Digital Days and Interactive Print

Print products are converging with cutting-edge digital technologies in a holistic approach that harnesses the benefits of both screen-based and print technologies.

24 Mar 2014

by Louise Ailish

Ikea smartphone app

At a recent press conference, Boris Johnson declared London to be “the tech capital of the world”. From Silicon Roundabout start-ups to global brands such a Facebook choosing to relocate, London has a profusion of tech talent and innovation, which is flooding into the well-established media industry of the city. The arrival and continued influence of adaptable websites, tailored apps and digitally targeted advertising make digital media a force to be reckoned with.

The ubiquity of technology

Hugely powerful smartphones are the ubiquitous accessory for modern life with, according to Forbes magazine, more than seven in 10 of us owning one while new ways to use them keep popping up every day. And from geocaching to google maps, technology is altering the way we interact with our physical surroundings while digital products themselves collect accurate data on how we interact with them and respond accordingly. No wonder print products and advertising are having to become more targeted and specific, particularly in the fast-paced realm of the luxury market.

“Print and digital are not at war—to create the best products for advertisers and readerships, a more holistic approach is needed”

Print and digital are not at war—to create the best products for advertisers and readerships, a more holistic approach is needed, combining the targeting capabilities and ubiquity of smartphones with the quality, longevity and emotional potency of print. Converging the physical and the digital is an idea that has been seized upon by games companies such as Xbox and Disney and publishing is beginning to cotton on.

Interactive print & augmented reality

Interactive print, or augmented reality, is a hybrid technology that harnesses the benefits of both screen-based and print technologies. It bridges the gap between digital and print media, giving us an immersive, engaging product that delivers statistics and data feedback and, in turn, can be used to update products to keep them fresh.

Shortlist featured a cover which triggered a game when scanned using an augmented reality app

Interactive print has been embraced by magazine publishers such as BBC Magazines and Condé Nast, and by brands from Nissan to Heinz. No longer limited to scanning QR codes, using a standard printing process and an app downloaded to your smartphone you can interact with printed matter to display exclusive content, videos, games, 3D and dynamic experiences, social media options, mapping and ways to buy.

The interactive pages use image recognition, so there is no need for any watermarking or QR codes that might interfere with the look of a page. As well as the added editorial intrigue, interactive print has more perceived value and increased reader engagement, so are beneficial to advertisers, too.

The IKEA app uses its catalogue and an app to digitally superimpose their furniture into your home

Interactive print examples

Key to interactive print is making additional digital offerings accessible enough for a reader to activate them, and compelling enough to keep the reader interacting with the product. Currently there are only specific apps for accessing specific content, but this hasn’t stopped many brands utilising the technology to great effect. Shoppers at IKEA can use their catalogue and app to digitally impose furniture into their homes to see if it suits.

“Adding an interactive element instantly makes the product more engaging and more sharable, giving an edge in a competitive market.”

Radio Times readers can see covers spring to life and create 3D environments through their phones. Waving your smartphone over a Heinz ketchup bottle transforms it into a cookbook for you to digitally peruse. Adding this interactive element instantly makes the product more engaging and more sharable, giving an edge in a competitive market.

This ad by Pedro Alberto Andrade is an example of how a simple concept can add extra value to a print advertisement

Challenge and opportunity

The challenge for interactive editorial content is to ensure that it is interesting and relevant enough, while not incurring too much additional cost. The up-take of this technology is still in its infancy but, according to hi-tech analysts Juniper Research, the number of augmented reality app users could approach 200 million by 2018. I believe it would be a great move for print to embrace it.

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