Suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, it feels like Pokémon Go is everywhere. From articles dissecting its rise to people walking into you on the pavement as they navigate the streets looking for Pikachu and Co., it’s fair to say that Pokémon is once more a trending phenomenon.

The creators have harnessed the power of Augmented Reality and smartphones to revive the characters many of us (perhaps those less video-game oriented, anyway) will simply remember as critters on cards.

Spending pocket money on them, praying for a rare shiny, swapping them in the playground — being a collector of Pokémon cards was an expensive and stressful business for an 8-year-old nearly 20 years ago.

Now it’s back on peoples’ radars, revamped for 2016, but with the essential premise unchanged: collecting different characters of different values.

A number of publications have started incorporating Augmented or Virtual Reality components into their media campaigns.
A number of publications have started incorporating Augmented or Virtual Reality components into their media campaigns.

So what does this have to do with news media companies?

Well in many ways, not a lot. Yet both Pokémon and news media companies have evolved their print presences and harnessed digital opportunities, such as AR, to bring audiences content in exciting and more accessible ways.

Like Pokémon, news media companies’ print presence is enduring. Would Pokémon Go have taken off so quickly if it wasn’t for many 20-somethings familiar with the concept and characters from the cards, unleashing their inner 90s children? Probably not.

For newspapers, print continues to play an important role within the multi-platform mix. In fact, print actually supercharges the effects of digital media. And, its inclusion in a campaign boosts ROI across a range of sectors, according to a new trio of studies into the effectiveness of news brand advertising, commissioned by Newsworks.

Interestingly, a multi-platform study with BDRC Continental also found that using print in a campaign actually increases the perception of a brand as innovative.

When it comes to AR, publishers’ experiments often incorporate a print element. An example of this is many titles’ support of last year’s Poppy Appeal.

In collaboration with the Royal British Legion and Blippar, newspapers including The Times, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, i, Evening Standard, and Metro added a blippable poppy to their masthead, giving access to pictures, videos, and stories from service men and women.

The Evening Standard offered a feature allowing readers to appear in an image with the Queen.
The Evening Standard offered a feature allowing readers to appear in an image with the Queen.

Similarly, the Evening Standard incorporated AR into its coverage of the Queen becoming the United Kingdom’s longest reigning monarch. Scanning the page with a smartphone allowed users to capture images of themselves or others “next” to her majesty.

More recently, the Guardian launched its first Virtual Reality project, called 6x9 and described as “a virtual experience of solitary confinement.” Users are placed in an interactive virtual segregation cell to highlight the psychological deterioration and sensory deprivation that can be effects of long-term solitary confinement.

By employing user interactivity, users “inside” the cell interact with objects to learn what they can and cant do. Throughout the experience, users hear audio interviews with seven former inmates who were in solitary confinement.

The Guardian’s Virtual Reality experience allowed readers to immerse themselves in solitary confinement.
The Guardian’s Virtual Reality experience allowed readers to immerse themselves in solitary confinement.

While this was primarily a digital project, the narrative still translated into print, with the Guardian publishing people’s stories of solitary confinement on its centre-spread to coincide with the launch of the VR experience.

So what’s my point?

As gamesters quest to “catch ‘em all” takes on a new lease of (virtual) life, newspapers’ use of AR and VR is also bringing another dimension to its content, including print.

Whether as a central gateway to more information (as with the Poppy Appeal and Queen’s milestone activity) or in a supportive role (as with the Guardian’s 6x9 project) print is often part of the mix — allowing publishers’ to further break down platform silos and offer readers and advertisers an integrated, innovative experience.