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All the news that's fit to squish -- on a smartwatch

Matt Hamblen | April 2, 2015
New York Times to put one-sentence stories on Apple Watch, possibly others.

Gold and others said the Times, with a long tradition for in-depth coverage of complex topics, will probably be able to pull off its entry into smartwatches. One-sentence coverage can eventually, in some way, maybe, lead to longer coverage and, hopefully, reader insight. Well, sort of.

"When it's coming from a serious news source, these one-sentence stories will have a more serious tone than Twitter," predicted Marilou Johnson, a professor in the school of media arts and design at James Madison University. "The key is giving the serious news consumer a mechanism to save for later, more in-depth reading and the ability to hand it off to a larger device to immediately read the full story. "

Perhaps it will come as a surprise that the Times built its Apple Watch concept without a lot of audience research partly because the market for smartwatches is so new, Phelps said.

"More importantly, there was not a lot of time," he said. "We decided to have an app ready for Day 1 of the Watch, so we relied on our own product design instincts to build this app. Once the Watch is available to consumers, we'll study the way our readers use and react to it. And we'll almost certainly refine things as we go."

Content 'anywhere eyeballs are'
Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said all the big media brands, including the Times, "are trying to be everywhere and anywhere that eyeballs are" including in cars, on highway billboards, on TVs, desktops, tablets, smartphones and now smartwatches.

"Their goal is to have you touch the story on the Watch and direct it to the smartphone or wherever," he said. "They do this because they know that being out of sight is out of mind." Advertising will definitely follow, but not at first, he said.

Burden first experienced short-form content back in 2004 on a smartwatch running SPOT (Smart Personal Object Technology) developed by Microsoft. The watches, from several watch makers, were discontinued in 2008, but Microsoft gleaned early insight into user needs.

SPOT smartwatches received data from various websites over a free FM radio signal, Burden recalled. "You could get news or sports score in little bite-sized bits and there was no place-shifting to a larger device. It actually created more work for you because it gave you just enough information to make you curious, yet made you mad that you couldn't get the whole story."

If the Times smartwatch app produces anything like Burden's experience with the SPOT device, he won't be too thrilled. Content will be king, as it is everywhere else in the computer era.


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