Stumbling Into the Wearable Media Era

The near future of media is wearable, at least if you watched any of the news coming out of CES. But in the short term, the market will continue experiencing an awkward phase befitting a medium that is not ready for prime time.

Consider the intrusionary nature of Google “Glassholes“, or the many awkward apps developed for bulky and somewhat unfashionable smart watches. The world is stumbling into the wearable media era.

Does that mean content creators should ignore the medium for now? Maybe, but they will also risk losing marketshare to early adopters. What to do about wearables was a primary conversation point for a DC Ad Club presentation (see below) I gave at the Newseum this morning.

There are some clear indicators about what will work with wearable media. But first, let’s talk about the square peg in a round hole syndrome.

Just because you can create an app or put a sensor into something wearable or portable doesn’t make it a hit. Further, what works on another medium, specifically smartphones and tablets doesn’t make for a wearable hit.

Glass showed us that [obvious] wearable cameras are an intrusion. People know they are always under the watch of a surveillance camera. Yet, having a wearable camera thrust upon them created animosity. The video/photography experiment failed here.

Recently, I have been testing a Samsung Gear S watch. I don’t want to watch video on my smartwatch, nor do I want to look at photos, email or social networks. I do like having an independent phone for texting and voice calls on the go. The simple functionality allows me to escape the always on nature of my smartphones.

Then there is the “stick-a-sensor” into anything you wear or use. Many of these sensor-driven apps and their incessant social rankings seem like a waste of time. Consider this: I may not want a sensor in my nail clipper. Nor do I want my nail clipping habits ranked against my peers (yuck – more for you than me!).

Early Indicators

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The first obvious area of success for wearable media is the use of audio media. Consider audio interfacing with programs like Siri or Google Talk, listening to podcasts in varying forms, or simply enjoying music. Audio is the linchpin of wearable media.

Why? Typing and reading on these devices is almost unbearable. And as we have seen with cars and even walking, over engaging portable media can be dangerous.

Podcasts may be the silver bullet of all. Podcasting is enjoying a bit of renaissance thanks to smartphones, tech enabled autos, and other mobile devices. Twenty percent of Americans already listen to at least one podcast a month.

It’s likely that podcasts will reinvent themselves a la YouTube. The standard “I am/we are talking about something important” format is just one way that audio files can be created. A food company could offer simple audible recipes, or someone could post directions on how to tie a windsor knot.

The other key feature for wearable media is usefulness. This is where the contextual media aspect of sensors comes into play.

Check out the top apps for Samsung Gears right now. They include a babysitter app which lets you helicopter back into your house and see your child. One app lets you tally expenses as you shop. And of course there are pedometer uses for training.

Almost all of these apps are low attention types of utilities that help someone on the go maintain their lives. You cannot underestimate how important is for an app to be nonintrusive and yet useful for wearable media devices.

What do you think about wearable tech hype?

The Vanity of New Metrics

Digital metrics increasingly define us, creating a new way to value each other and ourselves. Big data, sensors and algorithms will fuel a new wave of vanity metrics that will further refine self-identity.

We got an early taste of this new digital vanity with Klout, Empire Avenue, PeerIndex and other influence metrics. But things are going to get worse (or better, depending on your perspective).

Consider the movement toward the Internet of Things and this week’s mega-acquisition of Nest. We are literally just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to personal data. We’ll be able to see how many times a day we open the fridge, and for how long. What are our peak grazing periods, and which products do we reach for the most?

That kind of data creates statistics, lots of them.

Suddenly, every aspect of our lives will become a sabermetric, giving us the chance to optimize our lifestyle. You can see this already with leaderboards and badges for social giving, fitness apps, and more.

Performance will become a mantra for some more competitive and vain people.

It’s not hard to envision endless chatter at the coffee shop, the water cooler and the bar about how life is better thanks to xxx [data-drive] app. Even more amazing, will be the discussions about how xx is in the 95th percentile of powersavers in the neighborhood.

Impact

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Now look, some people will take this more seriously than others, but we all know what a good portion of top performers do…

They put stickers on their car, “My Child is an Honor Roll Student.” Or badges on their blog. Or ribbons on their social network profile. Or include it in their bios. Whatever the statistic may be, we will hear endlessly about it from the more competitive and vain types.

Let’s be clear. The need to measure one’s performance — and in the most shallow and vain examples one’s self worth — existed well before Internet life. Consider school grades, attendance reports, boy and girl scout badges, colored belts for martial arts, etc. But in many of these cases we rewarded achievements.

Now we will reward arcane personal statistics.

In business, this metric based reality is inescable. The bottom line on any outcome measured by data is a merciless judge who has no defining characteristic other than success or fail. The application of metrics is the ultimate judge of any business person.

Marketers who value freedom and qualitative success above metric performance are having a hard time of it in this world where data drives everything. As Avinash Kaushik said this week, no one wants to hire a reporting squirrel. And can you blame companies? We know precision exists, and now brands are demanding it.

Are You a Metric?

The real concern is that we are conditioning ourselves to value statistical vanity and shallow egotism. The attention economy demands it. The proliferation of performance-bragging will become more and more commonplace. Welcome to the new rat race for many insignificant badges.

We see today’s conversations about self esteem and image, from the Dove Real Beauty campaign to online self worth to bullying conversations. Forthcoming vanity metrics will bring many new questions:

  • How are we going to deal with self image when so many people tie it to a metric?
  • How do you grapple with social climbers who will throw you under the bus in favor of appeasing the sensor or algorithm?
  • How will impact be defined in the future? Touching and changing people’s lives or breaking records in arcane communities that relish niche statistics?
  • What will we write on our gravestones in 50 years, a top ranked blogger who achieved a 16.7% lifetime share rate, or writer?

I don’t know about you, but I have many fears about this next wave of technology. Why? Consider how we as a species embrace technologies on a sociological level. Humans tend to adpat technologies blindly on hopes of achieving promised benefits. We rarely consider societal impact.

We’re already grappling with the ugly from social, and now we will see the ugly side of data metrics. While society will reap the economic benefits of data, expect shock from individuals and communities who are dismayed by the coming wave of metric-based vanity.

What do you think?

Featured image by Jo. Boy scout badges image by torbakhopper.

Pink, Thomas the Train and Other Choices

We had a week of fun with Soleil. Her third birthday on Tuesday was a blast, and of course last night was Halloween. Soleil was Cinderella, her favorite princess.

People often remark about her love of princesses, all things pink and purple, shoes, kitties, and babies. She’s a girly-girl they say, and we agree, because she likes these things and most boys do not.

But Soleil is more than that. She likes to chase her Daddy and jump all over him while is sleeping (much to my chagrin). Soleil loves Thomas the Train, and trains in general. She also likes playing with building blocks and gears. We already discussed her crazy toddler passion for technology.

I worry about this girly-girl labeling more than I probably should. It seems that’s what we do as humans, afix labels and concepts on people, judge and put them into a box, and assume that’s going to be their life.

Roles Evolve

So you can see I fear that Soleil will become boxed into a submissive girly-girl life. Fortunately roles have evolved for women, but there are many hurdles to overcome as any good Marissa Mayer debate reveals.

I try not to interfere with Soleil’s predilections to like certain things, though I did put my foot down on My Little Pony. God, that’s mindless drivel. She does get to ride lots of ponies and horses, though.

Soleil should be exactly who she is, and that’s OK whether she becomes a powerful executive or a homemaker or anything else. The world is her oyster if she is willing to work for it, and that’s my primary message. There’s nothing wrong with an engineer who wears pink and purple. Or whatever color her evolving fashion palette determines is right.

I want to be present for her during this time. She has a fantastic life ahead of her, and there is much to see, wherever her path takes her. More than anything, I want her to have choices, the ability to discern consequence, and the education to engage intelligently in these acts of mindfulness.

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Obviously, we have the holidays coming up. Rather than spoil her with everything she wants, her gifts will be distributed. For her birthday, she got a baby doll and a kitchen set. By the way, I cook as well, so in Soleil’s mind, I’m pretty sure kitchen life is gender neutral. Nevertheless, there is the historical baggage the kitchen brings.

To compromise and give her choices beyond stereotype, her Hanukkah gift will be a Thomas the Train set. She may never use it (I doubt that), but at least she will have a choice. Daddy is happy to play with trains or wood tomatoes, alike.

Christmas is yet to be determined. The joys of growing up in multicultural house!

Presence in All Paths

Soleil had her three year check-up this week, and it appears that she will be a tall woman. The doctor thinks roughly 5’8″ or 5’9″. I wonder what she will be like, whether the princess phase is permanent and she becomes a model, or if she’ll jump on sand instead of my back and become a volleyball player, or…

There are many paths. They are for her to choose.

My/our job is to be present, and help her learn responsibility, the power of choice, good and bad, and then to empower her as much as possible to succeed.

It really is an honor to be a parent. I am so very grateful to have Soleil in my life.

What do you think?

P.S. Just a reminder that I wll be fundraising for my client the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) today. If you’d like to help me or the other dozen individuals fundraising, here are two easy actions:

1) Participate in the #NCFLBigGive Thunderclap. More than a hundred of people have already signed up to blast out a timed Tweet at noon on November 1 to launch the Big Give. If you’re interested in joining, sign up here and Thunderclap will take care of the rest: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/5673-support-the-ncflbiggive?locale=en

Please consider making a donation. Just $25 makes a big difference as we try to attain $25,000.

The Library Is Dead. Long Live the Library!

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Image by Camera Obscura 1975

The other day Caitlin told Soleil they would visit the library for story time. Their conversation unleashed a well of hope within me.

I had come to believe that libraries were dying, just like the traditional publishing business that fills their shelves. I remembered reading that libraries were dwindling, and just wrote them off. Like many other things in our world, it seemed the library could not survive the ongoing Internet revolution, and its eReaders, blog posts, and Twitter archives.

Well, the library is alive and well. In fact, the library stands as a critical part of American communities, and a fundamental aspect of a child’s formative years. According to Pew, 97% of parents believe libraries should offer programs for children, and 69% of all Americans use a library.
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9 Videos on the Digital Future

Happy April Fool’s Day! We now resume our regular programming…

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Five weeks ago at xPotomac, nine speakers and one emcee delivered speeches and conversation starters that sparked 25-30 minutes of questions and answers each. The following nine videos are listed in the order of presentation.

Special thanks to my client Vocus for providing videography services. Vocus is hosting the Demand Success 2013 conference in Washington, DC this June 20-21. The event focuses on marketing best practices for converging media, and includes speakers like Arianna Huffington, Content Marketing Institute Founder Joe Pulizzi, digital journalism expert Jay Rosen, and many more. Check it out.

Please feel free to leave comments and feedback about the conference here. We’re listening!

xPotomac Introduced: BlogPotomac Legacy and Future Vision

DC’s very own Shana Glickfield (Beekeeper Group) provides the introduction to very first xPotomac. xPotomac is where the digital media future meets businesses. This groundbreaking conference features seven media technologies most likely to impact businesses and marketers in the immediate future.

This smaller intimate conference features limited attendance to ensure maximum learning and networking. Speakers will present in a tight setting with the stage centered in the round or in a horseshoe formation. Each session features a gladiator like format with 15 minutes dedicated to speaking and 30 minutes of question and answer from the audience.

Opening Keynote: Voice Search Changes the Game

The opening keynote at xPotomac was provided by Vanessa Fox. Given how much of the current web — social and content marketing included — revolves around search, voice search represents a game changer, especially given mobile use with Siri and Google Voice Search.
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Grasping Threads of the Future

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What do people mean when they call themselves a futurist? More often than not the moniker revolves around grasping threads and predicting the near-term future.

Futurism increasingly drives conversations amongst technologists and leaders. The future fascinates us as much as the past does, a response to the technological imperative of change facing every single one of us.

Al Gore and Brian Solis popularized the term with their recent books The Future and WTF (What’s the Future) of Business, respectively, but contemporaries like Greg Verdino and others are calling themselves futurists, too.

Futurism extends into our larger culture now. The popular i09 blog looks at future concepts present, in entertainment and through science fiction. Of course, science fiction is the narrative business of imagining the future.

In business, futurists look at current trends, and predict how they impact society, business and culture. They see blends of activity pointing towards a general direction, using emerging trends as a clay to formalize anticipation of what’s next.

But it’s important to understand that as sexy as trendspotting is, it can lead to all sorts of bad decisions.

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