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News  14, Jun 2013

This augmented reality application helps newspapers engage readers

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NewsDeveloped by Singapore-based Knorex, iSnap is an augmented reality app that helps newspapers tune content and get better reader engagement.

iSnap, developed by Singapore-based company Knorex, is an augmented reality application that has been successfully implemented across eight major regional newspapers. The company has just announced that it will be part of Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd (ETPL) collaboration with Asia News Network (ANN). EPTL, the technology transfer arm of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), has just signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the news aggregator platform, which has 22 Asian news-reporting publications under its umbrella. This collaboration will kick off at Media Exploits 2013 in Singapore on October 1st.

Through this arrangement, ETPL and ANN will look to collaborate via joint development, exchange of technological information, and marketing events. Key areas will include human language (speech and text) processing, mobile imaging, video processing and analytics. Knorex, a startup under A*STAR has progressed a long way since its founding three and a half years back. Its very first customer was The Star, an English-language tabloid-format newspaper in Malaysia.

Read also: Waygo is the Most Promising Startup at Echelon 2013

Justin Tan, director at Knorex, presented how exactly iSnap helps newspaper gain reader engagement and tune content and provided a walk-through that explained the process. Users can access iSnap from the various official news publication apps. From there, they only need to hover their devices over the news article or advertisement and within mere seconds, relevant content like videos, photos and sharing functions will appear. One example was an Heineken advertisement on The Star, where users were able to play with a 3D-constructed beer bottle, watch related videos and share these with their friends and family. News and advertising has gone beyond just merely presentation of facts, information and media. It is now all about engaging their audience in a positive way.

The eight major regional newspaper are Thailand’s The Nation, Malaysia’s The Star, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Indonesia’s Jakarta Post and Kompas, Myanmar’s Eleven, Singapore’s The Edge and Hong Kong’s China Daily. Justin shared that even though 99 percent of these processes are used for advertising purposes, most readers would want such enhancements to include editorial as well.

Novelty idea no more

Augmented reality might sound wonderful, but print circulation numbers have been declining. And the blame can be placed on digital channels, which make it easy for readers to get their hands on articles without having to subscribe or go to a newsstand. Even if readers are genuinely intrigued and interested by this augmented reality app, how many of them would bother screening every single page in the newspaper to check for related content? Justin shared that even after a year’s partnership with The Star, they have been seeing “a good number of users continuing to use” iSnap and even giving suggestions as to new features. For example, some Malaysian readers have suggested the feature to show latest 4D numbers or NBA scores.

I was also wondering how this is scalable, when there are only 22 people in their team here in the city-state. Just entering the data alone would be tedious. And for eight regional newspapers, wouldn’t that be a huge challenge? Justin explained that there have a content management system that the respective editorial teams in the newspaper would take care of. This will only be for articles. However, as for advertisements, they will have an iSnap editor who will take care of the account. He also told us that there are currently two monetization models: subscription or revenue share. However, all the eight publications working with them right now are using the revenue share model where they take an undisclosed percentage of the mobile advertising revenue.

Lee Han Boon, senior vice president at EPTL also added that there has been an increasing need to more accurately target and profile users. “With new business models comes the need for new technologies. ETPL has been working with A*STAR Research Institutes and partner organizations to develop portfolios of enabling technologies to help strengthen the sector’s competitiveness. As A*STAR’s technology transfer arm, we then work with licensees on commercializing the most promising research outcomes and bringing them to the marketplace – much like what we’ve done with Knorex.”

Its smartphone-driven solution enables newspaper readers to scan editorial and advertisements in iSnap-enabled newspapers to get extra content, such as 3D images, video clips, photo galleries, product catalogues and contest forms, all on their devices. Not only does this help newspapers better engage their readers, it also allows them to find out real-time what their readers are interested in and tune their content accordingly. iSnap-enabled newspapers have all seen their mobile app downloads and usage jump by over 100 percent in under three months from their respective launches. These newspapers have also generated new sources of revenue that amount to over S$3 million (US$2.3 million) in total, to date.

Elaine Huang

Elaine Huang

Elaine is a fervent believer that if there ever is a zombie apocalypse, we will all be snapping away at them with our phones and posting them onto Instagram. A Mass Communication graduate of Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of Film and Media Studies, she enjoys writing about technology and entrepreneurs. When not hashtagging her way through all sorts of trouble, Elaine is probably contemplating how to write in the third person.


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