Scroll Stoppers: Part 6 - Swiss Army Apps

It’s multi-purpose platforms meets multi-channel strategies

The final part of Scroll Stoppers is here today - but fear not, we will continue to bring attention-related media snippets to you, even though this original research project is done. This week we’re sharing Part 6 of Scroll Stoppers: six ways hybrid work is changing our attention. Let us know what you’ve thought about our findings so far - we’d love to hear from you, especially if you recognise these behaviours in yourself! As a reminder, you can go back to check out parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Here’s why we decided to release our research through a newsletter.

During our research, we found that using a platform that was originally intended for one thing to do something else altogether is becoming more common. For example, Gen Z is increasingly using TikTok as a search engine whilst some people are leaving YouTube running through their TV as they get about their day. It’s like radio via YouTube via their TV.

So read on. Swiss Army Apps should take about 10 minutes to read. If you want to go deep, there’s a useful reading list at the end, as well as some quotes and a quick takeaway section. If you just want the highlights there’s a handy downloadable summary here.

Traditionally we turn to different channels, media, or apps for different purposes—it’s why so many different platforms exist, and why our home screens and desktops are cluttered with many tiny colourful icons. However, as we become wary of content overload and mindful of getting sucked into our screens, we’re seeing new behaviours from audiences.

Instead of switching between multiple apps, channels, and screens to consume content and carry out day-to-day tasks, our research shows we’re repurposing existing platforms to better serve our needs.

We’re taking meetings from our phones, using work-based platforms to socialise, and seeking news and recommendations from social media. “I think I get most of my information from TikTok, if I'm being honest,” one interviewee explains. “Book recommendations, film recommendations, just like any recommendations for home appliances—anything that I want, I go to TikTok.”

These behaviours range from individual repurposing of channels (like searching TikTok for the best coffee machine) to macro trends that directly impact a platform’s strategy. As another interviewee says, “I literally only would go on LinkedIn when I was looking for a job before. Now, I go on it to find out more about future developments in the kind of social media slash metaverse area. It's been quite a good space to kind of just read different opinion pieces and to find articles to kind of locate articles whereas I wouldn't know where to start before.”

In response to these changing behaviours, we’re seeing platforms offer new ways for people to engage with their content, largely by taking cues from other formats. Social platforms like YouTube and TikTok are entering the space previously owned by TV and radio—producing content in episodes, segments, or series. Meanwhile traditionally audio-only media like radio and podcasts are producing visual accompaniments to their content, usually for the purpose of social media. 

It’s multi-purpose platforms meets multi-channel strategies. And throw in our newly formed habit of multimedia-tasking, and it seems content is becoming more of a full sensory experience for all of us. But what does this mean for the future? Perhaps audiences will soon be able to get all the stimulation and functionality they need from one single space.

Reading List

More for your thoughts? Build your Swiss Army App ammunition:

On TikTok and podcasts: “With social, video, music, and now potentially podcasts, TikTok is becoming the Swiss Army knife of entertainment. By appealing to independent voices and creating an all-in-one, format-blurring intersection of content, TikTok is slowly centralising the creator process and user experience in a way that sets it up to compete with major streaming platforms.” With a rumoured podcast feature, will TikTok become the Swiss Army knife of entertainment? (5 min. read).

And how TikTok ate the internet: “TikTok, however, seems bent on taking on a wider range of digital life. It’s tested features for interactive minigames and job résumés. It started selling concert tickets. It built a live-streaming business used for meal-cooking showcases, lottery scratch-offs, tarot readings and apartment tours. And it tested a shopping feature that would let viewers buy products from QVC-style live streams in a few quick taps.” How TikTok swept the internet - Washington Post (17 min. read).

On YouTube’s expansion into AVOD: “YouTube is the only place where viewers can find everything they want, and we’re always looking for new ways to provide viewers a central destination to more easily find, watch, and share the content that matters most to them. We are currently running a small experiment that allows viewers to watch free ad-supported linear channels alongside the wide variety of content we offer on the platform.” YouTube confirms a test of a new hub for free, ad-supported streaming channels | TechCrunch (2 min. read).

On how social media platforms advance in Google territory: ‘TikTok “is becoming a one-stop shop for content in a way that it wasn’t in its earlier days,” said Lee Rainie, who directs internet and technology research at the Pew Research Center.’ For Gen Z, TikTok Is the New Search Engine - The New York Times (6 min. read).

And Google wants it back: “The internet is more visual and more interactive than ever. So how does the world’s biggest search engine change to fit the times? By redefining the whole idea.” Google is trying to become a more visual, more exploratory search engine - The Verge (9 min. read).

On socially engaged viewership and watch parties: “There is only one way a viewer can experience an SVOD service: lean-back and watch. This must change if SVOD services want to maintain viewer engagement. This means shifting SVOD services away from the inflexible rails of the lean-back consumption experience and incorporating interactive behaviours more commonly found on social video and gaming platforms.” The streaming wars will be won with technology, not content (5 min. read).

While indoor entertainment is gamified, cinema-going becomes eventized: "Streaming is the way of the future, but it won't kill theatrical. In fact, I think moviegoing will become more eventized, where it's like going to the theme park or a concert, as opposed to your regular viewing experience." Hollywood 2032: The far-out future of entertainment (17 min. read).

On the perils of entertainment and how we may be already living in the Metaverse dystopian world: “‘Are you not entertained?’ Maximus, the hero of Gladiator, yells to the Roman throngs who treat his pain as their show. We might see something of ourselves in both the captive warrior and the crowd. We might feel his righteous fury. We might recognize their fun. We have never been more entertained. That is our luxury—and our burden.’ We’re Already Living in the Metaverse - The Atlantic (long read).

And a Metaverse explainer: “Mentally replace the phrase ‘the metaverse’ in a sentence with ‘cyberspace.’ Ninety percent of the time, the meaning won't substantially change.” What Is the Metaverse, Exactly? | WIRED (14 min. read).

On generative AI and the far-reaching ways it impacts creative work: “AI can’t handle concepts: collapsing moments in time, memory, thoughts, emotions – all of that is a real human skill” When AI can make art – what does it mean for creativity? | Artificial intelligence (AI) | The Guardian (10 min. read).

And how it could change the media industry: “Every single major content provider in the world thought they needed a metaverse strategy: they all need a generative media strategy.” Generative AI: how will the new era of machine learning affect you? | Financial Times (12 min. read).

On generative AI, having everything, everywhere, all at once and the app for it: ‘In an interview with Slashfilm, Daniel Scheinert, one of the film’s directors, put it this way: “We wanted the maximalism of the movie to connect with what it’s like to scroll through an infinite amount of stuff.” Everything Everywhere All At Once: The Explosion in Generative AI (long read).

What they said

On TikTok being used as a recommendation engine:

I consume a lot of TikTok. I think I get most of my information from TikTok, if I'm being honest. Book recommendations, film recommendations, just like any recommendations at home, appliances, anything that I want, I go to TikTok.

I’ve certainly used my phone to answer emails when I’m in a park or at a train station, as this interviewee has:

I’ve noticed how much more flexible my colleagues are, they have really taken advantage of the opportunity and they are working on their smartphones a lot, and I presume that means that they can work from different places, from the park, some listen in while they walk and take advantage of the mobility of the phone, and still deliver their work.

Sometimes music isn’t quite music, just a background noise:

There is this one artist that has this one album and just 5 songs. I use this to focus, I don’t even particularly like the music, but it keeps me focused and sets the mood. 


I’ve actually made a working playlist on Spotify. And it tends to be instrumental.  If it is a podcast, I find they are quite calming because I can dip in and out of them, but with music I struggle to get into work mode.  I’ve got a playlist dedicated to work mode. 

Many of us did this during the pandemic: using Zoom calls to catch up with friends during lockdown. This behaviour has carried over into now:

I was gonna say I'm now using Zoom and Google Meet socially. So if me and friends can't align, like yeah let's actually book a Google Meet call or something like that, and it's something that happens regularly. I have a quarterly catch up with one of my friends and it's a Zoom call, which we would never have thought of before, but we had to get deliberate about seeing each other or engaging. You just end up sort of building these habits.

On Twitter acting as LinkedIn:

I find that I use Twitter a lot more and that's purely work based because that's where I get all of my jobs from. People message me to offer me opportunities, and it is very surprising. 

And YouTube acting as the radio, sort of:

When I’m at home, I use my TV to play YouTube videos while I go about my day.

According to the Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022 report by Pew Research Center, YouTube is used by 95% of teens, TikTok by 67%, followed by Instagram and Snapchat, which are both used by about 60%. 

According to Ofcom’s News Consumption in the UK: 2022, for UK teens Instagram, TikTok and YouTube are now the top three most used sources for news. 

According to Pew Research Center’s Social Media and News Fact Sheet, half of U.S. adults get news at least sometimes from social media.

In 2023 more than 50% of US social network users will shop via social platforms, as per Insider Intelligence Trends, Forecasts & Statistics.

83% of Gen Z say that some or all of their shopping originates with social media.

According to a research conducted by Decision Lab titled Yes, the Internet is redefining Gen Z’s TV habits, 71% of Gen Z reported that they either ‘frequently’ or ‘always’ do something else while watching TV. 

97% of Gen Z say social media is their top method for researching shopping options.


With the avalanche of media choices available for us today and product teams forced to work only on specific features at a time (hello Musk and Twitter), it’s no wonder people are moulding specific platforms to be most useful for them.

  • Think of how your content can be left open-ended a bit, to encourage people to use them as they see fit.

  • Walk with your users: if a platform is being used by your target audience in a way that is interesting and relevant for your brand, use it the way they are so they can relate to you better.

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