September 18, 2015 Last Updated 9:16 am

How augmented reality can drive engagement and monetization for publishers

Guest column: Omaid Hiwaizi, President of Global Marketing at Blippar, discusses the use of augmented reality by magazine brands such as People StyleWatch to drive user engagement

We all know the publishing industry is at a crossroads; just look to the fashion magazine vertical as an example of the upheaval. Fashion publishers are facing the constant challenge to drive reader engagement and identify new monetization opportunities, and titles that aren’t evolving are shutting down. In fact, a total of 21 magazines closed their doors in the first half of 2015, and in the last six months alone, both Lucky and Nylon Guys ceased publication of their print offerings.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for the print industry: publishers are reviving their businesses by implementing innovative and creative technologies that drive user engagement and loyalty. Some publishers are employing augmented reality (AR) technology, which allow advertisers to activate both informational and interactive content on top of the print pages, allowing publishers to innovate a previously static medium and revitalize the print industry.


Below are three ways that AR technology is driving value for publishers:

Expanding Advertising Space
Today, publishers are no longer confined to the limits of 8×10 pages; they are using AR to supplement, enhance and bring physical content to life via smart devices. Layering digital content on top of print pages solves an age old problem for publishers and advertisers alike: it creates new ad formats for brands and additional monetization opportunities for publishers. This technology allows for magazine readers to learn more about the products that interest them and scan the content to access information, including how and where to buy a product.

Reforming the Print Model
These techniques are not only reviving revenue streams for advertisers — they are transforming the print publishing business model. By activating digital content on top of pages, readers can flip through their favorite magazines as they always have, but with the added bonus of being empowered to immediately buy their favorite items from their smart devices. While the traditional process of purchasing items featured in a magazine is a clunky one, often involving readers filling out mail order forms, AR technology allows them to use a mobile device to scan the image and make the purchase seamlessly.

Stylewatch-BlipparThis September’s issue of People StyleWatch featured augmented reality content on every editorial page, allowing users to get immediate access to shopping, style demo GIFs, music via a unique collaboration with PledgeMusic and more. The magazine also allowed users to take a selfie and view themselves on the cover of the magazine, and included exclusive, behind-the-scenes content.

These publishing tools extend to brand campaigns as well. Vogue’s September issue featured interactive Target ads with shoppable content, and by using Shazam’s mobile app, readers could scan the images on their devices, bringing them to pages where they could directly buy the items. With creative technologies like these, publishers are powering a revolution in shopping by activating everyday consumer touchpoints.

Measuring Reader Behavior
While tracking user behavior and ROI for ads has previously been an elusive science, AR technology makes analyzing user behavior a simple process. By evaluating data received from these platforms, advertisers can better tailor their future campaigns, targeting demographics and user habits.

In July 2013, This Old House launched an augmented reality contest that ran in its August issue. The magazine asked readers to scan pages of the publication, which brought them to a digital sweepstakes page for a chance to win the products shown in print. When the campaign ran again in 2014, the publisher saw enormous interaction, with 214 percent growth year-over-year in unique users (87.8K in the second year), and nearly 20K sweepstakes entries in 2014.

Hiwaizi-110It’s clear that the print publishing industry today faces large challenges, but is also poised to take advantage of massive opportunities. With new AR technologies and other innovative techniques, which are beneficial from both monetization and reader engagement perspectives, print media is facing a critical turning point. The mediums that adopt new approaches, enabling readers to interact with content long after issue dates fade, are the ones that will emerge victorious in digital media’s new era.

Omaid Hiwaizi is President of Global Marketing at Blippar, the leading image recognition and visual discovery platform.

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