The Case For Co-browsing, Or How ESPN.com Got More Mobile Than PC Visitors

During CES, a story came out saying that ESPN.com’s NFL content got more visits from mobile devices than from PCs during one particular 24-hour time period. ESPN.com is a huge site, so this is an interesting tidbit of news — both the stat itself, but also the explanation from an ESPN exec who said they believe it’s from people surfing for scores, stats and fantasy-league data while they watched NFL games on TV.

Eeenteresting.

I know I’ve whipped out the laptop to look stuff up brought up by some TV show or movie I’m watching, and I’ve often used ESPN’s mobile site to keep an eye on scores and stats while watching college football games either on TV or in person — which makes the idea of mobile “co-browsing”, or surfing a mobile site alongside another activity, compelling.

A lot of mobile services and sites (and PC web sites, for that matter), exist in something of a vacuum — they demand, or at least believe they have, a user’s undivided attention. For instance, try reading a newspaper’s mobile site while walking down a city street. Not a great idea, is it?

But what about developing mobile sites and services to go alongside another activity, whether it’s watching a TV program, or something else? On the TV front, ESPN and another broadcaster, ABC, launched something called Enhanced TV several years ago, which offered special web content designed to be viewed as user watched a particular program. It seems to have disappeared, probably because it came a few years too early — back in 2000, the number of people able to surf the web at watch TV at the same time was pretty low.

The mobile offers a good platform for this, though, since it’s not dependent on the user having a laptop and WiFi, or a desktop PC in the living room (of course, it’s dependent on them having a data plan and using a browser, but let’s ignore that for the moment). There are myriad opportunities to build content for co-browsing that can go along with and enhance some separate activity. Sports are one clear area, such as with the ESPN example, or people in a stadium following other scores. This is something they’ve always done, either by watching the scoreboard, or listening to the radio — it’s just a question of upgrading and enhancing that experience.

There are some other examples I can think of: having tours via mobile web of museums (like the voice tours at an LA art museum I wrote about earlier), perhaps some sort of shopping guide. I’m sure you can think of some more.

Many online services look to offer users an insular, virtual experience that takes them out of the real, physical world to some degree. But it’s important to consider how to offer content that accompanies or enhances what users are doing in the real world as well.

ā€”ā€“>Follow us on Twitter too: @russellbuckley and @caaarlo