Watch This (Apple) Space

As Apple formally launches the Apple Watch Jack Riley of Nieman Lab has been looking at how smart publishers are thinking about smart watches.

His article suggests that our collective familiarity with wearing a watch gives the smartwatch a socially acceptable advantage over other wearable devices. Although to be seen to be checking ones watch too often also has drawbacks ‘While checking your phone is still not acceptable in all settings, it still beats the palpable sense of impatience associated with raising your wrist. Checking your smartwatch in company is going to require a new set of social norms to become natural and commonplace’.

Apple seem to want to emphasize that while the watch will work as a stand alone device (rather than an iphone extension), it’s strength will be in the delivery of short bursts or nuggets of information. Bloomberg reports that ‘Apple has recommended that developers be judicious about interrupting people with constant alerts that will buzz their wrist or drain the battery. If desktop computers can be used for hours at a time, and smartphones for minutes, the watch is being measured in seconds. Apple is suggesting developers design their applications to be used for no longer than 10 seconds at a time’.

So what does this mean for publishers? Whilst Jack Riley thinks the Apple watch will be highly successful, the publishers he has spoken to just don’t see an opportunity there. ‘Will news apps drive smartwatch uptake? None of the people I spoke with felt that news will be the individual incentive for consumers to purchase a wearable device in the way that fitness has been. As the Post’s Marburger put it to me: “No one’s going to buy a smartwatch because they get better headlines from one news source”’.


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