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augmented reality

Augmented reality is transforming the pages of print magazines. Video, audio and 3D images – delivered in the swipe of a phone or tablet – are building a bridge between print and digital. There’s also growing evidence that the technology is boosting subs and ad sales, reports Karen Taylor.


agazines are having their Harry Potter moment. Scan an icon on a page with a smart phone or iPad and the Potter actor Daniel Ratcliffe himself could

pop up for a chat. On other pages the Daleks are exterminating, Elvis is coming alive (again), or picture yourself on the cover of Seventeen, if you’re that way inclined. Alternatively, you may just want to view that Net-a-Porter coat in 3D detail and then click through to buy it. Augmented Reality (AR) is adding a new digital dimension to the tactile print experience – and its winning audiences young and old. Is it working for media owners?

“Absolutely,” says Tony Macklin, director of product and development, Immediate Media, the UK-based company which is extending its one-year partnership with AR provider Blippar. “It’s proven to be one of the essential tools in our editorial tool kit. We started a trial on one brand and it exceeded our expectations, so much so that many of the editorial teams across our business have taken it up.” According to Macklin, not only has readers’ interest exceeded expectations, so has the growth of users with smartphones and

tablets. “We’ve found readers really enjoy getting an extra dimension to their reading experience. And we believe the editions that have had AR have performed better in terms of sales. In today’s world, where circulations are under pressure, it’s been important as a way of keeping users engaged. AR bridges the gap between the tactile print that users love and the engaging digital experience.” “Our print titles have amassed more than 250,000 unique users and 1.4m interactions in less than a year,” added Russell Willis, head of interactive design at Immediate. “In that time, Immediate has created six of the 10 top Blippar campaigns across a wide range of demographics…across the board we saw discernible ABC growth and staggering interaction from readers.” Macklin says Immediate Media will be using more AR next year. This will be good news to the software suppliers who have been there since the start, when AR was little more than a twinkle on the iPhone. “In the context of print media, I’m not sure AR has really taken off yet,” says Jess Butcher, co-founder and CMO of London- based Blippar. “It’s certainly gathering momentum, but it’s not mainstream yet as

far as consumer awareness is concerned. There’s been a fair amount of market testing, but only a few success stories demonstrating strong conversion (see box).” Marne Schwartz, publisher of Viewa in

Australia agrees. “We’re all ready for take-off, but still on the runway. Traction has seriously picked up with better hardware (smartphones, better processors) and infrastructure (4G and broadband connections). Mostly, when people discuss AR, they’re really describing mediated reality; when the user’s visual perception of the real environment is altered.” Layar, the Netherlands based AR supplier, has seen activity increase alongside smartphone usage. Says co-founder Maarten Lens-FitzGerald: “AR really took off when we got the first android phone in our hands in 2008. For the first time you could do dual-based AR, which means putting digital content on a location, which you could see on the surface when you point your phone there. Up until then, AR was very expensive and very much a lab/military thing [see history box]. For the first time it was coming to the consumer

» issue 83_2014 | Magazine World |13

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