Audience, advertisers embrace Die Welt’s Augmented Reality special edition

By Ulf Poschardt

One of the golden rules of journalism is to focus on one’s obligation as a chronicler. After all, in our wonderful profession, prophecies are regarded as rather dubious. Our specialty can be the present, at best.

All the better when these conventional rules are left aside for a day for good reason, and instead a pair of binoculars are provided with which to set one’s sights on tomorrow.

That is precisely what we dared to do for the first time in 2013.

The result was a special issue called “Die Welt der Zukunft” (“World of the future”) – supplied from all our desks, which dared to make forecasts, ranging from quite futuristic to frighteningly realistic. And because we as journalists also form part of a unique transformation in terms of both technology and structure, we thought about “how” to perform our work in the future. 

We came up with the idea while reflecting on our role as a newspaper in all the ongoing discussions on the future. How can we report the future? How can we analyse its challenges? 

With the help of multi-media storytelling and Augmented Reality, we were able to supplement the conventional print edition released in with videos, animated informational diagrams, and entertaining details.

The special edition content was available for one week. During that week, the scan mode was launched and content loaded about 20,000 times. In all, more than 200,000 AR contacts and about 34,000 actions were triggered within the AR mode. 

This issue, released on September 6, 2013, represented only the beginning of a new future for our print edition. What used to be imaginable only in science fiction films has now become a component of everyday life. 

The speed of technological change has a firm hold on journalism, and many in the industry feel threatened as a result. Old opinion-making institutions respond to the weight of the future with cultural pessimism and traditionalism.

Yet digitisation offers journalists — who otherwise take a scrutinising and judgmental stance at the edge of events — the opportunity to personally experience what it means when things change and become modernised. The journalist is part of the change in culture that has taken hold of virtually every professional sphere. That hones perspective. 

We live in times in which the future appears so tangible and so close — in some respects nearly already like yesterday — and so it is worth turning the line of sight, from the back to the front.

How will we live in 20 years? What are we hoping for? How will we be governed, nourished, replenished, and informed? We wanted to answer these and other questions in a newspaper that is a centuries-old medium only at first sight. 

The great thing is that more than 80% of our readers have responded to this effort with enthusiasm and had never seen such technology before, as we learned through market research. In addition, 89% regarded Die Welt as a pioneer among print media after the AR edition.

They have chosen to travel with us through time. They not only read Welt, they experienced it.

Advertisers are enthused, as well. They were looking for a newspaper like this and were very happy with results. They want to show what they can do with new multi-media, and this platform showcased their most innovative ads.

Readers surveyed found the ads innovative (100%), fun (91%), and that they added fascinating value (87%).

The connection between print and digital media made it possible for our audience to gain surprising insights into the future, perceptible through several senses. Also, with multi-media elements, advertising is double the fun. The opportunity for advertising customers to present their products to readers in a completely new fashion cannot be overestimated.

Projects like these make our readers proud to read a newspaper that pioneers innovation in Germany. That makes us want more of the future. 

Issue No. 2 will follow in September.

About Ulf Poschardt

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