Lets talk print today. The print media has been under quite heavy assault for many years now from the internet and mobile. Some take cover in doing their print titles on new digital platforms like custom editions for the iPad for example, or a smartphone version etc. Other print titles have resorted to far simpler versions from SMS news alerts and mobile web versions to having custom Twitter feeds etc. Yeah, all that is good, in terms of exploring the digital world. But that is not the future of print.
Don't misunderstand me, there is huge growth to be had in doing news online or on mobile and/or on tablet PCs wherever you categorize those devices. I mean print, print as in 1st mass media print. Books, newspapers, magazines and billboards, catalogs, brochures. Paper. Print. And I don't mean some kind of Sci Fi paper with some electronic threads or paper-like thin displays. I mean pulp, from a tree, via a sawmill. Paper. Print. A printing press. I want to talk about the future of the 1st mass media today.
Oh, for new visitors, just one refresher course if you haven't caught up with the latest writing. The 8 mass media are in chronological order:
1st Mass Medium: Print from the 1500s
2nd Mass Mediun: Recordings from late 1800s
3rd Mass Medium: Cinema from about 1900
4th Mass Medium: Radio from the 1920s
5th Mass Medium: Television from the 1950s
6th Mass Medium: Internet form the 1990s
7th Mass Medium: Mobile from the 2000s
8th Mass Medium: Augmented Reality from the 2010s
PRINT IS NOT GONNA DIE, GET OVER IT
There is always panic with old media when a new media channel comes along. When radio appeared, there were huge fights with the recording industry about who was stealing whose content and many experts thought that free music on radio would kill the recordings industry. Well? We are now 90 years into that experiment, I think its safe to say that Lady Gaga and 50 Cent can sleep safely that their recording industry is still alive. Yes, its had its ups and downs but its not going away.
There were lots of media experts who suggested that when those darnfangeled television sets would come to every home, it would surely kill the cinema industry. That hypothesis has now had 60 years and as far as I can see, there is a new James Bond adventure coming with 007 Skyfall and I will surely stand in line for the ticket. No city I know of has closed all its multiplex screens yet.
The lesson we get from cinema and TV, is that TV did use all cinema content ever made, but that was not enough. TV needed more, and created its own content and formats that will not even work on cinema - consider music videos like on MTV or gameshows and reality TV. Those work excellently on TV but are not viable in the movies. What cinema also found, was that some formats were not competitive against television. Newsreels. Did you know that in the 1930s and 1940s it was very normal to go to the movies and see short news films from around the world about major events. Remember nobody had TVs at home, this was like watching the TV news. The sporting results from the Olympics or a royal wedding or the news from the second world war. Those 'newsreels' became obsolete when television news would reach the majority of homes in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Radio the 4th mass medium did not kill Recordings the 2nd mass medium. Television the 5th mass medium did not kill Cinema the 3rd mass medium. And no, the Internet 6th mass medium nor Mobile the 7th mass medium will not kill Print the 1st mass medium. But just like how Cinema had to adjust to TV, so too will Print have to adjust to the Internet and Mobile (and Augmented Reality).
THE DEADWOOD FORMATS
Some formats of print are totally obsolete and deserved to die. When there was no other way, the Yellow Pages and White Pages phone books were a valid way to let people know who had telephones, what were their telephone numbers, etc. The Yellow Pages were a 'better than nothing' way to find out who was a locksmith or dentist or attorney. Today Google does all that for us. An Encyclopedia was often a sign of an enlightened, learned, civilized family. It was the first place you went to seek information. Today we go to Google or Wikipedia for that info. These were large heavy print titles, formats, that served a need when there was no better way to deliver the information. They are long gone by now - and good riddance! How many trees died needlessly in the last decade in never-opened editions of published Yellow Pages and White Pages and various Encyclopedia and Dictionaries and Thesauruses etc.
This is like Newsreels were in Cinema. They served a purpose once, but were not the best use of that medium, and certainly were inferior in delivering their intended content to their audience. Like listening to live sports on Radio. If we do have live TV coverage, that is what we prefer, even as some radio announcers were brilliant radio personalities haha.. But then Radio would adjust and invent new formats like say Drive Time radio which you can't do on TV. Or in the case of Cinema, they stopped most low-budget 'Serials' movies and shifted upstream to higher budget features with superstar actors like your George Clooneys and Angelina Jolies etc. TV can do great drama like in Mad Men but its no James Bond epic haha..
SO HOW IS PRINT DOING DIGITAL THEN?
So this is not 'repurposing' your content to other media - like showing a rerun of James Bond on a Saturday on TV. I am not talking about taking your magazine or newspaper and creating a digital edition of the page to the iPod or internet or mobile. No. I mean lets turn the traditional printed page into a fully digital, interactive mass media experience. Lets help the First Mass Medium with the some digital love by the Eighth Mass Medium - yes, Augmented Reality.
And how do we do this? You know the QR code obviously (2D Barcode). It lets any printed page like a printed advertisement or the label on a can of Pepsi or a business card or airline boarding pass, to be able to be read by cameraphones and then various actions can be programmed into the QR code. It can include a web link for example.
Now take that one step further. The QR code is a standardized and usually relatively small, about postage-stamp sized square of black and white dots. Now what if you had the intellect to detect a more advanced image? Like a specific page of a magazine (one with a couple of pictures for example). The intelligence would be smart enough not to be triggered just by seeing one of those pictures, they have to be in the correct layout, in the correct relative sizes, and there needs to be the right pattern of text on that page too. The detail and unique abilities to personalize the page is nearly infinite, far far more than what is ever possible in traditional QR codes.
This is not science fiction. This existed in the laboratory for a few years and has been turned commercial earlier this year, led by our friends Layar of the Netherlands, the AR people. They now have in their commercially launched products, the technology to allow any printed page with illustrations (so not just text) including diagrams, pictures, graphics - and that can be tagged as the identifier for digital content. After that, we get magic. Consider this (this is not done by Layar's solution, this is an earlier technology as a one-off for this magazine advertisement), one of my fave examples of some teenager-boy aged marketing from the UK by the deodorant brand Axe/Lynx. The printed page does not show the girl fully, but take out your phone, and you can see her:
This is just one very early and simple version of what we can do with AR on a print magazine. The paper in this magazine is nothing special, just a normal printed magazine. In this case the Lynx/Axe app needs to be installed to a suitable smartphone and then look at the picture..
Beyond this, we can do just about anything digital. We can add voices and sounds. We can add videos and animation. We can show before and after images. We can show work in progress. In the Netherlands there is for example a comic book which is AR enabled. One of the features is that fans of the comic can see the same exact comic book page in draft form, how it was before the artist finished the frames. Perhaps the person was looking in another direction in the earlier draft, etc..
What do you need to read it? A smartphone with the Layar app. Layar launched 2 years ago out of the Netherlands and has reached 19 million installs and has 3 million active users worldwide. I estimated last month, that their Netherlands user base is about 1.5 million which is about 8% of the total population of that country. If we take it as a percentage of Dutch smartphone owners, its past 15%. That is not a niche market, my dear reader. That is the start of the Mass Market. Yes, AR is a Mass Media now, not just a tech nerdy niche geeky thingy.
LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT MAGALOGUE.
So yeah. I was in Amsterdam last month and visited with the Layar offices and saw some of the cool stuff they are doing. I also met with the digital people over at vtwonen, the biggest interior decoration magazine of the Netherlands. So this is your typical magazine about interior decoration ideas, your lamps, curtains, kitchens, furniture, etc..They showed their first ever Magalogue that was an insert to their regularly published vtwonen print issue this March. What is a magalogue? Magazine + Catalogue = Magalogue.
A magazine tells stories, usually with plenty of pictures. A catalogue is very different. Think Ikea, or Sears. A catalogue is intended to sell. So the catalogue has to give pertinent information to help you decide about buying. In the case of furniture, for example, it has to tell you not only how much it costs, but its dimensions. Does that bookcase fit in your living room? And it has to tell you about colors and fabrics and materials used. Often with various furnishings there are variations or options etc. A sofa may be in four-seater and 3-seater and 2-seater. Plus easy-chair, sleeper-chair and ottoman. Etc. To cram that type of info in a catalog takes a lot of text and 'wastes' paper. The catalogue becomes heavy. And then it gets also cumbersome. The similar items need to be near each other. We don't look for our bed choices from several pictures of bedrooms. We want to see the beds only, next to each other, all in a series of pages with only beds. This is not good for telling stories. Its the 'phone book' version of a spy thriller book haha.. You either have one (a magazine with stories, but not room to do the catalogue selling) or the other. But not both.
Until now. Enter the Magalogue. vtwonen used their editorial staff to create real interior-decorating type stories and tips, but using specific items that were all for sale (by multiple providers). This is like what if the Ikea catalogue was mixed on 'random play' on an iPod haha, none of the book cases were on the same pages, but rather, each book case was set into a suitable story about an actual room, and an actual interior decoration need. Its like no catalogue I've ever seen. Every page has an actual story, with pictures of a realistic mixture of products for sale. The products are obviously carefully selected in the right colors and shades so they fit together as if selected by an interior design architect (as the writers invariably would be). But the pages are not cluttered with endless columns of tiny text describing every item in detail. Yes, there is a single description of every item (only its name and its price) but all other info is now hidden in the AR app.
If you like the towels on page 18 but wonder if it comes in the shade of blue you prefer over that green in the picture, you take out your phone, look at that page and you'll have the link to that item. Here are the colors, here are the sizes, here are the prices... and here is the link to your shopping basket if you want to buy.
Now we can have tons tons TONS more. We can have experts giving advice on that item. We can have video on how that picture was made and what other items were considered. We can have variations of that same set up with alternate colors, etc etc etc etc etc.
And this is NOT a catalogue! There is not that heavy weight of all those pages of most unncessary pages in the back with all the detail about every item, their shipping weights, sizes, etc. No. We don't need that. Its all in the AR app. The 'catalogue' is removed form the 'logue' and the Magazine is added. Now we have a very nice fresh magazine that happens to be selling every item in the pictures, and you can get more info than ever was possible in any printed catalogue. Magazine + Catalogue = Magalogue. Brilliant idea!
Wait - I forgot the best part - its not static! If you want to make changes to your content, that can be altered at your end (you the publisher). So there is a price change. So there is a new color. Now there is a TV show that mentions that item and some celebrity said its cool. You want that video also in your page. You can make changes to the digital links of a print page already published !!!! It allows you to keep your printed page 'alive' and relevant for much longer, with updated content elements!!!
NEXT GO SEE AJIT BLOG ARTICLE
You like this? You are interested in how the future of print can be done with AR? Layar has just released some videos and news about their solution. Our dear friend Ajit Jaokar wrote a great blog about it with links to their videos etc. If you are in print, or work with print, you owe it to yourself to go read Ajit's article now at Open Gardens blog.
MEANWHILE BACK IN 8TH MASS MEDIA
And coming back from the 1st Mass Media to the 8th. I mentioned that I did my first TED talk at TEDx Mongkok two weeks ago, on the theme of Augmented Reality (and mentioned print media uses too). You may want to see this video, its only 20 minutes but the early reviews are that I got the angle pretty much dead-on about why Augmented Reality is the 8th Mass Media channel, and why it is relevant now in 2012. See Tomi at TEDx Mongkok talking about Augmented Reality as 8th Mass Media.