Robert Scoble and Shel Israel have teamed together to write a well received new book called Age of Context. In some regards, it may be the book of the decade for marketers, laying out a roadmap of what is to come.
The book examines the impact caused by the confluence of five technology sets impacting us today; mobile, social, data, sensors and location. Age of Context offers a well grounded view of how companies are using these technologies together to launch us into a new media area. But that media is not a screen, it’s life itself. Thus the term context, referring to media’s increasingly personal nature.
Aside from the science fiction-like reality the book presents, there are numerous examples that include some vertical industries (automative and medical) to help readers visualize the Age of Context as it is developing today. The examples combined with the authors’ experience covering and developing marketing and media programs creates a book that is important for any marketing leader and strategist to read.
As Scoble and Israel say in their book, “Storm’s Coming.” For once, that storm is not visualized with cheap notions of hard-to-understand terms like Big Data. Instead, we are given a view that is digestible and highlighted by example after example.
Age of Context presents the full integration of online and offline worlds, where data-driven algorithms, using input from users and environs, empower personalized offerings and choices. Scoble and Israel call this pinpoint marketing in their book.
Pinpoint marketing is the realization of big data and marketing automation. It revolves around permission-based access from users, and smart data-driven nurturing paths that offer highly customized solutions for individuals based on where they are, and what they are trying to do.
Scoble and Israel do a good job of warning readers about some of the pitfalls surrounding context. Specifically, they discuss gaffes driven by algorithms that range from annoying to super-creepy stalker-like updates. Both feel that the technology will slowly evolve (as will society) to embrace the Age of Context. Similarly, people will evolve to accept a world of anytime, anywhere computing, and its lack of privacy.
“I look at Uber,” says Scoble. ”I gave it permission to know a LOT about me, even where I’m standing and my phone number. Why? Because I get a LOT of utility out of that. So, the future is “give utility first, then ask for permission.” In the book Marc Andreessen calls this “free ice cream.” People will hand over their private details in exchange for a metaphorical free ice cream. I agree.”
The book does discuss wearable computing in great length. A bunch of us at Vocus had the opportunity to try Google Glass last Friday. We were equally impressed with the device, and could see it as a harbinger of the future.
If there’s one knock I have about the book, it’s its generally optimist view that the creepy issues of privacy will become resolved. It seems highly unlikely in the era of Assange and Snowden that this will happen. But one can hope, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.
I highly recommend the Age of Context to anyone who is in the marketing or media industries. It’s important, and will show you better than any other new media book about what technologies are coming next in our business.