Wearable technology will further fragment consumers as they choose how they want to receive news. And there will always be early adopters seeking an advantage in the marketplace.

By Robert Washburn, Innovation Editor

As news organizations move more towards a mobile-first strategy, the introduction of wearable technology is presenting a new challenge despite a less than enthusiastic embrace from consumers.

This past week, Apple announced its plans to market the iWatch, a computer inside a wristwatch, according to a recent article in Buzzfeed. An anticipated 330 million smartwatches will be sold worldwide by 2018, a research firm estimated according to the article.

Already, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal are delivering news alerts on Google Glass, a wearable, computerized set of eyewear. Besides the eye glasses, Android wear is on the horizon. Start-up companies are already working to get news sources distributed over these platforms, according to the article.


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No doubt, the industry is hoping to avoid a situation similar to its disastrous entry into online news delivery back in the late 1990s. As news and information exploded in the early days of the Internet, many news organizations dragged themselves on to the web. By the time it was clear this would be a major platform for news delivery, the companies had lost any possible competitive advantage. Since then, news organizations have struggled to get traction.

The desire to embrace new technology is also predicated on the need to find new sources of revenue. As news companies struggle to find workable economic models to be sustainable, new technological innovations are highly attractive. The trouble is jumping on the right bandwagon. It is a high-risk strategy that can pay big dividends in establishing leadership or dominance on a particular platform. This opens up opportunities for revenue-generation.

As the tech industry gears up for the new wave of wearable computers, software developers are already working overtime to create the ability for media companies to easily transmit content seamlessly to any kind of wearable device.

But journalists are already aware of the troublesome nature of this kind of news delivery. Speed takes over and accuracy suffers. Context also gets easily lost without due diligence.

A recent study, titled The Personal News Cycle: How Americans choose to get the News, released earlier this year by the American Press Institute showed promising trends in news consumption. It suggests consumers are accessing news via different platforms at different times, including many traditional methods like newspapers, radio and television. It is heartening news compared to some of the dire predictions often thrown around regarding the future of news.

The survey looked at how adults consume news in the digital age and the ways they take advantage of the strengths of each medium and device. Three-quarters of Americans get news at least daily and will use as many as five devices to obtain it.

Wearable technology will further fragment consumers as they choose whatever means to gather news. And, there will always be a set of early adopters seeking an advantage in the marketplace.

It will be interesting to see how Canadian news organizations respond. So far, the approach is more wait-and-see than lead-the-way.


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Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.