Media Perspective: How to catch the attention of the two screen generation

I went to an unusually good event the other week - 2screen, organised by Mint Digital. It was a series of talks about the emerging practice of designing for second screens.

It worked well because every speaker was an actual practitioner - they weren't just saying what they reckoned.

It also produced an unusually large amount of decent blog posts - Google "2screen" and "attention shapes" and you'll find some great reading.

The highlight for me was Matt Locke of Channel 4. He presented thoughts on "attention shapes" - which seem like a great way of thinking about communications. Here are three of his shapes:

1. Live Shapes. The thing TV is still best at. Live events, everyone gathered round the telly, lots of people all watching at the same time. The X Factor, obviously, but also Lambing Live. TV knows how to do this well, but now it also needs to learn how to play nicely with the audience, do more than just let them watch. Big TV events will generate millions of interactions - those will need careful management if people are to find signal in the noise and if your servers aren't going to melt. And, as Matt pointed out, telly people need to learn to make slightly less complete stories - to leave some holes for the audience to fill in.

2. Cult Shapes. An attention pattern that really came of age with the DVD box-set (and the BitTorrent package) - that devoted, bingeing behaviour of watching huge quantities of a favourite series on your own, at home, perhaps with chocolates, booze or a loved one. It's a vital source of programme-maker revenue but it's largely divorced from the broadcast experience and, significantly for us, it's not somewhere that brands have been able to play. There's a lot of attention devoted to this shape - it's a place where deep media relationships are forged. Some brands should definitely be thinking about how to participate here.

3. Asynchronous Shapes. Matt used a nice analogy for this pattern, reminding us of the cult video game Katamari Damacy - where you roll around collecting tiny pieces of everyday stuff until you've created a ball big enough to collect the whole world (you really have to see it to get it). This is the attention shape of Facebook games such as Farmville: tiny, individual bits of attention that build up into something really significant over time. This is how we're used to making advertising work - drips that build into streams - but we're still working on how to make that participative rather than interruptive.

There's something meaty in the idea of Attention Shapes. It integrates the audience data we get and the story-shapes we design in a really nice way. Worth thinking about. And well done to Mint for organising it.

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