By: Alan D. Mutter
As if the Web, mobile and social media were not enough to worry about, four new digital platforms are emerging to challenge the legacy publishers and broadcasters struggling to preserve the audiences and ad dollars that made them mighty.
The emerging technologies are next-gen messaging platforms, wearable technology, the Internet of things and automated automobiles.
A case can be made for developing new content and advertising formats for each of these broad categories, which represent hundreds of products and endless permutations. I will make a qualified case for doing so in a minute. First, a reality check: How can broadcasters and publishers focused on tending their legacy businesses afford the time and resources to research, develop and market products for the new platforms? The answer, of course, is that they can’t.
The good news is that, with one notable exception, they have time to observe the ways consumers interact with the still-maturing technologies. But make no mistake: These platforms are direct competitors for the time and attention that consumers spend with traditional media.
So, let’s meet the competition.
Next-Gen Messaging Platforms
The exceptions to the wait-and-see approach mentioned above are the new messaging apps that compete with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and the other platforms people used in the Paleozoic era of social media. The next-gen social sites, which deserve the immediate attention of legacy media companies, include Instagram, WhatsApp, Vine, Snapchat and others likely to turn up after I hit the send button on this article. (It should be noted that Facebook and Twitter, who are decidedly hip to the caprice of their audiences, have purchased all but Snapchat.) To see how some legacy media companies already have adapted to Snapchat, look at the Discover section of its app.
While the makers of Fitbit, Pebble and Google Glass have been pursuing widespread consumer acceptance over the years, the introduction of the Apple Watch in April is bound to rivet new attention on interactive wearable devices, thanks to the free publicity the media showered on the Apple launch. After attracting a fair share of ink in its own right, Google Glass faltered for want of technical polish and, even worse, for want of widespread consumer enthusiasm. While the Apple Watch could prove to be a dud, the increasing appeal of intimate of personal technology—like undies that monitor your pecs and perspiration (liveathos.com)—seems to suggest that selfies alone will not suffice to sate the narcissism of our species.
Internet of Things
The Internet of things seems like a joke when you can buy a Wi-Fi piggybank called a Porkfolio (tinyurl.com/m2howwl) that counts quarters on a dedicated app. But Google’s purchase of the Nest smart thermostat company for $3 billion got the attention of both the tech community and plenty of consumer product manufacturers. As a consequence, a serious race is well under way for leadership in a market that, according to Fortune Magazine, could generate between $7 trillion and $19 trillion in sales in a few short years. You may not yearn for a $17 smart tray that knows you are running low on eggs, but think about the potential of a home-monitoring system that provides surveillance, conserves energy, starts your car on a cold morning, tracks neighborhood crime alerts and remembers the stuff you need at the hardware store.
The secret Apple car project should have come as no surprise to anyone when it was revealed earlier this year, because vehicles are the perfect environment for a company—like Apple—that sells gizmos and services enabling communications, entertainment, navigation, search and commerce. The owners of automated autos will appreciate being relieved from the tedium of commuting and long road trips, but here’s why advertisers will be enthralled: Whether individuals are sitting behind the wheel or being chauffeured by an autonomous system, motorists represent highly captive and highly targetable audiences. Knowing who and where motorists are, marketers will have unprecedented influence over what they might be persuaded to buy next.
Where Does This Leave Legacy Media?
As different as the four emerging platforms are, there are common denominators:
They can come out of nowhere and gain popularity surprisingly fast.
They are mobile, location-aware and visual, relying on minimal (if any) text to communicate.
They represent immediate opportunities to conduct transactions, incentivizing marketers to intercept consumers early and often in the interests of closing in-the-moment deals.
Alan D. Mutter is a former newspaper editor and Silicon Valley CEO who today consults with media companies on technology and technology companies on the media. He blogs at Reflections of Newsosaur (newsosaur.blogspot.com).