Monday, March 23, 2009

weekly media watch - 03.23


Topps Baseball Cards Get a Little Cooler

What is it?

With today’s sophisticated video games, social networks and endless amounts of online content, baseball cards need to work hard to be “cool” again –especially with kids. Augmented reality technology may be a step in the right direction. This month, Topps introduced special 3D Live baseball cards that users can hold in front of webcams; then, almost magically, three-dimensional avatars of the players appear on the computer screen. By rotating the card in your hand, you can see the full perspective of the figure.

According to the NYTimes, sports trading cards used to be a $1 billion business, but the market has shrunk to about $200 million in annual revenue. Total Immersion is a French company that approached Topps, still one of the dominant players in the trading card industry, with their augmented reality idea for the cards. Their technology has been used in theme parks, print ad integration as well as retail environments. (Source: NYTimes)

Why is it interesting?

It’s difficult to pinpoint today’s baseball card equivalent: Total Xbox LIVE points? The number of friends you have on Facebook? Comments on your blog? Baseball card fans used to take years to build a worthy collection and the physical act of trading cards was a social experience between friends and other collectors. Today’s collectors, mostly boys, can easily find sports stats and facts online. By adding an interactive, engaging layer to the cards through augmented reality, the industry could successfully transition into today’s digital world.

Augmented reality is eye-catching and exciting for consumers, but we should think carefully about how it can drive results for our clients. Viral impressions shouldn’t be a problem (the technology is pretty buzz-worthy) but campaigns with goals beyond branding should link AR efforts to specific, measurable actions.


Time Inc. Experiments with Customizable mine Magazine

What is it?

Time Inc. is hoping to bring the customization of the Web into the print world. mine is a five-issue, ten-week, experimental magazine that allows readers to select Time Warner/American Express Co. magazines that Time editors will combine into a personalized magazine with 56 possible combinations. Fast Company describes it as an expanded RSS feed of sorts, with content available from places such as Food & Wine, Real Simple, Sports Illustrated and Travel + Leisure. The magazine will be free, with a 36-page print edition available to the first 31,000 respondents and an online version available to 200,000.

All ads in the magazine will be for the Lexus 2010 RX SUV – but will be personalized messages for each subscriber, targeted to their interests. (Source: Fast Company)

Why is it interesting?

Newspapers across the country are folding (most notably The Rocky Mountain News and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer), a true sign that readers’ habits are changing. CNN reports that at least 120 newspapers in the U.S. have shut down since January 2008. Magazines are struggling as well, with many titles such as Radar and Domino feeling the economic crunch and behavioral shifts. Consumers today are used to fully personalized content, delivered when and where they want it. The concept of personalized print is a great one, but the payoff in Time’s experimental magazine is probably not enough to get people to sign up. Depending on the messaging, the Lexus ads may also be unwelcomed by readers.

I personally just signed up at the mine site, with the print version still available. After selecting five magazines (InStyle, Real Simple, Time, Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure), I then landed on a Thank You page with Lexus videos and a link to a widget. The widget is comprised of RSS feeds from the same magazine options, but it doesn’t have any multimedia content (or send to a friend functionality). Is the print edition even necessary, with the direct RSS feeds from these sources? Once the print version shows up in my mailbox, a review will follow soon after…

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