Over the last 10-20 years, the distance between broadcasters and their key audiences and demographics has gradually eroded, worn down and washed away by an ever-rising flood of technological advancement and an unquenchable thirst for information and content.
Social media has forged a direct line from content producer to content consumer, catch-up players and on demand services have circumvented the broadcast schedule structure and podcasting has given stations and brands a doorway into the smartphone.
In real terms, the knock-on effect has been that news, features, content and brand messages no longer require the same level of user effort to discover, digest or share, opening up a wealth of possibilities for the PR and media industries.
But with this week’s soft launch of the Apple Watch, ahead of the full launch later this month, that relationship between content producer to target audience could be set for yet another revolution, which may change the PR world forever.
The idea of wearable tech is, in itself, nothing new. Pulsar’s calculator watch caused a minor sensation in the mid-70s and will currently set you back a king’s ransom in East London’s vintage shops, while the Google Glass divided opinion before being shelved back in January.
But with Apple’s continued quest for Skynet-style world domination, their determination to seize ownership of the wearable tech marketplace gives this latest trend a slightly different, more serious feel.
So what can we really expect from what is essentially a hi-tech timepiece? Well, the primary point of difference between a smart watch and a smart phone is access.
With Apple CEO Tim Cook promising an initial 18-hour battery life on the first generation devises, the potential for broadcasters, news outlets and brands to tap directly into their audience in real time is huge, with several media apps among the first wave of Apple Watch features.
The Economist are among the first to add a compatible feature, allowing the user to control all their media downloads to all connected devises right from their Apple Watch. In practice, this means that consumable content can be reached with just a few taps on the wrist, streamlining the process to the point where you needn’t even reach to your pocket to take out your phone.
And with related apps like OneFootball’s live scores update feature and Twitter and Instagram’s ground floor entry into the Apple Watch movement, it is only a matter of time until broadcasters begin to exploit the close relationship with the user that wearable tech provides.
A podcasting feature is one the horizon, along with direct media players and full devise/content connectivity. But what will be potentially the most fascinating developing narrative over the coming months and years will be how outlets utilise this first truly direct transmission from broadcaster to user.
The stations which can use this direct line to the user themselves in a tactful and non-intrusive way may just open up a space where content exposure and brand awareness can be raised to a previously unfathomable level.
If broadcasters can unlock the potential of transmitting stories, features, audio and videos directly to a tiny screen which is connected to our wrists all day, every day, there is no limit to what they, their partners or their brands can achieve.
By Jamie Stanley