About the Post

Author Information

I'm an assistant professor at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, where I teach and research how news sites can better reach their audiences. I received my Ph.D. from the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri where I was one of the founding editors of MyMissourian.com, a citizen journalism site for Columbia, Mo. Before graduate school, I worked as a community newspaper editor in Southern Utah and Southern California.

Esquire’s ‘augmented reality’ is just a gimmick

Esquire editor David Granger debuted the mag’s “augmented reality” on the Today Show this morning, and my wife and I greeted it with a collective “meh.” Actually, I think she said,

“What a pain in the neck! If I wanted to watch videos, I’d just go to their Web site.”

Her quote succinctly sums up my feelings as well. I applaud any traditional media company’s efforts to embrace new technology, and the more I read about Mr. Granger, the more I like what he’s trying to do. What he’s missing in this case, however, is a simple understanding of how people use different media. The big question he should have asked himself is where do people read Esquire? Is it really in front of their computers?

I’m getting ahead of myself again. Media Bistro has a short blurb about what “augmented reality” is and a link to Mr. Granger’s video. The Wall Street Journal has a provocative story about Esquire and Mr. Granger. Plus I’ve embedded the Today Show video below.

Simply put, “augmented reality” allows those with the magazine to hold certain pages printed with weird- alien-symbol-looking things up to their Web cams and experience new content. If you hold up the cover, Robert Downey Jr. shouts at you. If you hold up the picture of that new girl from Community, she tells you a bad joke. Neato!

Actually, the additional content isn’t bad, but why do I need to hold up my magazine to get it. Why wouldn’t I just sit at my computer and call up Esquire’s Web site? If I have to get on the computer anyway, why do I need the magazine?

What I think was more interesting and I wish Mr. Granger would do more of is the 2008 cover that featured an e-ink panel. That makes more sense to me because when I read a magazine I’m usually in the doctor’s office or – and I’m not being crude here, just honest – on the pot. That’s the advantage that magazines will always have over computers. They’re portable! (and don’t try to tell me a Netbook or an iPhone is just as portable. You wouldn’t be caught dead shoving one of those into an already bursting carry-on bag.)

Smarter people than I have already weighed in on this. MediaBistro’s Jack Benoff uses Granger’s own words against him. PaidContent calls it a “print mag that tries to resemble a Web site.” Joe Coscarelli at Mediaite asks is it “innovation or desperation?”

In the end, I’ll stick with my wife. It’s not going to fly simply because it too much of a pain in the neck.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

2 Responses to “Esquire’s ‘augmented reality’ is just a gimmick”

  1. Very interesting and amusing subject. I read with great pleasure.
    acheter lasix online

    November 10, 2009 at 5:34 pm
  2. Bob #

    Yarp. Sounds like gimmickry over functionality. I love you, old media, but stop treating technology as though it was created by a wizard.

    November 11, 2009 at 11:23 am

Leave a Reply