Digital Digest

Live TV Audience Numbers from Tablet & Smartphone – Coming Soon?

Nielsen, the U.S. TV ratings company, announced that they will add Tablet and Smartphone live TV viewing numbers into their mix in September 2014. Their competitor comScore, has been offering cross-platform video ad consumption analytics since 2013, but they do not offer the same live TV ratings for which the Nielsen Company is known.

The information that is gathered by these ratings companies gauges the number of people who are watching television programmes and the characteristics of those audiences, which is then used by both advertisers and television programmers. A breakdown of smartphone and tablet usage for live viewing would add another layer of data to be used in decisions around ad buying and programming.

Regular broadcast live viewing on smartphones and tablets could become the norm as more networks and cable companies make it available through their apps. In Canada, Bell, Rogers, Telus, and Shaw offer many channels for live streaming on their apps, whilst GlobalTV offers live streaming to cable TV subscribers on both its website and apps.

Canadian TV and radio ratings company BBM does not break down their ratings into tablet and smartphone at this point. All live and “7 days back” viewing that is done on TV, desktop Web, smartphone, and tablet is compiled into one ratings number. According to Jody Gabourie at BBM, they will be implementing many more audio codes for the networks to use (they currently each have one) on their live and VOD streams, so it should be possible to break out smartphone and tablet viewing. BBM will be running a three-month test of the new codes in the spring of 2014 and, if the numbers are statistically viable, smartphone and tablet ratings will become a reality in Canada.

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MythBuster: Is There a Usage Gap Between iOS & Android?

Sure, we have seen Android overtake iOS for market share but, according to Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, the true gap between the operating systems exists with respect to usage; consequently, who wins that battle?

Last month, Safari for iOS captured more than 54% of mobile Web traffic, while Android's browser made up only 23% worldwide. iOS users are slightly younger than Android users, according to comScore. suggests that, culturally, these younger users tend to be glued to their phones and tablets throughout the day more so than older mobile device users and contribute to more Web traffic overall.

iOS users watch twice as much mobile video than Android users. reports that, “Two-thirds of online activity on Android phones is conducted over a cellular connection, while more than half of all time spent online on iPhones happens over WiFi. Unsurprisingly then, Android users regularly consume more data than their iOS-using peers. With this in mind, it makes particular sense that Android users would watch less high-bandwidth video than iOS device owners.”

iPhone users are 10% more likely to use social media daily, 7% more likely to access news content, and 15% more likely to visit online shopping sites. According to comScore, this is likely due to the notion that iPhone owners are power users. Compared to Android users, they are more likely to engage across a wider variety of major content categories.

Therefore, the winner is... iOS. Even with fewer devices on the market, they tend to be used more than their Android counterparts. According to the September 2013 Monthly Devices Report by CBC Research, iOS captured 10% more traffic than Android to the CBC touch site. These important usage factors need to be taken into consideration by CBC/Radio-Canada with the development of new digital products.

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It's a Phone…It's a Tablet…No, It's a Phablet!

Neither a phone nor a tablet, phablets are mobile devices with screens that are five-to-seven inches in size and have normal phone calling functions, eliminating the need for both a phone and a tablet. Recently, there has been an increase in appetite for these large screen sizes with “global shipments of so-called phablets [doubling] to 60.4 million this year” according to

With Samsung leading the charge, mobile manufacturers are eager to get a share of the phablet pie. Microsoft is now promoting new phablet-friendly Windows Phone software, and Apple is said to be jumping on the bandwagon with two phablet models rumoured for 2014.

Consequently, what does this mean for the mobile market as a whole? Well, not much...yet. According to Flurry Analytics, of the top 200 mobile device models, phablets only account for 2%. However, phablet sales are expected to rise rapidly over the next few years, so changes to the makeup of the mobile market are anticipated.

As consumers access content through a wider variety of screen sizes, CBC/Radio-Canada will have to adapt to changes in the mobile space and ensure that its users' experience is optimised across all popular devices.

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Google's Not the Only Glass in Town

With a mass-market version of Google Glass on the horizon, the way in which we interact with the outside world will never be the same again. From taking pictures with voice commands to tuning instruments, the features of this wearable technology seem limitless.

Gartner expects the market for wearable smart electronics to be a $10-billion industry by 2016. With that in mind, heavyweights such as Samsung and Microsoft have allegedly filed for patents, suggesting their own versions of the glass product are on the way. However, how do these competitors stack up to Google?

According to The Wall Street Journal, “Samsung's glasses places more of an emphasis on “the ‘sporty' aspect” of wearables. The patent shows that the glasses could come with built-in earphones, which would allow you to listen to music and answer calls while you're wearing it. It also links with your smartphone to display phone alerts. It looks like there's also a camera, but there's no word about support for apps, like Google Glass.”

In Microsoft's case, it is too early to tell. The Wall Street Journal reports, “prototypes exist, and are actively being tested, but beyond that specifics are sparse. There's no telling when this could come out (if at all), the kind of features it would have, or what the price point would be, all of which are pretty crucial details.”

Whilst signs that connected glasses are about to hit the market in a big way, CBC/Radio-Canada and other media companies need to consider where they fit in this emerging digital space.

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Agile User Research: Fast, Focussed, and Flexible!

As companies start to adopt Agile development methods, user research practices are also evolving to align with the faster pace of development.

User research is an important part of the product development process as it informs design decisions and validates recommended solutions. It is about understanding user needs, behaviours, motivations, and pain points.

The changing landscape of user research calls for faster methods, which can fit shorter timelines. Tried and tested research methods that were once considered long and laborious can now be adjusted for the agile world by narrowing the research objectives, providing informal deliverables, and keeping the documentation brief.

For example, traditional usability tests can take up to six weeks, whereas an agile user research method such as Guerilla Testing can be completed in a matter of hours. Guerilla Testing requires going into the field and getting quick usability feedback from real people. Five-to-ten-minute conversations with three to four people are sufficient to keep the development process moving along without losing sight of the user. The key is to have a narrow research objective by focussing on one aspect of the design. The beauty of this method is that it can be used to test almost anything, from concept sketches to fully functioning prototypes, making it easy to incorporate it in any part of the development process.

As CBC/Radio-Canada moves towards an agile development process, the User Interface Design team will continue to explore and implement fast, low-cost research methods to inform design decisions.

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How to Best Engage the Digital Audience: Value-added Content or Content Discovery & Control?

Traditionally, digital has served as a complementary side dish to keep the audience engaged. For example, cast interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and community discussions have been core to the digital experience. However, the digital landscape is changing. As more consumers turn to digital services to meet their needs, the digital media space is becoming increasingly crowded and complex, which is giving rise to a new approach.

Two distinct competitive approaches to digital services are emerging: the traditional value-add approach and the emerging discovery approach.

The value-add approach is intended to extend the engagement beyond the core programme to retain the audience's attention until the next instalment of core content becomes available. The challenge is that significant time, money, and talent are required to produce the complementary content that may only appeal to superfans, which tend to represent a small portion of the total audience. This raises the question of whether the return from this approach is worth the investment.

“There are now many reports of companion apps generating audience engagement rates of less than 1%. For a TV industry based on reach, sub-1% audience participation will not translate into continued investment in companion content.” – Rogers Venture Partners, 2013

In contrast, rather than creating more content, the discovery approach focuses on providing value to the larger audience by helping them find existing content that is relevant to them, and by enhancing the delivery of core content by giving the user more control over the experience. The integration of social services like Facebook further supports the discovery process by integrating friend recommendations. According to Tom Vanderbilt of, “Netflix estimates that “75% of viewer activity is driven by recommendations”.

The consistent flow of relevant content creates an engagement loop that retains the audience's attention, while the enhanced controls can become a key differentiator in an increasingly competitive media landscape. The challenge with this approach is the infrastructure investment required to provide personalised services and facilitate the delivery of the experience across multiple devices. An added challenge is that the collection of personal information required to establish the user profiles at the heart of the discovery approach is contributing to privacy concerns.

CBC/Radio-Canada is currently invested in the value-added approach. For example, the Corporation has developed numerous second screen experiences, interactive show pages and microsites, blogs, live chats, and games to complement core content. As CBC/Radio-Canada's digital footprint continues to expand, the long-term sustainability of this approach may be challenged. Further investigation may be required to determine the appropriate balance between these two approaches.

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Responsive Design & SEO: The Debate Continues

Does responsive Web design hurt mobile SEO? The question has been a popular and confusing topic since responsive Web design became the hot new thing in the digital world. Now Google's SEO guru, Matt Cutts, has waded into the debate saying the multi-screen design approach is not detrimental to search rankings.

However, some SEO pundits are speaking out in response to Cutts' comments. “[He] not only muddles what is already a confusing issue to webmasters but potentially encourages them to create content that is bad for search engine users,” says Bryson Meunier, a digital marketer and SEO blogger.

Responsive Web design is an approach that serves the exact same HTML to smartphones, tablets, and desktops, and uses only CSS to change how the site looks.

Meunier and other SEO experts argue that, among other problems, resizing a desktop site to a mobile screen can be detrimental to load time, which can negatively affect a search ranking. However, they are also annoyed that Cutts and Google appear to be lauding a design approach that might not be the right solution for all mobile websites.

Experts say that, in some cases, mobile websites are used differently and require separate design and implementation considerations than desktop sites. If a site is not optimised for the mobile experience, users will become frustrated and there is a greater likelihood they will leave the site quickly, thus hurting your SEO.

The effect of responsive design on SEO remains muddled. However, even if there is more clarity in the future, the bottom line for CBC/Radio-Canada is that any mobile design approach must ultimately suit the needs of the user or SEO becomes a moot point.

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From HAL 9000 to Siri: Evolution of Voice Recognition Systems

Voice enabled human-machine communication has long captivated our imagination. Speech recognition systems like Apple's Siri and Google's Voice Search have demystified the conversations that were once reserved for the realm of science fiction.

A Voice User Interface (VUI) is how users interact with a speech-enabled system using their voice. They are evolving from simple command-based communication to agent-style voice interactions. Typically, command-based speech recognition systems are restrictive, since they process auditory information using a small set of commands. For example, the automated speech recognition software solutions that companies use to provide customer support over the phone use a very controlled vocabulary. Sequential flow of interactions creates a linear experience, making it difficult for users to backtrack as they navigate through the system.

Agent-style voice interfaces like Siri, on the other hand, are more comprehensive and are capable of processing natural language. They are changing the way users discover and interact with content by transferring navigation and search from clicks to conversations. This puts the onus on the device (the agent) to understand the way people naturally speak, process that information intelligently, and provide useful and contextually relevant responses. Although they are still in their infancy, these agent-style voice interfaces will soon become a core part of the automotive and TV experiences.

“Imagine being able to ask your TV for ‘next episode of Breaking Bad' or ‘What's a funny TV show like 30 Rock?' or ask your car to start the playlist Mike shared with me yesterday.” – Mike Sparandara, Punchcut Perspective

Google recently announced that they will be releasing a music playback feature for Google Glass. According to Elliot Van Buskirk, an early reviewer of Google's unreleased music player, “its main function is as a voice-search front-end” to your music on Google Play. Using voice interactions, users will be able to search for songs, scan playlists, and launch music content.

As CBC/Radio-Canada explores the opportunities presented by emerging platforms like connected cars and Google Glass, it is important to keep in mind the role voice user interfaces will play in content discovery and consumption.

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