By using ‘bridging technologies’ such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, publishers are able to extend the power of print into the digital realm bringing together the best of both worlds. ‘Print plus’, if you will.
Perhaps the most exciting is Conde Nast’s partnership with Google Home, a smart speaker system that enables users to speak voice commands to interact with services through Google’s intelligent personal assistant. It was released in the United States in November 2016, followed by the UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Japan in 2017. In a first campaignof its kind, readers of Vogue’s US edition were able to ask the Assistant on Google Home for more information on five articles that appeared in its 125th anniversary September issue.
For example, saying “OK Google, ask Vogue to tell me more about Jennifer Lawrence,” delivers audio from the writer of the magazine’s cover story about interviewing the actress. The publication also launched a 360-degree virtual reality video series with Google called “Supermodel Closets”, offering viewers an inside look at the wardrobes of industry stars such as Kendall Jenner and Cindy Crawford.
Others, such as Hearst, have built voice-activated “skills” for Amazon Echo, another smart speaker but currently only available to interact in English and German. Hearst, which has built skills for Elle and Good Housekeeping, has a 10-person team called the Native and Emerging Technologies group that’s responsible for keeping the publisher up to speed with such new technologies.
Exploring a virtual new reality for print
Another example is Forbes which last month featured Warren Buffet on the cover, which incorporated a clever use of artificial intelligence. Readers were able to interact with the American business tycoon, who answered questions directly from the reader on investment and wealth on a dedicated microsite accessed by taking a picture of the print product.
In Japan, the Tokyo Shimbun has invested in augmented reality with a tool designed to change articles aimed at adults into easily understandable articles for children. The New York Times is also looking at how AR can supplement its print and digital content and recently its branded content arm T Brand Studio partnered with IBM on AR project "Outthink Hidden". The Times has also recognised the power of digital in its’ readers’ lives and recently redesigned its print edition to include tweets and other fresh content previously not witnessed on paper.
“The Times has a universe that extends well beyond the print newspaper, and we’re excited to transform pages A2 and A3 into a must-read destination that gives readers a sense of that,” said Dean Baquet, executive editor. “As we continue to invest and innovate in print, this redesign is a step toward creating a print newspaper for a digital era."
All such initiatives are aimed at giving readers (and by extension advertisers) more of what they want but such segueing of the digital and physical worlds also gives media owners more measurable real-time data that can help inform future strategy.
The Google and Amazon partnerships with Conde Nast and Hearst, for example, point the way towards a new form of ‘interactive audio’ – and what might that mean for tomorrow’s branding, content and commerce possibilities and the position of printed newspapers and magazines? Whisper it, but far from digital being the death of print, it is giving the industry a new lease of life.