Think Outside of the Page

By Ryan Whitt

Bedford and Edenvale News, a South African newspaper, has recently integrated the app Pixzar with their newspaper, which allows the user to take a picture of their edition of Bedford and Edenvale News and have their phone load videos, graphs, or other additional information in an augmented reality space.

A demonstration of the Pixzar App being used with a Bedford and Edenvale newspaper.

Bedford and Edenvale News is not the first company to do this, newspapers have been doing this off and on for the last 10 years to varying success. Bedford and Edenvale just happened to be the most recent one I could find, but you can find tons of newspapers with AR functionality.

A Japanese newspaper, the Tokyo Shimbun, created an AR app in 2013 that helped make newspapers more digestible for children.

The Tokyo Shimbun AR app that provides interactivity that makes reading the news engaging for children

AR has been used for dozens of years in newspapers across the globe, but it has yet to really catch on. The Washington Post doesn’t just include augmented reality support with every article, and I think that is simply a mistake.

I think that more newspapers need to be making and using apps like Pixzar, because it opens up an entirely new layer to how print journalism can be handled. Print journalism for newspapers and print journalism for an online publication are currently two very different worlds, but apps like Pixzar help bridge that gap.

Pixzar allows anyone to make their own custom AR app through their own software, which helps smaller companies like Bedford and Edenvale News integrate AR into their products without having to devote a massive amount of manpower or money into the project.

The Pixzar plugin that Bedford and Edenvale uses allows you to look at a page and immediately be met with accompanying videos that help further explain the subjects, the same way a hyperlink or embedded video would help explain a subject in an online publication. The functionality of that is not to be underestimated.

Say an article absolutely needs a video to be properly understood, normally that article has to be published only on the online version of your newspaper, if it is published at all. Now, that article can be ran in both the physical and digital runs without issue.

A lot of newspapers don’t even fully take advantage of their online counterparts by only posting the same pictures and texts that are used in the physical releases instead of utilizing hyperlinks or videos. AR allows for newspapers to stop having to sacrifice that aspect of their online versions, as well as allow them to include those links in their physical version, making for a higher variety of what can be reported on in newspapers.

Of course the possibilities an app like Pixzar presents are not without their flaws. Having an AR centric newspaper risks alienating older audiences, and if you are running a physical newspaper the odds are high that your audience is mainly the elderly. However if only a handful of articles, say just the front page article and maybe 2 or 3 less important articles, had AR functionality then you would minimize the risks and still expand the coverage of your newspaper.

Despite these risks, I think that the future of physical newspapers lies in AR. Being able to bring videos from a page onto your phone is an amazing technology, and helps make newspapers easier to condense into more appealing bite-size pieces of information like their online counterparts.

As for the parts of this blog post where I am supposed to help demonstrate the app, I do not have a copy of the Bedford and Edenvale newspaper to showcase it, so I hope the above video helps accurately portray what Pixzar and other AR apps can do for the field of journalism.