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Content Marketing Strategy: 3 Consumer Tech Trends to Watch

Leap Motion's controller
Leap Motion’s controller

Consumer technology evolves quickly, and it’s difficult for marketers to keep up. But falling behind the times can be crippling, especially for content marketers. It pays to stay informed on consumer technology and keep your eyes open for the next distribution channel threatening to steal the attention of your audience.

A handful of groundbreaking shifts could seriously alter the way we currently go about content marketing. To keep pace with these shifts, here are three consumer tech trends that should be on your radar.

We’re interfacing with the web like never before

Devices are beginning to move us away from our traditional browsing experience in extraordinary ways. And we’re not just talking about tablets.

How we browse the web may be markedly different in the next two or three years, and these three technologies are leading the charge:

  • Google Glass: Augmented reality gets the Google treatment with Google Glass, a voice-activated pair of glasses that presents information on a simulated browser screen.
  • Gesture-based interface: Since the arrival of Kinect for Xbox 360, gesture-based interface has become a reality. Companies like Leap Motion are already putting the concept to market for screen-based devices. (Think Minority Report-style screen manipulation.)

New operating systems like Ubuntu Mobile and Firefox OS are promising alternatives to iOS, Android, and Windows — and the operating system is another area that could impact how we deliver content.

What might it mean for content marketers?

While it isn’t yet clear how exactly these shifts will impact content delivery, you can bet there will be roles for content marketers on all of these fronts. But radically different presentation formats may require a completely different approach to content creation and delivery.

Spending too much time trying to understand these devices before they hit the market (or hit their strides) may be risky because a competing technology can swoop through in a second and render these early iterations useless. However, at least a general understanding of what’s happening on the market with these technologies is crucial for every kind of marketer.

Television may soon lose its content dominance

All right, so here’s the deal: TV isn’t dead — at least not yet.

At this year’s Adobe Summit, NBC’s Julie DeTraglia spoke on the network’s Olympic experiment, where it coupled its televised content with digital content. According to her, the web broadcast didn’t cannibalize the television audience as some expected. Instead, many viewers watched both to keep their eyes on more than one event.

Still, the most viewed video online was one that didn’t air on television: this flop dive by Germany’s Stephan Feck. And let’s not forget that the Olympics are a big-budget, one-of-a-kind testing ground for how television and digital work together, so not every business can afford to conduct high-profile content experiments like these.

Not to mention, large-scale efforts like these aren’t always effective benchmarks of the television industry’s overall health.

What may matter more to content marketers is the high rate of growth of video on the web, the numbers that web-only shows like Netflix’s House of Cards generated, and the fact that major online brands like Huffington Post are starting their own web-based television networks. Also particularly interesting is how the on-demand experience is being incorporated into television.

Whether we need different screen sizes to accomplish different tasks is a moot point. The real question is whether or not we will soon need a cable box, a computer, and a minicomputer to power each screen, and it’s a question that’s been on the minds of consumers and brands alike.

What might this mean for content marketers?

It could mean more competition for your customers’ already short attention spans. It could also mean more opportunities for partnerships, and new avenues of distribution.

A television industry that works more closely with web publishers holds huge potential for marketers and advertisers alike. We’ve already seen the upsides with Hulu, a video publishing network that combines full-length television shows with the short videos the web has bred for years.

As I said, TV is certainly not dead yet. But the trend of web networks publishing original content portends the power a major television network might have if it were to abandon stubborn cable monopolies in favor of focusing on the web as a distribution channel.

Consumers automatically track data on their daily activities

Gamification — the practice of using game mechanics to bolster user engagement — is a hot term these days. But, more importantly, it’s also a data goldmine.

We’ve seen public opt-in data tracking before with communities like Foursquare. And we’ve also seen it used on a more intimate classroom level, as Khan Academy does. These examples, though successful, typically require people to interface with a device in order to report on their activities and track their influence and impact.

However, other companies are on their way to reducing this hurdle. For example, brands like Fitbit (a portfolio of health and fitness tracking tools) and HAPIfork (an electronic fork) are tapping into the daily routines of health enthusiasts, collecting data that can be used in a wide range of applications. The differentiator here is the automation factor — i.e., these devices and mobile apps are set-and-forget. They don’t require a conscious decision by the user.

According to John Battelle of Federated Media, every human being on earth will create almost 600 gigabytes of data this year, and he predicts that next year, that number will double. Expect much of that data to be collected through automated processes, most of which won’t even require people to interact with their devices on an ongoing basis.

What might it mean for content marketers?

It means lots and lots of consistently updated data will be available on your audience. It also means more comprehensive data sets that span longer periods of time, instead of data recorded when consumers are prompted or are “in the mood” to record their activities.

Set-and-forget data collection takes the initiative out of the hands of the consumer. Consider the fitness example, for instance. A device or application that automatically records exercise when a user begins an activity doesn’t rely on that user remembering to activate it every time he or she goes out for a run. That data could be crucial to analyzing your audience’s behavior (in real-life scenarios, rather than self-reported ones) and creating content that will be more attractive to that audience.

What are we missing?

Any fascinating or noteworthy consumer tech you think could have a major impact on your content marketing strategy? Share it with us in the comments.

To get the scoop on more cutting-edge trends that impact content marketing, register now to attend Content Marketing World 2013, September 9-11.