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?

Steve Jobs, Marketing Genius

Steve Jobs Eulogized on the Apple Website

Now it really is time to eulogize Steve Jobs. Perhaps the best thing to say is thank you for all the great innovation he brought to this world.

There are so many things to be said about the great technological innovation he brought to the world during his tenures at Apple and Pixar. From my first personal computer, an Apple 2e, to the MacBook Pro this post is being written on, Jobs has had direct and consistent impact on the way I have viewed and consumed information for the better part of three decades. In entertainment and in work, Apple has been and continues to be a part of life.

There are so many things to say about Jobs and his companies, most notably Apple. Many people will be sharing those insights for the next few days in his memory.

The one thing to add beyond technological and business insights is respect for the incredible marketing machine Jobs built. From packaging and storefront design to masterful multichannel product launches and tense excitement by tightly managed PR, Apple demonstrated best practices in many areas of marketing.

Until Steve Jobs retired, the marketplace was always poised for the maverick tech titan to lead an on-stage unveiling event, packed with journalists, bloggers, and industry insiders. The company even avoided (and still avoids) major announcement fests such as the annual Consumer Electronics Show, instead preferring to orchestrate its own Apple events weeks apart from known industry events. Companies like Facebook and Amazon now ape this technique with some success, but it’s still not as exciting as an Apple announcement.

Launch events are complimented by traditional outdoor, print and broadcast advertising buys, in-store signage and displays, and of course, beautiful, recognizable packaging. The Apple website is tuned to announcements, turning over on launch day with in-depth web pages and videos explaining new products. Emails are sent to customers on launch day, encouraging them to buy.

These ads and direct marketing outreaches are as orchestrated as the company’s public relations efforts. In fact, they create a seamless multi-channel, multi-touch approach that demonstrates one of the very best integrated and repeatable marketing formulas the world has seen.

Yes, the products walk the talk. But many, many times, including Jobs’s first tenure as CEO of Apple, best technology is often not the most popular technology. Clearly, Jobs mastered marketing as time progressed.

What will you remember most about Steve Jobs? Also, Apple is receiving notes and thoughts about Steve Jobs via email, rememberingsteve [at] apple.com.