During a Christmas party last year, Ledger Dispatch publisher Jack Mitchell connected the dots between augmented reality (AR) technology and printed newspapers. Another guest had contributed a bottle of 19 Crime” wine, which has labels depicting notorious criminals. With the ease of taking a mobile phone photo, that label and its featured criminal was “brought to life” on screen. Mitchell immediately recognized how AR might be applied to editorial and advertising content for his twice-weekly newspaper published in Jackson. Calif.
He began to research AR developers and found that many required readers to use third-party branded apps rather than a custom-branded app for the newspaper itself. Utah-based Strata AR was willing to create that app with Mitchell.
Partnering with Strata, Mitchell formed Interactive News, which will roll out apps to publishers around the country. They’ve begun to evangelize AR at industry conferences, while getting a growing number of newspaper publishers to put it to use practically.
At the Ledger Dispatch, Mitchell introduced readers to the app earlier this year with house ads and game promos.
“The advertisers get it immediately,” he said. “Our ad revenues shot up dramatically. We’re up 30 percent.”
John Wright is Strata’s CEO. Beyond being compelling and cool, there’s some science behind AR’s effectiveness and resonance, he pointed out: “We have five senses, and if you activate three of the five, you’ll remember it. A (printed) newspaper activates only one—visual—so if you can get touch and sound involved in your experience, you’ll remember it more.”
Wright estimates that about 3,000 users have already downloaded the free app, which can be custom-branded for each newspaper title. The Ledger Dispatch has about 400 readers using it, and the balance is made up of readers from the nearly 30 other newspapers that have already rolled out Interactive News apps to their own readerships. According to Wright, publishers are provided with a full-fledge native app for about $500 to $750 a month. There is no long-term obligation, nor startup/setup fees.
In addition to linking to websites, social media pages, videos, and other value-add content, AR also enables publishers to create a direct e-commerce link to advertisers.
Another compelling feature of the solution? Language translation. “When you scan the text, it will read it back to you in one of 40 languages you can choose, making us a multilingual newspaper,” Mitchell said. “I’m now reaching an audience that I couldn’t reach before at a small, local paper.”