Research Briefing: Will TikTok replace X as the top second screen during the Super Bowl?

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In this week’s Digiday+ Research Briefing, we examine whether TikTok will replace X as the dominant second screen during the Super Bowl, how deprecation of the third-party cookie is publishers’ top concern this year, and how publishers maintained full-time staff and published titles despite a drop-off in traffic last year, as seen in recent data from Digiday+ Research.

39% of marketers invest a lot in creating original content for TikTok

TikTok is vying to dominate the second-screen narrative that X (formerly Twitter) has historically ruled during the Super Bowl. TikTok’s recent pitch deck makes the social media app’s intentions clear. It’s packed with headline-grabbing sports statistics and it emphasizes the future of online sports content: short, bite-sized clips. The pitch deck also urges marketers to view advertising during the game as a means to drive sales, which inevitably entails investing more in ad formats.

More brands are spending a lot on creating original content for TikTok, according to Digiday+ Research surveys. In Q2 2023, 39% of brand and retailer pros told Digiday that they invest a lot in creating original content for TikTok, up from less than a quarter of respondents (23%) who said the same in Q2 2022.

While X has been marketers’ go-to social media platform to participate in real-time conversations and amplify marketing messages during live events like the Super Bowl, X has been facing new problems around brand safety. Late last year, X opted out of independent auditing, meaning marketers had to just trust X was brand safe if the platform considered itself so. However, more than a third of marketers (35%) said that brand safety concerns are the biggest challenge they face on X, according to Digiday+ Research’s CMO Strategies series.

Even though X has been plagued by recent controversies and brand safety concerns, the platform is expected to remain the king of second screen viewing for this year’s Super Bowl, according to agency executives with whom Digiday spoke. That’s not to say that X will be at the center of Super Bowl campaigns, but TikTok and other social platforms are not expected to take its place just yet.

Insights and stats:

  • “It just feels like sports, and particularly the NFL, are one of the few remaining verticals where X has actually been able to defend against places like Threads and Instagram and even TikTok. It really does feel like the football conversation, specifically lives there.” —  Liz Cole, chief social officer at VML
  • TikTok faces its own brand safety challenges because of the platform’s unpredictable viral moments, which could happen around a bad review. Thirty-five percent of marketers said that brand safety concerns are the biggest challenge they face on TikTok.
  • Marketing spend on TikTok is still relatively low. The largest percentage of brand respondents, 46%, told Digiday that they leaned toward allocating no marketing budget to TikTok and 24% spend a small or very small portion of their budget there.

Read more about marketers’ challenges on social platforms

Digiday+ Research digest

Publishers’ biggest concern this year is the deprecation of the third-party cookie. Nearly a third of publisher professionals (31%) said in late Q4 2023 that third-party cookie deprecation is the biggest challenge the industry will face in 2024, according to Digiday+ Research surveys of more than 120 publisher professionals. That’s a huge jump from the 6% who picked third-party cookie deprecation as the biggest challenge for 2023. While publishers are finally confronting the reality that cookies are going away, they’re also still worried about the economy.

The stats:

  • Twenty-nine percent of publisher pros said economic trends will be the industry’s biggest challenge in 2024, making it the No. 2 concern after the death of the cookie.
  • Fifty-six percent of publisher pros said they agreed that economic trends will hurt their companies’ performances in 2024, down only very slightly from 59% who said the same last year.
  • Seventy-three percent of publishers said they agreed that economic trends hurt their companies’ performances in 2023, up from 61% who said the same in 2022.

Read more about publishers’ third-party cookie concerns

Publishers saw a significant drop-off in traffic last year, but many maintained their full-time staff and published titles nevertheless. This is according to Digiday+ Research surveys of more than 300 publisher professionals. More than half of publisher pros (51%) said in late Q4 2023 that their traffic decreased in 2023, compared with just under a third (31%) who said their traffic increased in 2023. That’s a reversal from the year before, when 36% said their traffic decreased in 2022 and 46% said their traffic increased.

The stats:

  • Despite traffic decreases, the largest percentage of publishers maintained the size of their full-time staff. Forty percent of publisher pros said in Q4 2023 that the size of their companies’ full-time staff had neither increased nor decreased since the start of 2023.
  • That 40% marked a significant increase from 2022 when 30% of publisher pros said that the size of their full-time staff stayed the same — already an increase from the 23% who said the same in 2021.
  • The number of titles publishers put out also stayed the same. Nearly two-thirds of publisher pros (64%) told Digiday in Q4 2023 that the number of titles their companies published neither increased nor decreased throughout the year.

Read more about publishers’ 2023 traffic, staffing and titles

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