Measurement in the Age of Context


Once again I have been inspired by Shel Israel to rethink my entire approach to measurement. This time it is his book, written with Robert Scoble, The Age of Context. (for those who haven’t followed me for very long, his first book with Scoble, Naked Conversations, provided me with great Google Juice, never mind countless speech gigs when I decided to Measure Naked… Conversations. )

This book addresses the enormous changes to society that the wide spread use of mobile, sensors and data will create. As always with these two, this is not a book about technology, but rather about the human implications of technology. And as always it is a joy to read.

That said, it took about 30 seconds using Google Glass to really grok what they were talking about – in short, a world where companies, the government, your computing device and the objects around you will “know” you better than you know yourself. Imagine Amazon’s “Hello Katie, we have suggestions for you” on steroids times 10.   Restaurants will have your table and favorite foods waiting for you when you arrive, stores will send specials deals to you as you walk towards them. Yes, it it creepy, but one thing I’ve learned from life, and it always applies to the team of Scoble and Israel, “Your never wrong your just early.” {For a detailed explanation of my response, check out this video interview on the subject: )

They say this will all be real in a decade, others say 2-3 years.  All I know is that it will turn the world of measurement upside down.  Here’s what’s going to change.

  • Marketers will need to accept that all response will now be earned.

Bob Garfield calls this the “Relationship Era” in his wonderful book, Can’t Buy Me Like. I see it more like the “Bowl of Nuts” era. bowl of nuts

We’ve all been in a bar, with a bowl of mixed nuts in front of you. Do you pick up a handful? No, most of us, will immediately pick out the nuts we like the best. I prefer cashews. When I run out of cashews, I go for the peanuts. Invariably, all that is left are the weird nuts that no one likes and we only eat them because they’re free and we’re hungry.

That is essentially a portrait of the current consumers of content. But with Google Glass and other wearable devices, you’ll know exactly what nuts each person likes, and only serve them the nuts they want. Eli Pariser and others have opined about the threat to democracy of self-selecting media consumers and I’m not ready to deal with the impact that has on democracy and a knowledge and a bunch of other societal issue, but I know that it will force a number of marketers who insist on pushing out mediocre promotional content out of their jobs.

  • Eyeballs will matter again

After years of advocating against counting eyeballs, it makes me a bit nauseated to even say this, but eyeballs will matter again. That’s because Google Glass will know where your eyeballs are going. Google has already filed a patent for a “pay-per-gaze” system that could charge advertisers when you actually noticed an ad. Eye-tracking research has been used for years to test the effectiveness of ad campaigns and web sites, but Google is taking it to a whole new level with real time, real life applications.

  • Will pay-per-heart-beat be far behind

For all you content managers out there, imagine if you knew when a piece of your content was interesting enough to actually raise a person’s heart beat?  Wouldn’t that heart beat mean that whatever content you were serving up was more valuable, than the normal ho-hum stuff that no one even gazed at?

  • Privacy concerns will have a huge impact on the validity of measurement

Israel and Scoble raise a number of very valid concerns about the privacy issue.  There will be legal challenges to much of this new technology and many people will opt out. The question for the marketer is, who are the people that are opting in? Are they the demographic that you want?  The answer is probably yes, if you’re trying reach Digital Natives under 30. But I’m guessing that there are several generations that will never be ready for this level of corporate snooping. This may make your “big data” a lot smaller and less reliable.

That is essentially the older set might object to the fact that the people that are “serving” us ads, are essentially monitoring our every movement. I would argue that it’s not such a bad thing. I, a single woman of 61, will no longer get ads for Viagra, Instead, I might get ads for hydrangeas for which I have a passion. I’m happy to make the tradeoff.

  • Time is priceless, and that will be a major factor in marketing

The reality is that as we all get older, and the millennials turn into middle age, and us baby boomer face the reality of death, we all begin to value time more than privacy.  We don’t have time to read/see/view everything. And, if a computer knows you better than you know yourself, it can also save you time by delivering those things that you need or want or find interesting. We all “accept” terms of service every day because the app or page we want makes life easier or more efficient or more fun, and it’s easier than actually reading and thinking what those terms mean.

Marketers who figure that out, will in. The others should be planning their retirement.



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