Ready-to-Wear Content: Google Glass and Other Devices Provide New Opportunities for Publishers

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SOUND AND VISION

A successful transition to wearable devices will undoubtedly require a strong focus on video content and capabilities. "Unlike written content, video is a perfect match for wearable computing," Thibeault says. "Whether on the wrist or on the face, a screen's real estate is very small, so video makes perfect sense as the primary content format."

Whether it's video, still images, or text, publishers need to consider how their visuals will appear on a wearable's display. "Display size, passive interface, and unobtrusive designs will all be key motivators for consumers to make the transition from traditional digital content devices like tablets and smartphones to wearables," says Cross. "These devices will make the exchange of information nearly instantaneous, and providers will need to consider the speed and efficiency with which they relay visual econtent."

Additionally, many wearables such as Google Glass can deliver spoken content as an option-a feature that, for many, is far preferable to reading a tiny screen.

"That means that econtent providers can either surrender to the mercy of the default digital voice, or they can start thinking about ways to get an appropriate voice recording of their content integrated into the delivery technology," Riley says. "Start thinking about new use cases for your content. People will be able to read or hear it while walking to a meeting or cooking dinner, for example."

PUSH VS. PULL

Contrary to what many experts advise, Philip Rooke, CEO of Spreadshirt in Boston, says content produced for devices such as Google Glass should be on a "pull," not a "push," basis.

"Consumers request information in short bursts, and they don't want a lot of people pushing content at them-that becomes a real pain. They want to be able to switch the information on and off as they see fit, and they want to know things relevant and local to them," says Rooke. Case in point: When you're walking down the street, you don't want Google Glass flashing hundreds of articles in front of your eyes.

"The lesson here is that electronic content providers have to get very good at providing good content," Rooke says. Papermaster agrees, adding that publishers need to carefully consider how to balance near perfect personalization with privacy and invasive overreach.

The goal of digital media companies is to monetize content, and that requires making content as available as possible in as many consumable channels as possible, says Shah.

"But the challenge will be how the user can interact with that content in a predictable manner that is not obtrusive," Shah says.

For example, if a smart watch can display the latest media in real time and notify the user as it arrives for consumption in a predictable manner, using that consumer's previous behavior, then ideally the user would not have to tell the watch what he is interested in. The watch would predict the content based on user patterns.

Offering such relevant information without being "pushy" requires managing data more effectively and revisiting older and existing content so that each piece can be tagged and indexed with a greater level of detail.

"We need to go back to our data to make it easier for consumers to pull the pieces they want," says Rooke. "Categorizing this content and understanding when and where the consumer will want it is a critical need right now in the mobile world as well as the future world involving wearable technology."

OTHER HURDLES

Publishers need to consider other challenges beyond how best to adapt content to wearable computers. One sticking point, for example, is consumer education of and exposure to the new technologies.

"There's still a steep consumer adoption curve involved with wearable computers," Shah says. "It's still a leap for the average person. Consumers already remain a little nervous about cloud [computing] and mobile devices holding their personal information."

Furthermore, companies that avoid the KISS principle-keep it simple, stupid-are taking a major risk. "The smaller the screen gets, the simpler your proposition has to be," says Rooke. "What we discovered in the [smartphone] world is, you have to get down to just a few key features and functions that are useful for the consumer," Rooke says. "The same is true for wearables."

Shah also warns of the dangers of repetitive data. "It's gotten to a point where duplicative content from multiple sources is showing up in multiple channels. As a user, it's annoying to filter through repeated content," Shah says. "If the wearable computers knew from a central source what content has been consumed from other sources, it would be ideal to filter that content out."

Lastly, there's the risk of doing nothing and playing the waiting game, which can give a leg up to your competitors. "If a certain wearable computer becomes ubiquitous, as has happened with smartphones, content providers need to follow those eyeballs," says Shah.

FORECASTING FUTURE FIELD OF VIEW

Many industry insiders aren't convinced that wearable technology will catch fire in the mainstream anytime soon, especially considering the current and increasing popularity of tablets and smartphones. But even if wearables serve as niche devices for a niche audience, content providers shouldn't overlook their potential.

"It's still in the early days for wearables, but publishers can put themselves in a good position by capturing their share of the mobile audience," says Cross. Thibeault, for one, is convinced the wearables market will explode in popularity as devices continue to get smaller, lighter, and more transparent.

"It's just a matter of time," says Thibeault. "But for people to really use them, they need to become second nature and offer the ability to, for instance, snap onto an existing pair of glasses and be less obtrusive. Meanwhile, publishers need to be aware of the emerging market, start testing their content and incorporating contextual analysis into their digital experiences."

As wearables evolve, they will become better able to speak to each other and to other smart devices, enabling better integration of information, Cross says. Riley predicts that body-worn devices will have more self-tracking and remote-control capabilities in the coming years, and head-worn devices will provide more contextualized information based on the user's vantage point.

Over time, Shah believes that wearable computers will be easier to navigate via voice versus touch commands and will become more naturally integrated into users' lifestyles.

"For instance, a smart watch will notice a relevant story on a stock you own, inform you with a gentle vibration, and then display it on your Google Glass. From there, the smart watch will ask if you would like to hold or sell your stock," says Shah.

Even if the innovation possibilities are infinite, keep in mind that wearables conquer a personal space that is finite, according to Mark Tepper, VP of business development for PH Technical Labs in Plano, Texas.

"We will only carry one watch, one pair of glasses, and one or two extra devices," Tepper says. "So publishers and content providers will need to adjust and adapt accordingly."

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