The human bandwidth for advertising is disappearing

I presented this chart as part of a talk I gave at the Interactive Minds event in Brisbane last week.

It’s a simple (perhaps overly so) representation of the amount of information contained in standard ads delivered in different types of non-broadcast media over the past few decades.

A single-page full colour print ad is around 25MB of data. The equivalent online format – a rich media banner – is around 2MB. While mobile ad standards are loose at best, size restrictions dictate that 20KB is about as big as a mobile ad can be.

The human bandwidth for advertising is declining consistently by orders of magnitude. The future bandwidth available for advertising is 200 bytes – a little more than the amount of data in this sentence.

What will that future look like? The ‘Glanceable UI’ is a term coined by Misfit CEO Sonny Vu that perfectly describes how we will consume our content in the future, and why brands will be mostly absent.

Nike Fuel created a glanceable string of LEDs to communicate how much you’ve moved today.

Pebble Watch created a monochromatic glanceable screen to show you only the critical information from your smartphone.

And Google Glass gives you a glanceable heads-up display as a consumer device, not just military wizardry or sci-fi gadgetry.

When our screens are nothing more than a string of LEDs, there is no room for the insignficant.

Despite being an advertising company, Google does not allow developers to serve ads on Glass.

With screens shrinking, the first thing to suffer as a result will be advertising. In a world where the human bandwidth for advertising is approaching zero, content providers will face the challenge of having to adapt in order to remain profitable.

The New York Times, a business that is slowly weaning itself off a reliance on advertising, has released its Glass app. While a media company like Google seem to be perfectly positioned to survive in a glanceable future, it’s not so clear how – or if – the New York Times and others like it will.

- July 2013