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Could AR be the shot in the arm print so desperately needs?

newspaper headlines

As South African newspapers and magazines come under increasing pressure from digital competition, so must they look to digital innovations such as augmented reality to rejuvenate their business models.

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Struggling publishers could make their print products more engaging and exciting for readers by weaving them together with their digital experiences. Augmented reality, for example, could help them to enrich their print materials with interactive content. It could also enable them to offer new advertising options to their clients – ones that are more immersive and tangible than static print ads.

Augmented reality is a technology that enhances the real-world with a digital overlay, usually viewed by using an app on your smartphone or tablet computer. Through the camera and sensors in your mobile device, this technology adds layers of digital information – videos, photos, sounds – directly on top of real-world items.

For example, a travel feature in a magazine could layer an interactive map of the highlights of the city it explores in the printed copy and photos. Or a print ad for an LCD television could allow you to buy the product straight from your phone when you interact with it using a smartphone app. Download the free Layar app at and scan this image to see an exclusive Layar video to experience how it works.

Augmented reality is not a new technology. It has been around for a few years and is a natural evolution of the Quick Response Codes that many publications and brands have used with varying levels of success for a while now.

But the big change we have seen in the market is that the technology has become cheaper and easier to use. Solutions such as Layar, for example, make it simple for publishers to create augmented reality experiences without hiring developers, installing software, or buying expensive solutions.

I recently connected with Layar Certified Partner, Digital Narrative, who mentioned that there has been a tremendous uptake in the South African market, with 25% growth in Layar App downloads in 2014 alone. This growth, indicates that the SA mobile consumer is ready to engage with Augmented Reality.

What’s more, there are now enough camera-equipped smartphones in the market to make it attractive for advertisers and publishers to invest in creating high-quality augmented reality content. And we are already seeing South African publishers and advertisers embrace augmented reality.

Clover and Caxton Magazines, for example, are collaborating on an interactive print campaign across four magazine titles spanning four months.

The objective of the campaign is to create awareness of Clover’s Little Big Cook Off Competition, a 13-week TV series that started 10 May 2014 on SABC 3 at 6pm.

In the May editions of Rooi Rose, Essentials, Your Family and Food & Home Entertainment, readers could scan the Clover ad with Layar and see an exclusive TV ad.

Readers can also enter a competition right there using Layar to win Clover prizes. And as a bonus, readers can send the featured recipe straight to their phones using Layar.

These sort of executions are a way for print publications to add value for readers and advertisers alike. With today’s media audience wandering between the second screen (the mobile device), PCs, print and TV, this is just the kind of integrated thinking that can help print publications to become more relevant to digital-savvy readers and for brands to improve return on investment from their ads.

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