The future of publishing: form, functional and fashionable

With most publishers still battling the rise of the smartphone as content distributor, it may seem premature and harsh to heed publishers against the “next big thing”. Yet, warns Piet van Niekerk, if sharing content on wearables is not on your radar, you may have already missed the boat.

The connected screen will soon be replaced by the connected self. Tech companies have been putting micro chips into the objects we wear for several years now. A tech savvy individual can connect him or herself with a range of smart wearables from a smartwatch to smart wristbands, smart jewellery, smart shoes and smart spectacles, to mention just few.

Despite this the value of wearables for content distribution has not been taken very seriously by publishers. As recently as two years ago smartwatch and fitness band reviews all claimed interactions with these devices – from a publisher’s point of view – would remain limited to notifying the wearer of content available on mobile or tablet.

The obvious problem was screen size and for publishers size did matter. Most believed (and many still do) that content cannot be consumed on anything smaller than mobile. Enter Redicle: a display of single words up to 13 characters long, which flash on a small screen word by word. Optimised by Spritz, a digital solution that delivers single word ‘spritzed’ text, readers can consume books, articles, web pages even more rapidly than reading printed text on a screen the size of a mobile phone SIM card.

Without getting bogged down in technicalities, the reason ‘spritzed’ text can be consumed so rapidly lies in positioning text in the optimal recognition position (ORP), which means the preferred fixation point of each word will appear at the same place on the miniature screen. If the ORP is in the middle a three-letter word, it shifts to the left of centre for longer words. Normally the longer the word, the further to the left of centre your eyes have to move to locate the ORP. In practice ‘spritzed’ text reduces eye movement caused by your eyes taking a split second to find the proper ORP for a word. With Spritz the text is delivered where you are already looking with no lag time or page scrolling, just fast-streaming text.

FastFT, a spritzed optimised application used to read Financial Times articles on a Samsung smartwatch, can be set well over 400 words per minute for a Spritz fit reader. That’s almost double the speed of reading on print considering that the average person reads between 250 ad 300 words per minute when consuming content in print format.

This solution turns the consumption of content on its head. It means content can now be streamed and consumed not only on watches, but fitness or payment wristbands, jewellery and other fashion accessories. If publishers have been slow to wake up to the possibilities, content marketers and advertisers have not.

The range of exciting possibilities tied to wearable distribution on (mini) platforms are seemingly endless. For example, a discount offer which vibrates on your wristband and then is relayed via Spritz content across the screen the moment your wearable is in close proximity to the given retailer or shop; a special re-packaged brand offering an hour or so after your wearable has left any specific store; or information about an important city location as you approach.

Add to this the immediacy and intimacy associated with wearables, and it would seem publishers have found the ultimate distribution platform. However, the technology is not without its challenges and shortcomings. Apart from safety concerns, privacy issues seem to cause considerable anxiety. The fact that data can be collected through a wearable device, such as an activity tracker, a smartwatch, or a pulse tracker, means that there are risks involved if carelessly stored and shared with third parties.

It’s one thing if an advertiser can track your interest in a product by noting an increased heart rate but completely different if an irregular heart rate over a specific period of time is associated with health risks and shared with your health insurer, leading to a policy increase or cancellation. That said, Statista.com reports the global wearables market is expected to reach a value of 19 billion US dollars by 2018. That’s more than ten times its value in 2012.

Video didn’t kill the radio (star) and online certainly didn’t kill content but platforms are revolutionising and there’s little disputing that the future of publishing will be centred around form, function and fashion.

Piet van Niekerk, Content director, Content Cows

Article reproduced by kind courtesy of FIPP