It’s really early days to even be contemplating how wearables will affect PR. The market for such devices is tiny – Strategy Analytics states that 2 million smartwatches were sold (worldwide) last year, with the majority coming from Samsung. A similar picture can be seen in the UK with Kantar ComTech stating that 426,000 shipped in the UK, or less than 1 per cent of the population.

The number of people using them are smaller still – with a white paper from Endeavor Partners suggesting that a third of all wearable devices end up in the bottom of a junk drawer within six months.

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And a quick look at Ebay will reveal an even more interesting picture, with many brand new devices going up – at the time of writing there were 437 Ebay results for the term “Samsung Smartwatch” and many of these are on for just 99p +p&p. One of the reasons for this is operators bundling the smartwatch with phone. This both inflates the numbers – people haven’t actively chosen to go out and pay for it – and allows them to use this to help pay for the smartphone, which is what they wanted in the first place.

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But, going back on topic, it is likely that the market demand for wearables will increase significantly – especially as Google Glass will go on sale to developers shortly (possibly even next month) and the countless reports help to raise people’s awareness. And Canalys expects 5 million wearable tech units to ship in 2014, with the market tripling in 2015 – this is still a long way off the 51 million iPhones that sold in the last quarter of 2013, but, anyway, it’s rising.

I believe this rise will (eventually) effect the way that media is consumed… publishers will therefore need to move with this trend and PR / digital marketing companies will need to keep up.

Will the smartwatch affect the publishing and PR industry?

Will the smartwatch affect the publishing and PR industry?

From a publisher’s (I’m including company news / blog in this) point of view, it’s effectively a continuation of the smaller screen – a smartwatch is (currently) nothing more than a small second screen for the smartphone after all. And this means that there are simple steps that they can take:

  1. Smartwatch optimised news – I doubt that many people will read a full article from a smartwatch (unless it has text to voice capabilities and the computer sounds less Stephen Hawking and more Richard Burton), which means that you’ll want to adapt what is seen when on a smartwatch – this technology already exists for phones and I suspect will become a de facto offering through WordPress, Magento, Drupal etc.
  2. Headline optimisation for smartwatches – there will be countless analysis into the perfect character length, style etc and publishers (both journals and company blogs) will need to work with this to attract people to the sites, regardless of platform. In short, content must be both relevant and bite sized – much like Twitter now.
  3. API – I think it’s unlikely that people will download news apps for each publication onto the smartphone.  RSS may be easy way to get around this (see Feedly etc) but it’s far more likely that they’ll take an app has some level of editorial control – a Digg for electronics news, if you will – and flick through the highlights. This means you’ll need to open your API to the developer community and use them to get your content in front of more eyeballs.
  4. Read later button – Personally, the watch would seem a little frustrating to read anything beyond headlines. But, the fact that Android has a 60 per cent market share (1.2 million shipped last year). This means that a quick integration with the Google Chrome Browser means that it’s possible to have the top stories open the second you flag as being of interest open the second you open Google Chrome on your laptop in the office.

Naturally, PRs will need to work with this and remove every conceivable roadblock that might prevent a journalist using their clients’ news. But they’ll also need to make sure a couple of other items are in place:

  1. Get news online earlier – This will also mean that news releases will need to be on the web before they are announced, allowing the release to be sold to journalists using a smartwatch (or GoogleGlass etc). This is likely to be on a company (or PR firm) blog and invisible to all bar a handful of pre-approved journalists with the URL and a log-in
  2. Track – It is already possible to see if a release has been opened via a smartphone or a desktop and when this happens. It’s therefore quite easy to tailor content to a mobile device that’s being read while on the way into work, for example. By putting similar tracking in place it will be possible to find out who’s using a smartwatch to check the news, when they’re doing this and implement a best practice to deliver the news in the right form.

I admit, it’s a long way away, but many marketing execs missed the importance of getting the mobile strategy right – see Jon’s excellent blog post on the importance – and effectively, the adoption of wearables is just an extension of this. But, by thinking about it now we can get it right and deliver content that’s compelling regardless of the size of the screen.

Mobile internet traffic by region

Mobile internet traffic by region