Grokking Google Glass: Measurement in the Age of Context

Age of Context book coverOnce 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, has provided me with great Google Juice, never mind countless speech gigs when I decided to measure naked… conversations.)

The Age of Context addresses the enormous changes to society that the widespread 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.

Katie Paine wearing GlassThat said, it took me 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, “You’re never wrong, you’re just early.” (Watch this video for more of my impressions on Glass.)

Some say this will all be real in a decade, others say 2-3 years. What I can say for sure 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.

bowl of nuts

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

We’ve all been in a bar, with a bowl of mixed nuts in front of us. Do you pick up a handful? No, most of us will 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 those because they’re free and we’re hungry.

That bowl-of-nuts scenario is a portrait of 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. I’m not ready to deal with the impact Glass will have on democracy and a knowledge and a bunch of other societal issues. But I can tell you that it will force out of their jobs those marketers who insist on pushing out mediocre promotional content.

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 will charge advertisers when you actually notice 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 heartbeat?  Wouldn’t that heartbeat 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 privacy.  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 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.

The older set might object to the fact that the people that are serving us ads are 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 the 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, as the millennials turn into middle age, and us baby boomers face the reality of death, we 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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Katie Paine

I've been called The Queen Of Measurement, but I prefer Seshat, the Goddess.

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