I have read the eHomeUpgrade article about how young people are surfing the Web while they are watching TV. There are various factors that I have observed that are encouraging this kind of activity and are based a lot on observation and experience.
Younger people being more likely to be tech-savvy
Ever since the 1980s, information technology has become a key part of one’s education in most school curriculums. Initially this started off with “computer studies” or something similarly-named being a secondary-school subject, but has moved towards computer use being integrated in to regular school studies over the last twenty years.
Similarly, most younger people have been known to adopt to newer technologies more easily than people of older age groups. This typically has been noticed by the “kids” being the ones who can work consumer-electronics devices beyond the basic requirements like setting the clock on a video recorder, or being “nimble-fingered” with the mobile phone’s keypad to send text messages.
The current home-computing environments that promote this activity
One is the proliferation of laptops, notebooks, netbooks and similar portable computers available new or secondhand at prices that most could afford as well as smartphones that have integrated Web-browsing capability being available under subsidised-handset contract. All these devices are equipped with an integrated Wi-Fi wireless-network adaptor which allows for use-anywhere functionality.
They would typically be used in a Wi-Fi-based home networks which has coverage that extends to areas where a television set would be located like the lounge room. Another situation that also commonly exists would be the colocation of a TV set and a a computer in a teenager’s own bedroom or the lounge areas that teenagers or other young people primarily use like “games rooms”, “rumpus rooms” or simply the secondary lobby in a two-storey house.
These setups would encourage the use of an Internet-connected computer while watching TV shows, which I have seen a lot of at home with a teenager who was often had a laptop going while watching TV.
TV shows running Websites
As well, most TV studios are operating programme-specific Websites that are seen as a way of extending the programme’s value. This typically includes the providing of extra video material, Web downloads, forums and the like and is often used as a way to make the show appeal to the younger generation.
It is also supplemented by information pages like Internet Movie Database and epguides.com as well as fan-created “unofficial” Websites for the various TV shows and show genres. They will have such information like episode guides with season, episode an “first-screen” information as well as biographies for the characters in the show, cast and crew details.
In some cases, this is also tied in with Web-based “catch-up TV” where you can see recently-screened episodes as well as supplementary video material.
The Social Web
This leads me to the Social Web being the primary reason for surfing the Web while watching TV. Here, viewers use the show’s Web forums, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace to chat with like-minded friends and fans, and in the case of the social networks, use “official front ends” like Facebook Pages and Twitter hashtags to participate with the show. Some TV shows like, panel shows or reality-TV shows may link these feeds in to the show’s fabric by having the compere read out selected content from the Social Web or have a ticker at the bottom of the screen showing similar information. An example of this is when ABC-TV Australia was running “Q and A” on Monday nights, they had a Twitter hashtag called #qanda and all of the Tweets with this hashtag appeared as a ticker on the bottom of the screen.
Recently there have been some social-network sites centred around TV shows where one can “check in” and chat with like-minded viewers about favourite shows.
The various social networks have been made easier to use with smartphones and similar devices either through a client app written for the popular smartphone and “Web-tablet” platforms or a handheld-optimised “mobile view” of the social network’s Web view.
The combination of technologically-astute young people, ubiquitous portable computers, the home network and the Internet, TV-show Websites and the Social Web all reinforce the fact that TV isn’t for lounging in front of anymore.