August 30, 2012

Forget Digital.. Future of Media is in the "Internet of Things"

The foundation of the new digital economy is built on the changed behaviors and attitudes of people who increasingly rely on digital technologies - primarily enabled by the internet. But the Internet is continuing to evolve. Initially it was the static Web, and now it is social, mobile, cloud computing and wireless networks. However beyond the technology (open, simple and distributed), the Internet's culture of collaborative innovation keeps having a transformative impact on companies, communities and institutions.

In 2008, the number of devices connected to the Internet exceeded the number of people on Earth. And these devices are not just smartphones and tablets. They are everything around us - from smart televisions to interactive coke machines, from motivated running shoes to the interconnected cows, bananas and more.


While social networks (network of connected people) is reaching saturation, the 'internet of things' (network of connected things, as well as things and people) is gaining tractionBy 2020, there will be 50 billion things connected to the internet! Every person, animal, and thing could be connected.

Here's a realistic scenario from Cisco's blog:
scenario example of internet of things

When billions of things are connected, talking and learning from each other, imagine what this means for the future of Brands and the Media industry.
In this growing trend of hyper-connectivity between person-with-machine and machine-with-machine, potentially everything could become media. In other words, it will be possible to create a media channel of (pretty much) any thing, thereby allowing brands to communicate by owning or paying for these new media touchpoints. Let’s see how this could become possible.

How Every Thing can (potentially) become Media

Firstly let's take a step back and understand that by definition
Media is anything that can carry a message or be a means of communications. 
As we know, digital devices and technologies (powered by the internet) enable consumers to connect, engage, consume and experience brands; but as non-digital, physical objects begin to embed digital technologies or become digitally-enabled, any “thing” around us can become media that can be either owned, earned or paid for.

To transform any “thing” into media that can be consumed or experienced, brands will need to digitize it in a way so that brands are able to have a conversation with the consumer or interact effectively for a desired outcome that can be measured and analyzed. With digital media, this kind of an experience comes with the medium, however for non-digital media and traditional media, digital technology will need to be embedded to provide brand engagement. 

With Augmented Reality, NFC, RFID, wireless sensors and other pervasive or ubiquitous technologies starting to bring traction to the 'internet of things', the vision of transforming any thing into media for brand connect is becoming a reality. Here are sightings of some impressive campaigns and more here that leverage the 'internet of things'. Seems like the Minority Report vision of digital shop assistants will finally be realized!

Bottom-line: Brands need to stop developing isolated channel strategies, and need to begin tracking and analyzing the underlying behavioral changes as the internet continues to evolve. Today there is a smartphone and tablet explosion. What companies need to understand is that it's not about "mobile", it's about "mobility".
A mobile marketing strategy is not going to cut it! A more holistic, behavioral approach to address the future of media is needed.

Tomorrow there will be many more devices connected and the 'internet of things' to deal with. While there will be a plethora of touchpoints for brands to connect with their consumers, brands will need to use the right technologies to leverage changing consumer behaviors and attitudes for brand connect and engagement.

Here are 10 key questions for media gurus, media owners, brands, publishers, agencies, advertisers and other constituents of the current media ecosystem:

  1. Will the new brand tree be able to withstand the coming explosion of interconnected things?
  2. As media becomes ubiquitous and interconnected, how should media strategies be shaped?
  3. As every thing starts to become media, how will the growing universe of media channels and platforms be addressed? 
  4. Will the media universe be simplified?
  5. How will this growing trend impact the future of media planning and buying?
  6. How will the distribution of ad spends be affected when every thing becomes media?
  7. Will brands need to break departmental silos?
  8. Will agencies and platform vendors partner with each other to help brands address this trend?
  9. How will ad networks need to shape up?
  10. Will this transformation bring about changes in media measurement and analytics? How?

Irrespective of how the media industry addresses the changing landscape, one thing for sure is that finally consumers will truly become the center of all decisions. And it is only a matter of time that brands will have to adopt a consumer-centric strategy and change their structure, culture and processes to prosper in the age of digital consumerism.


  1. Avinash,lots of good food for thought here, we are definitely on the same page though you may be a chapter or two ahead of me!

    Thanks for sharing this link.
    Joe @SMSJOE

  2. hey Avinash..super read! Inspiring!

  3. Excellent Avi, agree completley

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