There’s been something called Variable Data Printing (VDP) in the printing industry for years, but many people are yet to see and appreciate what it’s all about. The most common use for VDP is to personalise marketing pieces in magazines, in order to capture the reader’s attention in a more personal way, when compared to conventional ads.
The magazine publishing industry has been testing customised content since 2007, when Wired magazine printed issues with customised covers.
In 2009, Time magazine used electrophotographic based presses, to print short runs of customised magazine for a trade show. This entirely personalised magazine was called “Mine: My Magazine, My Way”.
Mine was sent out to 31,000 subscribers, by post. The publication allowed it readers to choose content from numerous different Time publications, such as Food and Wine, Golf, Instyle and Sports Illustrated. If you weren’t able to witness these customised magazines, you may be thinking this sounds like a great idea. However, not everyone got what they wanted, with many receiving content that was outdated and not relevant.
The real success in customised magazines came in 2011, when the Manhattan based publisher, Hearst printed 300,000 (out of 1.2 million) issues of Popular Mechanics, with a customised 16 page insert. The insert contained personal details about the recipient, such as their name, pictures of their hometown and recommended nearby locations where computer products can be bought.
The customised pages included QR codes, which directed readers to an online sweepstake, gaining the sites 10,000 unique entries and a 3% conversion rate. This is a great example of how printed publishing and online content can influence and benefit each other. It is considered that you can expect a 1% – 2% conversion rate coming from direct mail campaigns, so this campaign was considered a success.
As well as using customised content, magazines of the future could also contain interactive content, using augmented reality.
Augmented reality is when computer graphics and real life, come together to create an illusion in your current surroundings.
The way in which augmented reality could be implemented into printed magazines, is to incorporate the use of smartphones. A magazine reader could use their phone to hover over the magazine, bringing to life a kind of 3D hologram, triggered by the content in the magazine.
The potential for this is immense and if augmented reality does become something that is popular with mainstream magazine readers, we could eventually see interactive printed publications that don’t require an additional devices and work as a standalone piece of technology and print, combined as one.