Did you know? 74% of respondents feel that original content and media are most effective for generating marketing ROI.
Computer makers are building alluring digital readers to make content easier to swallow.
Since the introduction of the mass-market IBM PC in 1981, digital devices have shrunk from desktops and towers to notebooks and handhelds (Blackberry®, iPhone®, Android® smartphones, etc.). Now there are a ton of tiny netbooks and e-tablets, like the iPad®, Kindle® and NOOK®.
But screen size is not just shrinking; it’s looking gorgeous. Forthcoming iPads promise a double-pixel display. The new Amazon Kindle Fire™ is putting a multi-touch color screen in the hands of consumers for just $199 — a price point designed to build mass-market demand for digital readers. And now the NOOK Tablet™ is bringing dual-core computing power to create a hybrid between an e-reader and e-tablet.
In 2011, e-tablets made by Amazon and Barnes and Noble are expected to ship 30 million units. Plus, Google is buying Motorola Mobility, maker of Android smartphones and Xoom tablets, to compete in the digital content contest along with recently launched Chromebooks.
Not to mention scads of other digital tablets and superphones — with screens 4 inches or bigger and video crunching, dual-core 1 GHz processors competitive with tablets.
What does this trend mean to how we consume content? Is it finally the last chapter for the paper book?
According to display manufacturer E Ink, new e-paper flexible displays are in development that will “deliver high-contrast, sunlight readable, low-power performance that further closes the digital divide between paper and electronic displays.”
Digital device makers have been working towards the end of paper-based media for some time.
The Kindle Personal Documents Service, for example, is specifically intended to make “it easy to take your personal documents with you, eliminating the need to print.”
As content consumption habits change, paper as a medium of communication is taking on a more self-conscious role. Moleskine® notebooks, makers of the paper diaries used by Ernest Hemingway, is promoting the worldwide tour of “Ecriture Infinie / Infinite Writing” by artist Bili Bidjocka. He created giant, desk-sized books that show up anywhere in the world. People sit down and write "as if these were the last words they can ever write by hand." When each volume is complete, it is sealed and hidden in a secret place, like a time capsule.
This is memorializing the demise of dead-tree culture — just as the Hammurabi stele is an artifact of cuneiform clay tablet culture. But along with changing the material medium of communication, the digital reading platform is also affecting the cognitive processing of content and content strategy for B2B communications.
Independent from the message, Marshall McLuhan observed that each medium produces a different “effect” on the user.
For example, an infant whose brain is imprinted on the iPad gesture perceives that a printed magazine page is defective.
Marshall McLuhan’s media theory continues to be relevant to mass communications and B2B marketing.
For adults, digital devices have numerous, sometimes surprising, social and psychological effects. Possessing an iPad does not just make it possible to enjoy colorful, interactive books like Alice. It’s a symbol that the person has the soul of an artist — like a ballerina. It’s also a personal style accessory. Rubbing an iPhone or iPad screen may be a form of ego massage.
As Marshall McLuhan observed: “All media work us over completely…. [T]hey leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered. The medium is the massage.”
There are different effects for different folks. And with so many devices, each one is producing specific effects for each user segment. Putting it more picturesquely, the expanding digital universe is coalescing into planets inhabited by distinct device cultures. As McLuhan recognized, “We are now becoming people of the screen.” The real world is now screen world.
What does it tell you about someone if they’re reading your PDF on a smartphone or an iPad or a Xoom or a Chromebook? What do the inhabitants of those screen worlds have in common?
Through the lens of McLuhan’s “inventory of effects,” it’s apparent that screens produce certain effects on viewers apart from the content we’re viewing. That includes cognitive processing and neurochemical changes in the brain. Because superphones and tablets are changing how we perceive content, they are also affecting our media choices — with the potential to sideline books just like television sidelined radio.
Consequently, accounting for these effects is now an important part of branding, content and media strategy. Here’s a table describing some basic effects of different screen worlds on today’s content consumers:
Stimulates dopamine-squirt addiction due to always-on connectivity; compromises attention spans; requires high dexterity and good vision
Young to middle ages; status conscious; device can be placed in pocket, but when in hand provides conspicuous display
Short bursts of text (twitter); simple one-subject apps; HD screens enable miniature movies
Stimulates dopamine-squirt addiction due to always-on connectivity; compromises attention spans; triggers insomnia symptoms due to backlit screen suppressing melatonin
Young to old ages; status conscious; conspicuous display of protective cases and coverings
Interactive color images and integrated text; motion-activated content and movies
Low visual cortical stimulation and restricted connectivity inhibits dopamine squirt; unlit e-paper doesn’t affect sleep patterns
Mid to old ages; task-oriented functionality is not “cool”; device can be placed in pocket and used inconspicuously
Page formatted content; permits daylight viewing of text and images with limited interactivity
Stimulates visual cortex and potential of always-on connectivity provides dopamine squirt; compromises attention spans works against book-reading experience; insomnia symptoms due to backlit screen suppressing melatonin; requires moderate dexterity
Mid to old ages; task-oriented functionality is not “cool”; conspicuous display of protective cases and coverings although device can be placed in pocket
Interactive color images and integrated text; motion-activated content and movies; Nook Tablet microphone to record narration on kids’ books with audio record feature