Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

10 November 2009

Will Augmented Reality Rejuvenate the Glossy?

It's my belief that there'll always be room in the market for a high-quality, well-designed print publication. Some reasons why:
  • Reading habits are different online vs. offline. Online we skim and multi-task; offline we absorb longer paragraphs and deeper reporting (think investigative news stories). This could change with the technological progression of tablets, but there's still a long way to go in that arena.
  • Online isn't the best place to appreciate an aesthetically-pleasing high-res graphic spread. Our experience of ads and art changes from medium to medium; pick up a copy of Monocle or Vogue, then ask yourself whether the images pop the same over the 'net. (Maybe this will change when everybody has a monitor at home that's the size of a plasma-screen TV. But that's not happening tomorrow either.)

This could just be old-school purism. I'm a reader who's partial to the tactile experience of ink and paper, the same way hardcore music listeners appreciate the audible differences between vinyl, compact discs and MP3s. (And look who's winning that war.)

In any event, we're in a period of flux, so most of the print publishing industry's in trouble. Those who can afford to stay in business are trying, meanwhile, to reinvigorate the space.

Enter rough but promising experiments with augmented reality -- the idea of layering an element of engagement and manufactured liveliness to a non-digital experience (like reading print on paper).

Above is a video demo of Esquire's augmented reality edition (via @psyop). Point the issue at your webcam to see Robert Downey, Jr. leap out of the cover and harangue you with chatter.

Inside, you can engage -- and to a degree, control -- selected content and advertising. In some cases, the experience changes from day to day -- incentivizing you to come back to the same piece of content again.

COLORS Magazine, United Colors of Benetton's quarterly publication, also toys with augmented reality in its current issue, "Teenagers."

The functionality seems more limited than Esquire's effort but it's aesthetically interesting anyway. See the tutorial of snogging Benetton teens.

To see how augmented reality is changing entertainment (and advertising, and mobile utility, and life as we know it!) beyond print publishing, here's a cheesy but useful synopsis from CNN (via @160over90). Try not to wince when the Terminator 2 clip starts playing.

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