Fireside / July 2014

Applied Innovation – The Cure for Tech Overload

There’s an occupational hazard of following tech trends.  The danger is hearing so much about a new technology or acronym that you grow a little deaf.

What’s important for trend-trackers is to note when innovation begins shifting into application. Back in May, for instance, Wireside’s Founder Joya Subudhi wrote a blog about Google’s acquisition of NEST. Her post helped keep the Internet of Things (IoT) real by drawing attention to a familiar and everyday device, the thermostat.


Another story about Google’s smart contact lens project revived my own interest in another much-discussed category, wearable devices.

Did you see this?

What caught my eye – no pun intended – was news that the Swiss-based pharmaceutical Novartis wants to license Google’s technology in this area.

Maybe you saw it the first time – but one of the ideas is to outfit the contact lens with a sensor that can detect glucose levels via tears, giving diabetics a better way of monitoring their condition.

Time will tell whether this brilliant idea works out, but it got me to thinking about an obvious point: Innovation becomes real when it addresses actual problems, genuine pain points and concrete circumstances.

The smart and networked home

A preview for the Messe Berlin IFA 2014 event (Sept 5 – 10), which encompasses electronics and home appliances, offers another case in point.  One of IFA’s pre-show releases, for instance, discusses trends among manufacturers of large and small domestic appliances.

Why the emphasis on small? Because it reflects a demographic fact: the rise of single-person households.  The engineering challenge is to make appliances that serve that growing market segment just as sustainable and efficient as any others.

Like the smart contact lens project, those manufacturers are addressing real circumstances.And when technology begins working its way into daily lives, for instance when a grandfather is found adopting a smart-phone controllable thermostat to make his family’s vacation more comfortable, you know you’re at an inflection point.  Then IoT becomes more than an abstraction.

Nothing against pure academic research or groundbreaking engineering, but that kind of applied innovation is always an easier story to tell.

The Network is the New Network

As a technology-focused PR firm, we try to stay current with infrastructure and popular trends. That’s not easy, with technology, services and consumer behavior constantly shifting. But I’ve found a key. It’s a little saying that captures what has been happening at the busy intersection of technological innovation, on the one hand, and media and entertainment consumption, on the other.

Here it is: The network is the new network. TV2

Let me explain. For anyone who has been paying attention to the evolution of television over the past decade or so, this is really no big mystery. The infrastructure that drives the delivery of today’s information and entertainment services – the technological network – is supplanting the original bundle of broadcast programming known as the TV network.

The once all-powerful TV network has been losing ground for many years, as these points help illustrate:

  • In 1999, HBO broke new ground when The Sopranos became the first cable network series to be nominated for an Emmy Award for best drama, earning more nominations that year than any show – broadcast or cable.
  • Ten years later, in 2009, Comcast announced plans to acquire NBC Universal. Thus, a company founded simply to extend broadcast signals by way of amplified coaxial cable was taking over one of the old big-three networks.
  • Last year, Netflix became the first non-TV network to win an Emmy. Founded in 1997 as a DVD-by-mail service, Netflix began streaming video a decade later. Now it not only has 48 million subscribers but also produces award-winning content.

My mantra oversimplifies, of course. The old networks ran (and continue to run) on technology, too. Nor has broadcast – or cable or satellite – TV faded away in the face of Internet alternatives. According to data from Comscore for Q3 2013, Americans spent far more (250%) time watching TV than they spent on multi-platform Internet use in Q3 2013. Online video, in particular, amounted to only 5 percent of the time spent with live and time-shifted TV.

But pay attention to the trends. Comscore notes that consumption of digital media has tripled over the past three years. Tablet and smartphone usage has fueled that explosion. Once upon a time, executives at the NBC, ABC and CBS called all the shots. Now that power is shared with whoever can deliver whatever content consumers demand to whichever video display devices they prefer. The network is the new network.

Telling Your Story with Storify

The modern PR professional utilizes a wide variety of online platforms to get the word out about a client or cause.  From Facebook to Hootsuite, Twitter to LinkedIn, the volume, expanse and power of social sharing networks are virtually endless.

One up-and-coming and thus far significantly underrated platform, in my opinion, is Storify: a social sharing service that allows the user to tell a story using content pulled directly from the web.  Storify helps you collect the best posts, photos, links, and tweets about a certain topic, plug them into a webpage, and turn them into an easy-to-follow “social story.”


Not only is a Storify story easy to read, it is also aesthetically “easy on the eyes.”  Instead of readers becoming inundated with text-overload, they can watch videos, see multiple tweets, view screenshots, and access links, giving the story a greater depth.

Just to name a few of Storify’s many benefits:

  • Storify is free of charge, user-friendly, and you can sign up through Facebook or Twitter.
  • It allows users to scan for content across various social media sites straight from the Storify platform.  The user can then select desired content and embed it directly into a Storify presentation.
  • Other users are able to “like,” comment, share or embed a Storify story on a website.  This creates endless possibilities for distribution and conversation surrounding a story.
  • It’s a unique presentation tool.  Just log in, select your presentation, and scroll as you speak.
  • The web content used for Storify immediately notifies the original author, and essentially builds an instantaneous list of sources that may possibly view and share the story.

Whether you are promoting a brand/client/event, explaining a crisis, or developing a strategic plan, Storify’s many functions can aid execution and delivery:

Promotion:  One way PR pros can promote a brand, client or event via Storify is to “tell” the clients’ story by using links to existing material, such as press releases, videos, images, and screenshots (of their social media presence, perhaps).  On a single page, you can include a more impressive expanse of information than most other services offer.  For events, you can pull tweets from all over Twitter about the event and publish the story the day of to give status updates and provide information to attendees.

Crisis Explanation:  In college, I used Storify to give a presentation on Target’s late 2013 credit card security breach.  I was able to pull supporting information, such as screenshots, news coverage, articles, and videos into a single story, yielding a simple, efficient and thorough presentation that was easy to understand and visually appealing.

Breaking News:  Recently, news networks have begun utilizing Storify to compile coverage updates for breaking news.  They are able to pull tweets, posts and images from various websites and social networks onto one page, providing a constant, chronological flow of updates.  Instead of having to visit multiple media outlets for updates, one can simply visit a particular news channel’s Storify page, a one-stop-shop for finding out what they need to know from a variety of sources and outlets.

Although the uses I’ve highlighted are only the tip of the iceberg, I hope they have offered insight into Storify’s seemingly endless capabilities.  Because Storify allows users to utilize so many other social media sites and tools, a brand or organization can creatively employ Storify in a way that best suits its needs.