Blippar The AR Monster

Augmented reality (AR) has had a relatively slow uptake amongst magazine publishers and media agencies however publishers globally are beginning to see AR as an opportunity to innovate and even create new revenue streams, thus reinforcing the power of print. The recent takeover of AR company Layar, by image recognition platform Blippar, is poised to create a leviathan in the AR world that will generate a major push towards a broader adoption of augmented reality.

“Blippar’s takeover of Layar has
caused shockwaves in the
augmented reality market,
and rightly so – it is the most
important acquisition yet within
this sector.” – Output Magazine

Recently I had the pleasure in sharing breakfast with Ms. Kate Russell, an ex-pat Australian executive previously employed by Layar and who is now the Strategic Accounts Director for Blippar – based in their Amsterdam offices.

Tell me Kate, what did the purchase of Layar mean to you and your colleagues?

“Although both companies will continue to operate as separate entities for a while, Blippar have begun incorporating our staff and clients into their systems. By joining forces we have now effectively created the largest AR reach in the world. Together, we are the undisputed leader of Augmented Reality and visual browsing with offices in the US, UK, Europe and Asia.”

So what has the takeover meant for your clients?

“The deal represents an exciting opportunity for clients of both businesses –the combining of two of the globally leading AR platforms and all the data and best-practice that both business have accumulated. Together we have over 100,000 users of either the Blippbuilder or Layar Creator platform spread throughout around 5,000 publishers and brands that use our products. Publishing companies such as Condé Nast, Hearst and Meredith have enjoyed the success of AR campaigns as have major brands such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Procter & Gamble.”

Output Magazine has reported that the takeover of Layar by Blippar is one of the most important acquisitions ever within the augmented reality sector. Would you agree?

“Definitely. Independent research has shown that mobile AR apps are tipped to generate $5.2 billion in revenues by 2017 and that customers are 165% more likely to buy a product that includes an AR marketing component. To be the leading provider of AR solutions at this time provides a wonderful mix of benefits for our clients and the company as a whole.”

So interactive print really offers significant advantages to publishers and advertisers?

“For sure. Our research shows that people viewing interactive print will click on the content 87% of the time. That is a major improvement on engagement over static advertising. Publishers can now measure how their readers interact with the printed version, which is of great value to them.”

That’s great news for publishers and marketers. So when do you think you’ll be moving back to Australia?

“Ha ha. Well I think the Australian market is ready to embrace interactive print so I don’t think it will be long before we have a more permanent presence here.”

We hope so too.

For more information on Blippar and Layar please follow the links to their websites and you can contact Kate on

Show Me Shomi

Publishing industry takes a page out of the future with Aussie startup Shomi.

Australian-based tech startup Shomi has potentially invigorated the future of the publishing industry with the release of their new scannable font-based code. It’s similar to a QR code in its capacity for mobile linking, but Shomi’s insight and design-led thinking has innovated the entire scanning process and with it, possibly the publishing industry too.

“The purpose was to simply link
print to digital content with
the use of a font-based code,”
says founder Tony Williams.

With function and form in mind, Shomi has created an iconic nine-character font code that when uniquely generated may be copied and pasted into any material or line of text, in any colour. This succinct alternative to QR codes is a godsend to designers used to the obtuse mobile linking graphics, and grants access to a new world of interactivity potential for publishers.

Mobile Linking Technology (MLT) was developed by the Japanese automotive industry in 1994 for tracking parts. However, the codes from this system (QR codes) contain far more data than required when used in a broader application, such as multimedia links from printed media. This lack of translation has led to graphic design challenges and low uptake of the technology. Shomi have now addressed this.

“We’re excited to see how it might
be used in different contexts, like
how we could integrate traditional
teaching with interactive learning,”
says Williams.

Alongside the streamlined code, the startup has produced an easy to use, standardised scanning application. Their in-text code and compatibility with augmented reality scanners such as Google Glass means Shomi offers a new world of interactive potential for printed and digital media.

The application features include a scan history and a social media component for sharing user scans across customers’ personal networks.

Standardising the scanning tool also provides innovation for marketing departments, with a clean user interface, scan-tracking analytics, pay-per-scan options and engagement insights for better placement of advertisements.

“Because only the Shomi software
can read the Shomi code,
we capture more data and
we can offer a safe and
consistent end-user experience,”
says Williams.

Indications suggest that Shomi’s concept is solid, with kudos coming in from the tech industry. Google Australia handpicked Shomi to participate in their startup program held in Sydney in 2014. Shomi are also finalists in Anthill magazine’s 2014 SMART 100, and clients such as Deloitte Digital are giving positive feedback.

Consumer uptake of MLT is now showing solid growth despite a slow start. According to Forrest Research, smartphone users that made use of a QR or 2D barcode in a given month was measured at only 1% in 2010, but by 2011 it had jumped to 5%, and by 2012 usage was up to 8%. In 2012, digital monitors ComScore reported a 96% increase in European QR code usage for the year, and a recent Adobe survey showed around a third of those surveyed had used the technology in the past three months.

Despite other mobile linking alternatives such as image recognition technology (IRT) and optical character recognition coming to market, there appears to be a space for simplicity. End users of IRT still need to be educated that an image is scannable, and the technology can be resource intensive for smartphones.

The Shomi app is free to download and use from the website, with basic analytics offered in the freemium version. The startup is looking for seed funding and is currently running a Publishing Partners Program, with special incentives for a limited number of selected publishers.ShomiHomePage

Talk to Tony Williams for more information.

Tony Williams, Founder and CEO,

0412 784 850

Use Shomi for free at

Dots or Pixels? An Interview With Adobe

Last year I was interviewed by Adobe for their digital magazine MyExpression. Here is a copy of the article for you.

Dots or pixels? Why not both? Publishers must embrace both print and digital editions to keep their mastheads strong, says Publishers Australia GM Matthew Green.

Magazines—whether niche or for the masses—lie firmly in the hearts and minds of designers and consumers. But magazines, like newspapers, have had a rough couple of years, with many publications suffering declining readerships and smaller profit margins, and some long-running titles even closing their doors. It goes without saying that the internet and digital technology have had a profound impact on this sector.

“Great design, backed with quality
content, is the key to a magazine’s
success, be it digital or print.”

Despite the uncertainty in publishing, there is still plenty of opportunity for excellence. Last November, the 2012 Magazine Week Conference, Exhibition and Excellence Awards, hosted by industry group Publishers Australia, celebrated the best in print and digital publishing. Major award winners included industry publication The Adviser, custom publication INTHEBLACK and foodie favourite donna hay magazine. Digital publishing and online integration was one of the main focuses of the conference side of the event: “Most of the feedback from Magazine Week indicated that publishers are interested in social media, digital publishing and sales strategies,” says Publishers Australia general manager Matthew Green.

The print/digital mix
The uptake of tablets in Australia has been one of the key drivers changing the way people consume media. Tablets are being sold at a phenomenal rate, with technology research consultancy Telsyte Services predicting more than 11 million Australians will own tablets by 2016—more than three times the 2012 figure. Despite these figures, Green points out that Australian publishers have “been a bit slow on the uptake with respect to tablet devices” to date.

“Print and digital is
the future for any
magazine seeking a
wide audience”, says
Matthew Green

Going digital has different meanings depending on the publication. “Some publishers have selected tablet or web-only strategies and dropped their print editions altogether. For example, Encore magazine has recently shifted from a monthly print [issue] to a weekly digital-only title,” Green says. But he goes on to say the drop in ad revenue indicates a major disconnect remains between media buying and magazine publishing.

Augmented reality is bridging the gap between print and digital, using apps with print magazines to unlock extra features such as videos, image galleries, online shopping and more. “Both Pacific and Bauer have apps for Apple and Android … I suspect more will be coming in the future,” Green notes. Watch out for apps coming soon to your favourite print reads to enhance your overall experience.

Enduring elements
While the industry continues to adapt and grow along with changing technology, some things still haven’t changed. In Green’s opinion, to be an award-winning magazine, the central elements endure: “Great design, backed with quality content, is the key to a magazine’s success, be it digital or print. Classic techniques such as the choice of typography, selecting the perfect photograph and the judicious use of white space are just as relevant on the tablet device as they are on the page.”

Sucking Eggs

The constant decline in advertising revenue for magazine publishers is a worrying statistic that has not only seen the closure of iconic titles and long standing businesses, but also the departure of friends from the industry. In Australia we have experienced yearly ad expenditure reductions by up to 17% in some cases, and the percentage of adspend for magazines has been steadily dropping from a total of 9.4% in 2006 to 4.3% in 2013; according the the annual World Magazine Trends published by FIPP – the worldwide magazine media association.


Australian Adspend by Sector – Click for larger image

As the head of Publishers Australia; a non-profit association that represents the leading Business to Business (B2B), Business to Consumer (B2C), Custom and Digital Publishers in the country; I have been advocating for several years now that magazine publishers should stop focusing so heavily on the printed page and concentrate on selling their entire package of magazine media. This includes physical assets such as events and traditional display advertising, as well as digital assets like social media and an effective web presence.

“Two of the main sources of internet growth are currently social media and online video. Social media is already 10% of internet advertising expenditure, and we expect it to grow 35% this year, while online video is at 8% of spend and is growing by 29%.”  Comment by Zenith Optimedia in FIPP’s World Magazine Trends 2013/2014 publication.

Multichannel advertising is the key!

Ok it may sound like I am teaching you how to suck eggs, but giving away your online presence in order to get a print ad across the line is just bad business. Print space has a cost in ink, paper, print, binding, distribution, etc. Online has a cost too, and it not just bandwidth. When putting a package together that includes a social media campaign, web presence and print ad, publishers need to start including a price per line item. Too often I see the tablet ad given away to get the print business. Far too frequently is Facebook provided free of charge when a client commits to a print run. The problem is, as your print ad revenue continues to decline you will want to start charging for those ‘giveaways’ and this will be very difficult to do for existing clients who are used to receiving it for free.

Online advertising is a growing market, as evidenced above, and mobile is the fastest growing internet channel of them all.

“Smartphone and tablet users have a clear appetite for high-quality content, and several immersive apps have shown that this is a demand that magazines can meet.” Comment by Zenith Optimedia in FIPP’s World Magazine Trends 2013/2014 publication.

Sales reps need to be given targets and publishers need to support their sales teams. Charge accordingly for every single channel you offer to your client. Develop packages that allow your client to choose what channels they wish to participate. Make these packages sound attractive with descriptive terms such as Gold, Silver and Platinum. If you need to offer a discount to close the business then offer that discount off the bottom line. Do NOT give away a single channel for free.

“Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” – Print Media

But it is not just publishers who need to change their way of thinking, media buyers need to take a fresh look at magazines. John Steedman, Chairman of GroupM and one of the most powerful advertising buyers in the country, stated recently that his business is actively encouraging clients to take a fresh look at magazines and newspapers. In Mr. Steedman’s opinion, “advertisers have been moving away from print faster than readership and circulation figures are actually falling; and the negativity around print has been overcooked.”

The Custom Publishing Report produced by Publishers Australia in 2011 showed that custom magazines are considered to be the most credible medium in reporting information about the relevant brand or organisation. Readers of custom magazines expect to see advertising in the magazines and will notice and read the advertising in these magazines.

A 2012 industry-wide survey of Australian magazine publishers indicated that nine in ten organisations (91%) expected the company’s total online revenue to grow, and that they were going to actively invest in digital platforms such as social media, web sites and tablet / mobile apps, to work alongside their print offerings.

New measurement metrics from EMMA, along with the established services from Roy Morgan, effectively track readership across print, web, tablet and mobile.

Advertising online offers several advantages over print. Viewing the latest SUV drive comparisons looks better in video than via printed statistics. However, the longevity of the printed product is well evidenced every day in medical waiting rooms, hotel suites, kitchen libraries and coffee tables everywhere, but it is now just one part of a multi-channel world.

I for one hope that print does not disappear in my lifetime. I love a new title and recent releases such as the Renegade Collective (a consumer title aimed at entrepreneurs) and Vet Practice (a custom title for animal healthcare professionals) have proven that the print is not dead. But the success of these titles lies not only in their ability to target a niche audience, but also in their marketing expertise and utilisation of the many different channels available to promote their publication.

New print publications are sustainable when combined with a multichannel approach to marketing and advertising, existing print publications should be too.

The Elephant in the Room

theelephant-logo5We recently had the pleasure of meeting John Hancock, CEO of EzyMedia and founding publisher of the new national magazine for social impact, The Elephant Magazine.

Tell us about The Elephant Magazine – what’s the story behind it?
The Elephant Magazine shares stories from enterprises, organisations and individuals working to make enduring differences in the lives of disadvantaged Australians.

I have pursued leverage for social change for all my working life, starting in child protection before I’d even finished university, moving into policy, business, microfinance and 10-years ago into media. I see media as a crucial and powerful tool for change, and The Elephant Magazine brings together that drive with a decade of publishing experience.

You’ve recently launched the website and you are looking to go to press this month. What’s it about and how can people support it?
The Elephant Magazine promotes the work of individuals, organisations and enterprises across Australia via a national print and digital magazine written by its readers, with an aim toward engaging greater investment and public participation in the social and environmental sectors.

People can support it by ordering a few print copies (shout a friend one!), spending $20 on a directory listing, $10 on a job listing, or a few more bucks on print/online/social media advertising packages. A 20% discount on everything applies to NGO’s, NFP’s and volunteers.
If none of this is within reach, someone can support the magazine simply by telling others about it, sharing articles via the social media share buttons, adding to your Facebook, following us on Twitter etc.

What are your future plans for The Elephant Magazine?
The idea is to crank it up fairly quickly here in Australia over the next 12-18 months, then replicate in US, Canada and UK, where my publishing company EzyMedia has offices with experienced publishing staff who are keen to get involved. Ultimately, The Elephant Magazine will train entrepreneurs in the new media landscape via internships, webinars and one-on-one coaching sessions. It will also, hopefully, be in a position one day to fund some of the projects it highlights.

Its a lovely looking magazine John. The articles are well written and thought provoking, and the design is crisp and fresh.
Thanks! I think a high quality magazine, written by the people on the ground making the changes, will go a long way to enthusing the public to get involved. This isn’t another industry journal, I want The Elephant to be the next Woman’s Weekly of social impact.

5. How can supporters get in touch?
People can submit articles via the website by clicking on ‘Submit’ in the top menu bar of my website and they can also place orders for print copies and advertising by clicking on ‘Orders’ in the top menu bar. The email is and my phone number is 0401 847 853

Thanks so much for your time John. Your magazine has certainly already generated a good deal of industry buzz and we are all looking forward to contributing to its success. We wish you well with the launch and encourage everyone to spread the word.