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Twitter vs Shazam: Who Will be First to Bridge the Second Screen Chasm?

10/05/2013 14:51 BST | Updated 08/07/2013 10:12 BST

When will second screen technology be accepted by the masses? A niche audience have had their hands on it for some time and brands, marketers and content producers are urging it to kick on from its initial stumbles and leap over Moore's chasm, from early adoption to mass consumption. And, perhaps, two mainstays of social media can make it happen: Twitter and Shazam.

But first we have to ask: why hasn't second screen made the jump into the mainstream? The technology is there and sitting in the hands of millions and millions of people. So, if hardware isn't the issue, what is? Is it the content? According to a report by The NPD Group, the majority of viewers aren't using games and over immersive second screen content and instead want further information about the TV shows they're watching.

Perhaps that's why it's now turning into a straight race between Twitter and Shazam. Both offer the kind of experience second screen users are currently looking for, but will one gain superiority over the other? Will it be a classic tech battle, akin to Apple vs Samsung, Nintendo vs Sega, VHS vs Betamax, Optimus Prime vs Megatron? Probably not. But here's what each of them have going for them anyway.

Twitter

Twitter has made it pretty clear that it wants to be the world's number one second screen destination. The company acquired social TV analytics company Bluefin Labs in February and last year announced a partnership with Nielsen to create a new metric - the Nielsen Twitter TV ratings - to measure TV audiences' social activity.

It's already acted as a go-to place in the second screen sphere, most notably during the 2012 Olympics (more than 150 million tweets sent) and the US presidential debate (over 10 million tweets sent), proving audiences are willing to engage on the platform during live events. And brands are more than ready to encourage people to engage with them on live TV shows. During the Super Bowl 50% of the ads included Twitter hashtags - the company's natural rivals hardly got a look in with only 8% mentioning Facebook and none mentioning Google+.

Twitter's hashtags - and their importance to brands, marketing and broadcasting - has given the company the power to gather an audience and harness online conversations. And that power, according to Nielsen, translates into ratings boosts - for users aged 18 to 34, an 8.5% increase in Twitter volume equates to a 1% increase in TV ratings for premiere episodes of a TV show. A 4.2% increase in Tweet volume translates to a 1% increase in ratings for mid-season episodes.

Twitter's openness is also a major draw for second screen audiences. It's not a closed social channel, so anyone - providing they have a Twitter account - can join in the conversation.

Shazam

Shazam's ascendancy from song identification app to serious second screen contender might have come as a surprise to some, but let's consider the numbers for a second. According to its website, Shazam "connects more than 300 million people" and every week "another two million curious people embrace" the company. All of this has helped Shazam remain one of the top-ten most downloaded apps of all time on iTunes.

The company has already launched a second screen service in the US, which gives users access to tweets, episode descriptions, cast and crew information, playable clips of songs on the soundtrack, and links to buy downloads of those songs, plus TV episodes and other merchandise.

Shazam is also building a strong team to support its second screen efforts. Daniel Danker - who was responsible for delivering strategy for BBC iPlayer, Radio and Music, and Red Button products - has been drafted in as chief product officer; Brent Hoberman, co-founder of Lastminute.com, has joined the company's board; former Yahoo executive Rich Riley has stepped in as the new CEO.

But assembling the tech world's version of the Avengers ... okay, the West Coast Avengers ... alright, Alpha Flight ... may be one thing, but is it enough to break a brand so synonymous with music out of the well crafted pigeon-hole it's made for itself?

The Winner is...

Both Twitter and Shazam have the capability to push second screen usage into the mainstream. Both have huge, established audiences onside and utilise simple functionality that lacks cognitive overhead - all necessary factors for any company looking to conquer second screen in the short-term.

In fact, the two are so close, it's almost impossible to separate them. And perhaps that's what the second screen needs to move forward - healthy competition between two big rivals, rather than one dominant force or a fractured market of small competitors. So the real winner is the second screen. And you. And, eventually, the brands that will be able to advertise on this fledgling platform.