When it comes to Smart­watches, it’s all about the Wrist, NOT the Words

The Insider - - CONTENT -

Although smart­watches have been around for a num­ber of years, the launch of the Ap­ple Watch last spring spawned early con­sumer (and me­dia) eu­pho­ria we haven’t seen since the iPad hit the mar­ket in 2010.

But when I look at the num­ber of pub­lish­ers jump­ing on the Ap­ple Watch band­wagon, I can’t help but think of the old adage, “When all you have is a ham­mer, ev­ery­thing looks like a nail.”

Within days of the Watch land­ing on the arms of read­ers, a num­ber of pub­lish­ers started launch­ing apps de­signed to do one thing -- ham­mer con­tent onto own­ers’ wrists.

From break­ing news, to head­line teasers to me­dia mo­ments and bite-sized sum­maries, these apps at­tempt to tease peo­ple with clev­erly crafted con­tent as an en­tice­ment to en­gage on a big­ger screen. They pro­vided lit­tle to no op­por­tu­nity for the owner to in­ter­act with the con­tent or en­gage with other read­ers from the de­vice.

For the smart­watch hyped as more than just a phone ac­ces­sory (Ap­ple says it is func­tional enough not to re­quire a paired iPhone to be use­ful), all these news apps re­quire an iPhone stand­ing by to pro­vide the use­ful func­tion­al­ity and con­tent their apps do not.

The watch may be smart, but to­day’s news apps – hmmm, not so much.


When watch­ing the lat­est in­fat­u­a­tion con­sumers are hav­ing with Ap­ple, one can’t help but look back at previous love af­fairs and how they blos­somed into ~39 bil­lion dol­lars of profit for the de­vice dom­i­na­tor in 2014.

*De­spite the amaz­ing past suc­cesses of “all things Ap­ple”, with the new much-her­alded Watch, an­a­lysts seemed to be all over the map at launch -- 7.5 to 31.5 mil­lion watches to shipped in 2015 de­pend­ing on who you ask. But the re­al­ity is never as good as the hype and in Novem­ber 2015, re­al­ity said sales will be closer to 7 mil­lion for the year.


Look­ing at the de­mo­graph­ics of to­day’s smart­watch own­ers, it is clear that mil­len­ni­als are more at­tached to them than their par­ents.

And although the Ap­ple Watch isn’t prof­it­ing from to­day’s lower in­come dig­i­tal na­tives yet (mak­ing an­a­lysts think Gen Ys aren’t in­ter­ested in the high priced gad­get), I don’t be­lieve the 43% of iPhone own­ers un­der the age of 34 are down on the de­vice; they’re just wait­ing to see if it, and its apps, give them what they want.

83 mil­lion mil­len­ni­als in North America own one or more new smart­phones with big data plans, so they’re not shy about spend­ing on mo­bile tech.

By 2017 these mad men and women will spend $200 bil­lion an­nu­ally and ex­ceed the buy­ing power of Baby Boomers not long af­ter that.

Think­ing they won’t “tap” into their wal­lets so they can be tapped by another Watcher at some point in the next 12-24 months seems some­what short sighted.


The iPod brought any­where/any­time mu­sic to the masses; iPhones al­lowed us to be con­stantly-con­nected; iPads trans­formed me­dia con­sump­tion by re­plac­ing printed books, mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers, and for some, com­put­ers and tele­vi­sions.

The Ap­ple Watch touches the in­ner fash­ion­ista in many peo­ple, but what else does it give us that we don’t have with the mo­bile tech we al­ready tote? I would sug­gest three…

Smart­watches are very per­sonal de­vices which means per­son­al­iza­tion is a crit­i­cal fac­tor when build­ing apps for them. De­vel­op­ment teams not only have to con­sider UI/UX is­sues with such a small foot­print, the very na­ture of en­croach­ing on the ‘per­sonal space’ of the wearer now re­quires in­sights about the psy­chol­ogy of the own­ers. If there was ever a need to “know your au­di­ence”, it is now.

Big “be­hav­ioral” data in­tel­li­gence is manda­tory when de­cid­ing what con­tent to share, how to share it and when. Get it wrong and you’ve lost an arm­ful of op­por­tu­nity with Ap­ple Watch own­ers.

So what do Y-Gens want from pub­lish­ers on these won­der­ful new wrist warm­ers? Maybe you missed the memo, but it re­ally boils down to con­tent that is Dis­cov­er­able and fric­tion­less (i.e. no pay­walls) Rel­e­vant (i.e. con­tent cu­rated by the crowd, not ed­i­tors) Share­able

To­day’s news apps give users very lit­tle of the above. Mean­while Twit­ter, which is ar­guably the best ag­gre­ga­tor of break­ing news on the Watch to­day lets users: Browse their feed and dis­cover crowd-cu­rated con­tent See what’s trending Cre­ate tweets through Siri dic­ta­tion Retweet, re­ply to and fa­vorite other tweets on the Watch it­self – no hand­off re­quired.


The Ap­ple Watch is far from per­fect – it’s more about form than func­tion right now. But there are some fea­tures pub­lish­ers could use to make their con­tent less iPhone-de­pen­dent, such as

Tap to lis­ten Use­ful in a hands-free en­vi­ron­ment (e.g. driv­ing a car), users should have the op­tion of lis­ten­ing to an ar­ti­cle from the Watch

Tap to share an ar­ti­cle on so­cial or through email Com­ment on ar­ti­cles us­ing Siri Vote on ar­ti­cles us­ing emo­jis

Ap­ply Pay and iBea­cons also of­fer in­ter­est­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for pub­lish­ers’ ad­ver­tis­ers, es­pe­cially in lo­cal mar­kets where users could be nudged to­wards stores and ser­vices in their prox­im­ity that have spe­cial of­fers de­signed “just for them” and pay for them us­ing their Watch.

So, in­stead of rush­ing to push push push con­tent to yet another Ap­ple ap­pli­ance, think out­side the Words and fo­cus on the Wrist. Ask your­self:

What can we do to delight con­sumers that we couldn’t do be­fore the Watch?

How can we cap­i­tal­ize on this dis­rup­tive tech­nol­ogy in a way that brings tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits to read­ers in their per­sonal space with­out spam­ming and in­fu­ri­at­ing them?


Ap­ple is on track to sell ~231 mil­lion iPhones this year as com­pared to 7 mil­lion watches, so we’re still a long way from mass adop­tion. But when that fi­nally hap­pens the Ap­ple Watch will be a far cry from the fash­ion­able, but barely func­tional, smart­watch we’re wit­ness­ing to­day.

The same old pub­lish­ing par­a­digms won’t work in this new wear­able world. And although the tech­nol­ogy has lim­i­ta­tions to­day, it won’t be long be­fore wear­ables will be in­te­grated into our homes, of­fices, cars, the air and even our skin.

Stop think­ing in terms of tra­di­tional print dis­tri­bu­tion which con­stricts cre­ativ­ity and growth. Em­brace dis­rup­tion clev­erly, be open to the art of the pos­si­ble and ex­per­i­ment in mod­er­a­tion. Don’t as­sume wear­ables like the Ap­ple Watch are just shiny new nails wait­ing for your ham­mer.

Let the pub­lish­ers with deeper pock­ets spend the big bucks to test what works and what doesn’t in this new em­bry­onic mar­ket. But, be ready to em­brace the dis­rup­tion when it makes dol­lars and sense to do so. There’s still time for Ap­ple and oth­ers to evolve these new wrist wear­ables for the masses, so be smart and take that time to watch and learn.

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