Our research project is centered on how news organizations are connecting with Apple Watch users. With the wearables industry expected to generate around $37 billion in sales by 2020, smartwatches offer new opportunities for news organizations to connect with their audience. But I was curious as to how effectively these organizations were already connecting with early adopters of the Apple Watch, and what students thought of the future of news interaction on that platform.

The survey results definitely produced some encouraging insights. Forty-four percent of our 604 respondents indicated that they were very interested in wearable computing devices such as FitBit, Android Wear and Apple Watch. Forty percent already own a wearable device. The public is interested in this market segment, and it’s growing in popularity.

As for current news consumption behaviors on the Apple Watch, our survey results were a little grimmer. Of the 200 respondents who say they own some sort of wearable, a whopping 65 percent indicated that they never use it for consuming news stories or news notifications. Only 15 percent reported getting daily news updates on their device.

How often do you use your wearable device to consume news stories or notifications?We asked, “How interested are you in getting news updates on a wearable device?” Half of the respondents said they were somewhat interested, and 25 percent said they were very interested. This left me a little puzzled. The majority of Apple Watch users never get news updates on their watch, but the majority of the public is still interested in getting these updates on a wearable device. Are news organizations not getting the message out to their audiences that they have news apps available on the Apple Watch? Or are users simply not downloading the apps out of carelessness or ignorance? I certainly don't claim to know the answer, but it's something newsrooms should consider if they want to continue growing their wearable audience.

How interested are you in getting news updates on a wearable device?Maybe it's because I’m a complete digital news junkie, but I'd love to see longer news stories on the Apple Watch. I'm simply not satisfied with the short glances and headlines. Plus, there are situations where I'd rather read something on the Apple Watch than save it to read later on my iPhone.

Interestingly enough, some millennials agree. While 40 percent of our survey respondents indicated they would not be interested in detailed news stories on the Apple Watch, 43 percent said they were somewhat interested. Seventeen percent said they would be very interested in receiving these types of updates. Ultimately, there's at least some appetite for longer news stories on the Watch, but what would those stories even look like? Reading a lot of side-by-side text on the Watch is no fun at all, so simply a longer text story wouldn't suffice.

There aren't many apps out today that are experimenting with longer stories on the Watch, but one I'll mention is Yahoo News Digest. This Apple Watch app gives you a new story with hourly updates throughout the day. On the first page, you're presented with a few text sentences, very similar to updates from CNN or The New York Times. However, if you swipe the page right, you can view related photos, read a selected quote or take advantage of Yahoo's speed-reading function. With speed reading, the app flashes one word in a sentence before quickly moving to the next word. It helps me read passages more quickly, and is oddly compelling on the tiny Watch platform.

With Yahoo News Digest, Yahoo seems to be reimagining what it looks like to consume news on the Apple Watch. Scrolling through text or looking at a photo isn’t enough. It has to be a deeper and more engaging experience than so-called “glance journalism.” 

Chris Mathews  
Guest blogger


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