How Email Could Enable Publishers to Build Twitter-Style TV Companion Audiences

Twitter’s strategy for 2013 focused mainly on positioning the company as the go-to companion to TV in advance of its IPO. While few would question that a lot of valuable TV chatter takes place on the social platform, many have questioned Twitter’s audience penetration (see PeerReach data below) and how active its users actually are. And even if they are active, do they see or miss most of the tweets from the people they follow?

Twitter Penetration By Country

Another criticism of Twitter is one that’s levelled at most companies in the second screen space: that there’s no guarantee users are going to be using a specific app or service, as they’re equally likely to be using other websites, apps or checking their email.

Finding these users, who are spread across the Internet, is a major challenge. Automated content recognition (ACR) is often touted as one possible solution, and Chromecast’s mobile-centric approach to content selection could provide help if it gains enough traction. However, these solutions tend to focus on serving ads to users on apps on websites — what about the last group, the ’email checkers’?

Thus far email users have for the most part been overlooked when it comes to the second screen. But, if used correctly, email could enable publishers to create new advertising products by building out Twitter-style audience segments around specific TV shows. Email lists are sticky, more reliable than cookie lists, and are a great way to pull in audiences at scale in a short-period of time.

One example of a company who might be able to pull this off is The Guardian. When you read an article on The Guardian, you see a ‘Follow XYZ by Email’ button, which is still in beta. Usually, it gives you the opportunity to follow a specific author’s articles, but recently it started to give users the option to follow receive emails about Guardian coverage of specific TV shows, such as X Factor and Homeland. Here’s an example:

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 13.18.58

On the face of it, it’s a chance for The Guardian to notify users about X Factor content on the site. However, if those lists grow large enough, The Guardian could also use those lists as a form of second screen advertising, either by serving ads into the emails they push out to users, or (more likely) by driving traffic to The Guardian’s X-Factor content.

That audience could then be packaged as an X-Factor audience and sold to X-Factor’s TV advertisers either as a second screen companion campaign or as incremental reach, and all delivered in a premium content environment that surpasses what you’d typically find on any of the social networks.

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