Augmented Reality (AR) has been a recurring hot topic over the last few months for INMA.

It is both an emerging advertising platform and a tool for engagement for newspapers to create a more interactive read. Augmented Reality provides print publishers with an opportunity to create a new experience between the print and online space – through mobile.

Rob Whitehurst recently presented at the INMA Audience Summit and showcased some excellent examples of publishers that have used AR to drive engagement and advertising revenue.

The Toronto Star’s “Go Beyond” day on September 19, 2013, was another example of a programme that leveraged the technology to create a truly innovative reader experience through content and advertising.

Partnering again with Nissan Canada, TBWA, OMD and Layar, the Toronto Star brought Canadians an interactive newspaper experience unlike anything we’ve seen in the Toronto market. Building on the momentum of the 2013 Altima launch campaign (that ran in the Toronto Star and Postmedia newspapers across the country in 2012), we endeavoured to take it to another level.

In addition to an exciting augmented advertising campaign, we brought a completely different read of the newspaper. With the use of the Layar app, readers were able to scan the pages and bring the newspaper to life – the editorial and the ads. Photos came alive, balloons sailed into the skies, columnists actually told readers about their stories.

The front of every section contained hidden content specifically created for the day that was revealed using the Layar app. Some highlights included:

  • A live feed on our cover that allowed readers to explore the new Ripley’s aquarium (not yet open to the public) and discover something different at any point throughout the day.

  • Live blog within the news section that showcased Torontonians who found our editorial team at the St. Lawrence market and had their pictures taken with a written word that described what Toronto meant to them.

  • Videos and photo galleries across all of the newspaper sections.

  • Nissan’s ad placement within the newspaper that featured virtual showrooms, image carousels, cars driving across the pages, and more.

It was important that the audience had the opportunity to participate in an augmented newspaper that leveraged the technology to provide a deeper connection to the content. We wanted to create anticipation for what was coming next and create motivation to look for the clues throughout the paper that uncovered deeper stories, videos, interactive games, and animations.

The “Go Beyond” project was a great collaboration between many teams, including editorial, advertising, promotions, marketing solutions, production, consumer marketing, and more. All worked toward a common goal. After months of preparation, the day was a huge success.

Is AR the answer for newspapers to attract new audiences, increase time spent, and increase ad revenues? Will AR go the way of the QR (quick response) code?

If only we had a crystal ball.

What we do know is how important it is for us to continue to evolve, try new things, and find new ways to share content and provide our advertisers with new and exciting opportunities to communicate their marketing messages and drive results for their business.