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Augmented reality: business, if not editorial, advantages are clear

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World News Publishing Focus
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Augmented reality: business, if not editorial, advantages are clear

The Editor's Weblog has previously documented the innovative use news publications in Asia, the U.S., France and the U.K. have made of AR technology, and now it seems that Italy could be the next European country to embrace the trend.

In an article titled "Augmented Reality and the Future of Journalism," the website LSDI, Libertà di stampa, dritto all'informazione (Freedom of the press, freedom of information), documents the limited use Italian news publications have begun to make of AR and praises those "enlightened" publishers who are willing to take a risk on new technologies. Last Christmas (2012) La Stampa became the first national Italian news title to incorporate augmented reality functions into its printed edition, allowing readers with a smartphone or tablet to watch a video of the comedian Giacomo Poretti simply by pointing the device's camera towards a page bearing a photo of the celebrity.

A few months later, regional title Il Tirreno, distributed throughout Tuscany, conducted a slightly more advanced experiment. This year, on Saturday 18 May, readers were greeted by an "interactive newspaper" which allowed them not only to access the new album of Livornese singer Bobo Rondelli but also engage in a live webchat with him, watch a video of the singer introducing the newspaper's AR project, flick through a photo-gallery and "like" it on Facebook. It was a gamble that drew the praise of its readers and signalled a triumph for augmented reality that could tempt other titles owned by parent company Gruppo Editoriale L'Espresso, notably La Repubblica, to follow suit in the near future.

Through apps that enable smartphones to display additional information over real-life images, newspapers are increasingly able to bridge the gap between their print and digital offerings. Augmented reality has arguably paved the way for a more nuanced outlook on the future of newspapers, by suggesting that while digital is key, it is not king. Print no longer has to be a linear medium that delivers a one-dimensional product, and is showing itself to be capable of offering so much more to an industry that sometimes seemed on the point of abandoning it. This past week, USA Today reported that CEOs of major news publishers including Gannett, McClatchy and The New York Times have publicly backed print production and rejected the idea of following in the footsteps of the owners of the Times-Picayune by cutting back on print editions. The confidence that inspired this declaration was bolstered in no small part by the "influx of more technology in storytelling and the incorporation of graphics, data and videos into their websites and mobile apps," in which AR is a considerable factor.

The beneficial effect AR has on the relationship between newspapers and advertisers seems undeniable. Speaking at this year's World Editors Forum Wong Chun Wai, Executive Director and Group Chief Editor of The Star, Malaysia revealed that since launching the augmented reality app iSnap in April 2012, an AR app that allows advertisers to launch cross-media campaigns that take the reader from a print ad to watching a trailer via a smartphone, the total number of impressions taken with the app between 22 April and 31 December 2012 stands at 6,742,299. On average 40-45,000 impressions a day are taken of iSnap advertisements, which would explain why last year advertisers such as Prudential, Canon, Toyota, Mah Sing, Shell, Heineken, SenHeng and UOB were flocking to Malaysia's most popular English-language news title.

Meanwhile publishers are able to encourage greater levels of interaction between their product and a readership increasingly inclined to use mobile devices to access news content. A survey taken in the first quarter of 2013 showed that news consumption on mobile media surpassed that of desktop computers and newspapers.

That said, to return to the title of LSDI's article, it is difficult to estimate the impact that AR will have on the future of journalism itself, as opposed to that of newspapers. From an economic point of view, the increased revenue that could be produced would of course enable publications to invest in journalism, but viewed from an editorial perspective, examples of AR leading to journalists producing new ways of reporting events are few and far between. Pressed recently by Media Shift to give a specific example of how augmented reality had affected the editorial quality of the titles published by Metro, the company that produces free daily commuter newspapers in Boston, New York and Philadelphia, the company's digital director, Robert Edmunds, cited the use of Blipper in the publication's annual Sex issue. "When you Blipped on the article, it asked you to vote on what celebrity you would most like to sleep with."

However, this does not mean that editorial developments will be forthcoming. Advances in the use of augmented reality in news publishing have come on in leaps and bounds in the past year alone, suggesting that before long it could add even more to journalism.


LSDI, Editor's Weblog (1) (2) (3), MediaShift, USAToday, Il Tirreno


Amy Hadfield's picture

Amy Hadfield


2013-06-27 18:32

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