The Brave New Media World Is Here

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h1This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.

HAL, 2001: A Space Odyssey

Over half of all devices

at this year's CES were Internet connected and nearly 60% were non-traditional computing devices such as TVs, cars, refrigerators and washing machines. Connected devices are proliferating throughout our homes which means consumers are about to become a whole lot more connected to the world. According to the GSMA, there are 9 billion connected devices in the world today. By 2020 there will be 24 billion, which means marketers and publishers better get ready for this new world too.

At CES, car manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz, Ford and Audi were touting new media and communications features. The prevailing trend is to integrate smartphone apps into the car's dashboard which lets drivers and passengers to listen to online music, access news and other content, stream video and more.

This narrows the range of broadcast media where you can reach consumers. The car radio will soon be usurped by online content, whether it's music or entertainment. The good news is that because this new media is so much more personalized, you can target your message more precisely to an audience. Streaming media also dramatically increases the amount of interesting data collected about users. Every song played on music services like Spotify or Rdio is logged with the rest of that user's music preferences. It will all be anonymized, because privacy will become the biggest hot topic for users in this new era, but it'll still be very valuable data for marketers.

To see how pervasive the trend of connected cars is becoming, consider the evolution of Ford. First there was Sync, launched in 2007. There are currently 4 million Ford cars in North America running Sync. The latest evolution of Sync is MyFord Touch, an in-car communications and entertainment system which makes it easier for drivers to consume Internet content. In Ford's newest hybrid car, the 2013 Fusion, one of the main distinguishing features is built-in Internet. Connected cars are set to ramp up quickly too: GSMA predicts that the automotive sector will account for 1.4 billion (nearly 6%) of the world's 24 billion connected devices by 2020. If you're a marketer or publisher, that's a platform you'll want to be on!

The TV is another device where personalizing the media experience is playing out. Traditional TV networks have already been disrupted by time-shifting devices, which let us fast forward through ads. The next step is bypassing TV networks altogether, as consumers increasingly access TV content via the Web. Popular TV shows such as Mad Men and Breaking Bad will continue to reach a large swath of people, but Internet TV opens up opportunities for new types of video content. Formats will evolve. We'll see TV stars and brands creating their own YouTube channels and releasing short bursts of content to the Web. We'll also see Web applications that mix TV content with Internet programming. This is fertile ground for publishers to innovate and for marketers to latch onto to reach niche audiences. The devices are ready, now it's time for new types of content and apps to bloom.

The next big thing in computing isn't a new model smartphone or laptop. It's the Internet empowering everything else around us. Our cars, TVs and many other devices. Which means we all need to think about engaging digital Internet experiences for the car, TV and every device imaginable - because that's where audiences are heading.

Richard MacManus is the editor-in-chief of ReadWriteWeb.