The Internet of Media and the New Connected Consumer

Elle's September issue is one example of how media companies and advertisers are looking to plug into the IoT. But will consumers eventually tune them out?
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Sep 16, 2015

In the fashion magazine world, September is the month that matters most. It's always the biggest, most ad-filled issue, and this year is no exception for Elle. What is unique about this year's September issue, however, is not found on its printed pages, but rather in a digital campaign that launched with the issue: "Shop Now! With Elle."

This campaign, which will run until Sept. 25, is a collaboration between Swirl, a beacon marketing platform provider, RetailMeNot, which offers a mobile phone application that provides electronic coupons to users based on their shopping interests, and ShopAdvisor, which operates a mobile phone-based consumer shopping service. All three of these organizations leverage Bluetooth beacons located inside stores to serve coupons or special offers to consumers. Through the Shop Now! campaign on ShopAdvisor's website, readers can shop for and purchase clothing featured in the September issue (apparel worn by the models in the magazine's editorial features) through affiliated online retailers, such as Net-A-Porter. But if their phones are running the ShopAdvisor or RetailMeNot app, they will also be sent special offers or notices—based on their proximity to beacons in retail stores with Swirl's beacons—to products from Levi's, Vince Camuto and Guess.

Basically, Elle is reaching through readers' smartphones and directing them to the brands that advertise in the pages of its magazine. It's worth noting that Hearst Ventures, the investments arm of Elle's parent company, Hearst, provided part of the $18 million that Swirl raised earlier this year, pushing Swirl's total capital raised to $32 million.

Elle also sees this as a means for boosting its newsstand sales. Beacons installed in 640 Barnes & Noble stores ping app users to purchase the magazine inside the store. I'm hoping Elle or Swirl might eventually share whether the Shop Now! campaign boosted magazine sales.

The adorably named advertisement technology company Freckle IoT announced last week that it is partnering with major Canadian publishing company Postmedia to launch a program that will integrate the Freckle IoT Software Development Kit (SDK) into mobile apps from Postmedia's publisher brands, including The Vancouver Sun, Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen and Calgary Herald.

Postmedia says its mobile properties have three million active users, and Freckle IoT says its beacon network spans 30 metropolitan areas across North America with more than 500,000 venues.

Freckle IoT says users will need to opt in to receive notices, as one would expect. And I'm guessing that plenty of readers will do just that—especially if they receive special offers in return. But it also seems as though a fair number of those readers will eventually grow tired of receiving push notifications through their phones when they run out for any workaday errand (presuming retailers will continue rolling out beacons at their current brisk pace).

The Elle campaign and the Postmedia/Freckle partnership are just two recent examples of how media and the IoT are merging, with players on each side exploiting the technology in order to gain readers' attention and patronage. The opportunities are huge, and so is the mountain of data that both media companies and advertisers will be able to mine from these deployments. Let's just hope that for consumers, beacons do not turn into the electronic version of junk mail, streaming through their cell phones whenever they leave the house.

Mary Catherine O'Connor is the editor of Internet of Things Journal and a former staff reporter for RFID Journal. She also writes about technology, as it relates to business and the environment, for a range of consumer magazines and newspapers.

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