Four years ago, Apple came out with the iPad. The death of traditional print was announced, as if it were a foregone conclusion that people would prefer to read magazines and newspapers from their tablets rather than from the printed pages. 

That may very well be true, and there are certainly many other indicators that show consumers are using their mobile devices to voraciously consume rich media.

However, print remains one of the strongest and most popular forms of media. Digital readership is still close to 2%-5% (depending on whom you ask), so that means more than 95% of all readers are still doing so from traditional print.

That said, publishers are spending and have been spending a lot of resources — countless man-hours and millions of dollars — to create rich media content for their Web sites and enhanced digital editions. 

Much of this content is truly amazing. But, more often than not, this rich content can’t be accessed by print readers — even if they are subscribers.

A quality “print-to-mobile” strategy can provide print readers access to digital content directly from printed pages, which can help create a better, more immersive reading experience. It also can show print readers why they want to be digital readers, too. 

This single tactic allows for a better ROI on the digital content being produced already – use print media to show off your digital content, not to mention how much better ads do in issues that also have Blippable editorial content. 

For the past six years, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the top publishing groups, brand advertisers, and their respective agencies to create engaging print-to-mobile experiences, including: instant videos, sweepstakes, coupons, games, quizzes and e-commerce, etc. 

From working on hundreds of print-to-mobile campaigns, the stats to which I’ve been privy show that when the content is compelling and the call to action (CTA) is clear, people are excited to interact.

Prior to joining Blippar, I had used QR codes, digital watermarking, tags, SMS, etc. to trigger instant mobile engagement. The experiences were cutting edge at the time, but ultimately, were limited, as they were simple links to mobile Web sites where the interactions took place.

At Blippar, we’re creating and delivering a high volume of engaging experiences using our proprietary image recognition (IR) app and Augmented Reality (AR) mobile platform.

So for me, joining Blippar last year was a natural evolutionary move, as I saw the overall market heading in this direction, too. I was familiar with AR and had done a couple of AR campaigns prior to Blippar.

But about 18 months ago, I saw my first Blipp (the active scanning of the physical world to unlock instant digital content on mobile). The Blippwas triggered off a US$5 bill. When Blippingthe note, an Obama for President campaign popped up instantly, with an AR graphics, music, and the ability to take a virtual photo high-fiving U.S. President Barack Obama, amongst other things. 

Personally, I was blown away and immediately recognised that this was much different than a simple link to a mobile site and was better than any other AR campaign I had seen. It was an immersive experience, which was also was a lot of fun.

Basically, the Blippar app engaged the camera on my smartphone, turning it into a visual browser that I was able to use to search the physical world and unlock digital content. 

This AR experience was much bigger than a simple campaign launching from a physical item. I realised at that moment that the visual search I just used to unlock this Obama campaign from my US$5 bill could be used in limitless ways. 

I reached out to Blippar the next day and the rest, as they say, is history.

Not too surprisingly, the average engagement rates have been much higher than what I had seen in past campaigns, with a 7.5 average repeat activity rate (meaning when a user Blipps one item, on average that user Blipps 7.5 more things/pages/times). The average dwell time (ie. how long the user stays within the interactive experience) is more than 1.5 minutes. 

Those are strong numbers already and overall market growth continues to accelerate. When there are thousands and even millions of unique items that can be Blipped, these number will be much, much higher.

Media companies and brands can have Blipps created for them by Blippar and/or they can self-publish via our BlippBuilder tool. This flexibility allows editorial teams to affordably make their pages Blippable and deliver instant, engaging digital experiences, which they can track to better understand what their readers want as well as help to drive much higher engagement from ads, enticing large media buys. 

Advertisers are using it and asking for media partners to do the same. If these experiences deliver compelling content and also include the proper education and CTA, consumers will interact. 

One example of a media partner finding much success leveraging Blippar to drive its digital content and deliver a more immersive interactive experience for their print readers is Winnipeg Free Press. The media company has committed to a strategic implementation of Blippar into their editorial content. It also has been able to entice advertisers with the technology as well. 

Readers can instantly launch videos, participate in editorial polls with real time results, get answers to crossword puzzles, instantly access additional photos via a digital flipbook, do virtual try-ons, as well as take a photo (eg. virtually holding the Stanley Cup) and share that across social as well as interact with Winnipeg Free Press print ads too. 

The company has maintained and built this behaviour and has already received hundreds of thousand of Blipps, with readers interacting on average at least 4.5 times. Engaged readers have stayed within these experiences an average for more than two minutes (aka “dwell time”), and they typically take multiple actions and click-thru to subsequent content. 

Winnipeg Free Press launched with Blippar in September 2013 and continues strong with its strategy. The company recently was recognised for innovation with a first-place win for Best Mobile Service at this year’s INMA World Congress last week in San Francisco. Blippar is very proud to be a part of that success. 

Visual search will become the predominant way for people to access information and other rich content — from images, printed pages,  and physical products, and eventually from almost everything in the world. And the media companies and brands who understand this new growing behaviour (much like Winnipeg Free Press) and build a strategy to engage with readers and consumers in this way, will greatly benefit in 2014, over the next three years and into the foreseeable future.