment and indulging their passions.

Whether busy or bored, the smartphone helps a user restore control over how their time is spent.

Need to Know newsletter

The smart way to start your day

Each morning we scour the web for fresh useful insights in our Need to Know newsletter. Sign up below.

The American Press Institute

Our mission

We help transform news organizations for an audience-centered future.

Our programs for publishers focus on four things:

  • 1. Understand your audience
  • 2. Get your audience to pay
  • 3. Transform your culture
  • 4. Do your best journalism
  • Find out more about API »

API solutions for publishers

What we can do for you

API offers a suite of original tools and services for solving the biggest challenges in news:

  • Decide what beats to cover and how
  • Identify and develop the skills you need
  • Assess and improve your culture
  • Drive more reader revenue
  • Drive loyalty through accountability journalism
  • Make analytics work for you
  • Contact us to find out how »