Smartwatches and the Future of News

News organizations like The New York Times, CNN, and BBC News are increasingly using smartwatches to provide consumers convenient access to top stories.

As of June 2017, about nine percent of U.S. adults owned a smartwatch. This number is projected by the WEAR Report Industry Overview and Forecast to increase to 15% by 2019.  These smartwatches allow users to get notifications for article headlines, and enables them to save content from various news organizations for later reading.

“The CNN app on Apple Watch is our most personal product to date, and a true game changer. It enables us to deliver news and critical notifications in an intuitive, intimate and wholly innovative way. We’re thrilled to work with Apple to pioneer this experience in the news space,” according to CNN Chief Product Officer Alex Wellen in a statement given to MediaFile.

Some see smartwatches as a way to improve the news notification system, which informs people in real time. Jeff Sonderman, deputy director of the American Press Institute, finds that, “Watches are a really good notification system…It’s a good way to get buzzed with a short message that alerts you to something going on right now that is important to you.”

However, smartwatch news consumption may not be as popular as previously thought. According to a Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2017, only 3% of people in the United States had used a smartwatch for any purpose. Less than one percent used their smartwatch to access news.

Smartwatch news consumption report published in the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2017.

This means development of a variety of smartwatch news apps may not happen, according to Alex Walters, a digital product designer who led development of the Financial Times’ wearable app: “We would love to make apps and content provided for all kinds of different weird and wonderful devices, but it’s just not realistic to serve every corner of the market…so we have to establish where our users are.”

Others like Gilles Raymond, founder and CEO of News Republic, see an audience for smartwatch-news. He said in an interview with AFP, “When there is breaking news you want access to it immediately, so the watch is the ideal tool to do that…it will be very addictive.”

Smartwatches are continuing to develop in 2017.  Devices such as the Samsung Gear Sport, Apple Watch 3 and Michael Kors Access Sofie & Grayson are hoping to draw in new buyers–and news applications are advancing with them.

ABC News and others continue to update their smartwatch apps. Other apps like News Republic, a news aggregator site, have made their publication viewable via smartwatch. Still, there are gaps in the smartwatch news market as companies like NPR News do not currently offer offer a smartwatch accessible app.

While the CNN app offers smartwatch accessibility, the NPR News app does not.

Though smartwatches are a relatively new invention, their popularity is continuing to rise. The possibility to reach their audience in a new way has news organizations producing smartwatch-enabled apps, despite current data revealing that few Americans are reading news on their watches. Hoping to stay ahead of the digital curve, many news organizations remain optimistic and continue to produce new and updated apps for smartwatch consumption.

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