When we first launched Overly and our augmented reality app back in 2014, we hit the local market strong through reviving traditional media such as magazines, newspapers, and books. Over the years, we’ve delivered projects for publishers across Europe, helping them to better cater to their tech-savvy and tech-innate audiences. 

 

Here I share several augmented reality examples for print media from Overly with an emphasis on providing advice to publishers. I hope this guide serves as both a source of inspiration for revitalizing your traditional media materials and the much-needed reality-check as to what return is reasonable to expect.

Why should you consider adding augmented reality features to your magazine or newspaper?

Today’s young adults, teens, and children have been born with tech inextricably intertwined with their lives. While less than 1% of the world population had access to the internet in 1995, 4.5 billion of the global population use the net in 2020. Until recently, traditional print dominated media consumption, but the popularity of the written press among Europeans has decreased (similar to that across the pond), with rates of daily printed press consumption dropping from 37 percent in 2012 to 29 percent in 2016 — and we’re in 2020 now. Meanwhile, digital media has been steadily seeping in.

 

What draws people to digital content is visual storytelling and interactivity. Especially for the younger generations, digital information is more comfortable to access and consume, and often proves to be more engaging.

 

However, I do not like the loud announcements claiming that “print is dead”. People love to hold onto physical things still, be it books, magazines or brochures. In MHO, these two worlds do not have to eliminate each other, but rather adapt to coexist alongside each other and serve one another. If integrated with a clear purpose and benefit to its user, augmented reality merges the two seamlessly, adding a layer of interactivity and digitizing print.

What type of print publications can benefit most from augmented reality?

AR’s relationship with print media is way too under-researched for me to back up any statements that one type of publication is going to benefit from the tech while others should not even attempt to enter the sector. But while I cannot refer to loads of scientific research, I can share years of Overly experience.

Augmented reality can become a hit with niche print press

One thing that applies to all sectors is that you have to test and see what works for your audience. And testing isn’t just trying out one AR-enabled page in one issue. You should be consciously putting in the effort to introduce AR as a constant feature within your publication for at least half a year. That’s pretty much the only way you will be able to measure results and see what content works best with your readers. 

 

For this, I want to give you an example of two niche publications, one that I thought would be a hit with augmented reality and the other one that actually was.

 

It was early days for Overly, and we teamed up with a men’s lifestyle magazine, “Klubs”. Every month it features a section dedicated to a female cover model classy and professionally done photos of women wearing little to nothing. We decided to enable the magazine’s pages with augmented reality, thinking that we could really get readers to clock up AR use with behind-the-scenes from photoshoots.

 

This campaign generated a fair amount of interest and overall did good. Still, the behind-the-scenes content didn’t trigger most readers to take action and explore. See the example for one of the issues below.

Meanwhile, we also teamed up with a niche fishing publication, “Copes lietas”, and added video materials to its advice and best practice features. The audience consists of middle-aged men and above — not the most open group to new tech if you ask me. However, we wanted to test it out and see if it generates any interest. Guess what? The scans went through the roof, which for Overly meant consistent collaboration with the magazine on further  issues.

There are three takeaways from these two examples:

  1. Both examples are niche magazines for men, and while augmented reality can be an excellent tool for such press, the content that is augmented has to hit the mark. With years of experience under our belt, we know that behind-the-scenes content works better for women’s magazines, and male-oriented print press can be boosted by seizing in on topics that are key for that publication sports, cars, fishing, etc. (not cover girls)
  2. AR is not an add-on that will drive up sales, but it can provide great value for engaging with existing customers and adding to their experience. Niche magazines already can be proud of audiences that are geeking out on their given topic, so there is no need to sell aggressively. It’s all about the retention of that audience through innovation and quality content
  3. You have to test what works for your audience. You cannot team up with an AR provider and expect a complete turnaround for reader engagement with the first tech-enabled feature. Test, improve, implement, repeat.

Newspapers can also benefit from augmented reality

While most magazines are representing niches and have set target audiences, daily and weekly newspapers target the general population. However, recent stats reveal that 55% of U.S. adults now get their news from social media, and half of 18- to 29-year-olds Europeans use social media for news daily. So is it worth to squeeze AR into a newspaper when people are jumping straight on social media to get news updates at speed? 

 

Here I cannot give you a blanket response. I’ve seen it work, but it’s not a given. Some essential tips are to commit to digitizing your content and making AR a permanent feature of your publications. Your goal should be to get your readers to a stage, where they buy your paper and know to have your augmented reality app at hand. But the only way to reach such a state of mind amongst your audience is to invest in digital content creation and its marketing.

Augmented reality keeps print newspapers up-to-date

What defined the print press until before augmented reality is that once a newspaper is off for delivery, its content stays static and eventually, sometimes even in mere seconds, goes out of date. However, digitization through augmented reality can work miracles. 

 

I’ve seen success in adding AR to hard-hitting headline news, offering people to scan the page for a live stream of updates or the latest on the topic as the day or week progresses. That way, we acknowledge that by the time a reader gets the paper, things may have changed — yet, our team is delivering a layer of info in augmented reality that ensures our readers can keep up with key developments. And if you develop a habit for your audience to read your newspaper with mobile at hand for AR, you will enjoy high engagement levels.

 

To improve the success rate, just consider your circulation, which pages are most read by targeted audiences and which are read by most readers. These are the best spots where you can seize your readers’ attention and bring them into the digital arena. Our experience has shown that not all readers pick up their phones the first time they read your paper, but audience interest grows over time. I suggest committing to such an investment for half a year to be able to evaluate ROI and get feedback from readers. This is when you can either cut it off or create a plan for a permanent AR roll-out. 

 

In a nutshell, smartphone-enabled engagement is the way forward for print and newspapers should follow of how mobile is embraced by TVs. Producers know that people can no longer just simply watch TV. They introduce live-tweeting, Q&As, voting, etc. to ensure that people can double screen while engaging with their content. Stats show that three-quarters of viewers are using a smartphone while watching TV, and 93 percent of under-25s. If it’s a norm for TV, you can make it a rule for newspapers. We do not want to exclude a device that is so vital to our population, but instead, look to reintroduce it in new ways to let various forms of information and entertainment boost one another. Below is a quick overview of how AR looks in news publications.

 Once your audience uses AR, generate income through AR-enabled ad spaces

I mentioned above that AR is not going to help you sell your magazine and newspaper; it is best for audience retention when it comes to the printed press. However, once you have reliable statistics about how your readership interacts with your augmented reality offer, you can create higher-value ad spaces.

 

The above is an ideal scenario, but we’ve also seen publishers introducing AR editorial and advertising content simultaneously. The essence of success here lies in incentivizing your readers to scan the ad or pages. For example, by browsing AR content, readers may be offered a 20% discount on the product. They may be able to watch a trailer for a movie promo and buy discounted tickets straight off in AR.

 

Editorial reader rewards could be just as simple as opinion polls once a page is scanned. People who enjoy keeping up with the news often want to share and discuss their opinion on specific topics. An opportunity to do so can make people feel valued.

 

We spiced up some of the IMP Group’s print publications with augmented reality features, including advertising pages. Here is an example of their real estate sales page to give people a better taste of what their next move or property investment would feel like. If you’re already advertising properties within your pages, AR will add value to both your readers and advertising partners.

Communicate about your AR offer and ensure you offer quality constantly

I’ve dedicated a whole blog to marketing AR functionality before using AR to market products. But I think it is essential for me to highlight this here again as this critical step is often overlooked. Remember, no one is going to explore your augmented reality offer if you do not communicate about it effectively. You need to make AR features prominent and explain to readers why they should spend time exploring the rich media you provide.

 

This takes me back to another point content is king. If you genuinely think about adding value to your audience and create new, engaging content consistently, you’ll eventually see success. But, do evaluate your resources, if what you can truly afford is just one augmented reality feature per year, you may better off giving it up to advertisers.

 

I believe it is better to underpromise and overdeliver than vice versa, so I hope I have both inspired you and set your expectations straight. If you have any ideas you’d like to discuss, or you want to see more examples, get in touch with me on LinkedIn or leave a comment below.

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