Fairfax launches SMH Google Glass app targeted at expats

Fairfax Media has launched a Sydney Morning Herald news app for Google Glass which it says is aimed at the Australian expatriate community.

Currently Google Glass is only on sale in North America and the UK, but the publisher says it is targeting the Australian expatriate communities in both countries. It also notes that when Glass launches in Australia, the app will be immediately available to Australian audiences.

“The Sydney Morning Herald app for Glass is our latest and most innovative step in providing the content our audiences want, where and when they want it,” said Stefan Savva Fairfax Media mobile director.

Google Glass is wearable technology which has drawn controversy with claims the device risks invasion of privacy allowing people to film others without permission and concerns about its practically in terms of hindering a user’s line of sight.

Fairfax is not the first major publisher to launch such an app, with the New York Times entering the space as early as April 2013. While Google does not release sales numbers on the $1500 devices Business Insider has estimated that there will be 800,000 devices sold by the end of 2014, rising to 2.4m by 2015.

“The (Fairfax) app summarises the top stories across news, sport and business so that they are more convenient and suited to the Glass environment. When an article is selected by the user, the app uses text-to-voice technology to play an audio track directly into the Glass speaker,” said Savva.

Former head of innovation at MediaCom Nic Hodges said it was good to see Fairfax innovating but that the app appears to be an experiment by the publisher.

“I can’t imagine this being pitched as an actual consumer-facing product. It’s an experiment,” said Hodges, who is also the founder of creative technology consultancy Blonde3.

“Glass isn’t a publicly available product yet, and when it has been available for sale it’s been clearly pitched as a prototype product with a development kit. Most people I know who were in the Explorer program have sold their Glass (or are trying to) – and I’m yet to see a pair ‘in the wild’.”

However, Hodges, who penned an explainer piece on wearable technology for Mumbrella this week, also applauded Fairfax for experimenting with the technology. “I think it’s great Fairfax have released this to the public. Traditional media organisations should absolutely be creating these experiments,” he said.

“It’s critical to understand how devices like Glass will create new user patterns and expectations for how content is delivered and consumed.

“I don’t think Glass will be a mainstream success, but experimenting and understanding both the positive and negative parts of the experience is super important in creating apps and experiences for whatever comes next.”

Fairfax Media general manager, product solutions Mark Cohen said the app opened up to opportunities for publishers and their advertisers. “Being constantly connected is the biggest change in consumer behaviour we will see in this generation. This offers vast opportunities to publishers to harness new technology and bring content to their mobile audiences, as well as opening up new opportunities to advertisers,” said Cohen.

“Fairfax Media is continually seeking new and innovative ways to provide value to our readers and advertisers across our existing platforms, as well as new platforms.

“Over the next two years, we will see wearables, the connected car, connected home, location services and messaging apps launch and come into their own with connected users.”

The Sydney Morning Herald app for Glass was developed as part of Fairfax Media’s quarterly innovation program, Ignition.

Nic Christensen 


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