It is no secret that tech gadget review trends have changed over the years. What was once ruled by articles filled with jargon and specs are now led by videos that contain first impressions and interesting commentary. BuzzFeed sent two reporters to the Apple Watch event. Their demo video, which was light on detail, but heavy on emotion, was published yesterday. Unsurprisingly, many people are not happy with the video.
The official iTunes Twitter account retweeted the video to its 7 million followers. BuzzFeed did the same to its 2 million followers. The video has around 750,000 views on YouTube, so no where near viral material, but starting to reach some mainstream circles.
The BuzzFeed video talked about things that most people will think about when determining if Apple Watch is something worth buying. The two reporters discussed potential use cases in their daily lives where the watch would come in handy. There was no mention of the Digital Crown (which Apple also didn't discuss on Monday), screen specs, memory, pricing, or even the fact that the watch requires an iPhone. Instead, the video showed two Apple Watch users saying things like:
- "Already this feels amazing."
- "[Apple Watch] changes the game for messaging I think...and it's right on my wrist. That's so easy. I love that."
- "It feels very classy. It's almost kind of like vintage like old Hollywood feeling. Kind of feel like a movie start mixed with an astronaut."
- "I like that when you turn [your wrist], the face comes up."
- "I think it's going to change the way we talk to each other."
After watching the BuzzFeed demo, the viewer would understand that Apple Watch is a product that is clearly different than just an iPhone on your wrist, with many different features. Interestingly, that is the exact message Apple was going after. Accordingly, some people weren't too happy with the BuzzFeed demo and started to question its authenticity.
AdAge asked Apple about the BuzzFeed video and whether it was a paid advertisement (it wasn't), and then goes into a discussion on how Apple never did something like this under Steve Jobs. Yes, they actually said that. Joshua Topolsky, a media editor at Bloomberg, was not pleased with the video, publicly calling the whole ordeal "embarrassing". The YouTube comment section for the BuzzFeed video was filled with negative reaction asking if the video was some kind of marketing job from Apple. People are still uncomfortable with where tech gadget reviews are headed.
The goal in product reviews is to recognize that viewers have an endless amount of information and resources at their disposal and are merely looking for things that can't be learned from visiting websites, namely emotion and real-world experiences. Giving viewers that in a well-edited video, filled with personality, like what BuzzFeed did, will be popular going forward. For additional evidence, look at all of the people Meerkating in the Apple demo event. The primary point in doing that was to connect with viewers and give an inside look at the room and some initial early impressions of the products. I doubt a livestream where someone is just running off spec after spec would be as interesting to watch as someone casually chatting away about how the Apple Watch may fit in their life, and just happening to let 100 people look on over Meerkat.
The Verge's Apple Watch demo video (200,000 views on YouTube) was obviously different than BuzzFeed's video because The Verge has a different reader base, with specific needs and values.
The contrast between the BuzzFeed and The Verge demo videos are noteworthy, demonstrating the much bigger trend in technology: personalization. While there is still demand for videos that go into a gadget's specs, the momentum is clearly found with videos that simply discuss the emotion behind the product and if it is something worth people's time to learn more about. Gadgets are becoming extensions of ourselves and that is only intensified with wearables. While some may be interested in the assumptions included in stated battery life claims, many more will be mesmerized by an animated Mickey Mouse watch face.
Incidentally, Apple has been placing emotion ahead of tech specs in its marketing campaigns for a long time. We saw this once again at Monday's keynote where the takeaway message was to drum up interest in the Watch and not focus on specifications or even how the Digital Crown works. This makes the Apple online store that much more important as a source of information, in addition to brick-and-mortar retail establishments. Taking a look at Apple's recent retail hires, it would seem that Apple is betting its retail arm will become more crucial to the overall business as time goes on. Apple is also introducing a new type of watch preview system at its retail stores where the goal is to educate customers on Apple Watch.
Tech sites will have a very difficult time adopting a model where emotion is the primary focus of their gadget reviews. If The Verge tried to do an Apple Watch demo like BuzzFeed, their users would rise up in revolt and the reviewer would probably be dismissed (or told to correct the video).
Tech reviewers like Marques Brownlee, who is already somewhat of a YouTube sensation with 2.3 million subscribers, are resonating with viewers because they represent the hybrid between The Verge and BuzzFeed (while also being purely video based). Brownlee's high-quality videos are concise, filled with relevant information and personality. I suspect a good portion of Brownlee's viewers are also tech site readers. Apple's "Spring forward" keynote was Brownlee's first Apple event. His MacBook video demo from the Apple event has 650,000 views on YouTube in one day.
As technology becomes more personal, emotion will need to play a bigger role in explaining how a particular device can fit into someone's life. While some felt uncomfortable with the BuzzFeed video and its lack of detail, there are many others that genuinely got something out of it and will now take time to research the product. The gadget review continues to evolve and personalized gadgets like Apple Watch are only accelerating the process.
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