Tokyo Shimbun tries an augmented reality advertising app to lure children into print

This is a guest post from Aralynn McMane, WAN-IFRA’s executive director of youth engagement and news literacy.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | February 18, 2013

The Dentsu advertising agency of Japan is helping Tokyo Shimbun try out a new approach to helping children digitally access the printed newspaper by using the paper’s augmented reality (AR) app.

For a one-day trial, Dentsu worked with newspaper staff to convert nine stories in the paper into a more easily understood format that became visible when a child held a smart phone over the original story. An animated character helped explain the story, which appeared in an alphabet more easily understood by children. You can see a video about the demonstration HERE.

Continuing to use the app to help children better understand the news is under discussion, according to Yoshiro Kurauchi, head of the project for Tokyo Shimbun.

Tokyo Shimbun had already been using the same app, “Tokyo AR,” to show films linked to print advertisements. The youth project, done on 20 October 2012, also included four advertisements targeting parents and children. Dentsu reports that at least three companies have since launched dedicated newspaper ads that target both parents and children: Hato Bus (travel), Kirin (soft drinks)and  Meiji (yogurt).

Using a smartphone to help children understand printed newspaper content represents a digital variation of a prize-winning feature of a Brazilian newspaper, Zero Hora. That paper has long published short “For your Child to Read” summaries with important stories. That work won a WAN-IFRA World Young Reader Prize for editorial innovation and attracted advertising that covered a journalist’s salary.

For companies that want children to experience news in print, this approach could make sense as it encourages parental involvement in the child’s news reading, helps parents become a bit more tech savvy and opens the way for both advertising and for a child to notice other elements of the newspaper.  However, it seems labor intensive and potentially hard to do on a daily basis, even at a paper where the technology is in place. For example, the child-targeted texts in Japanese are actually longer than the original versions because of the nature of the easier alphabet.

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