Commentary

'House Beautiful' Meets Andy Warhol in Mobile-Activated Cover

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The late pop artist and professional celebrity Andy Warhol is not someone you usually associate with a women’s service title like HouseBeautiful. But if you use the Digimarc discover smartphone app on the November cover, the magazine springs to multimedia life with a mobile video homage to the grainy handheld 8mm art films that marked Warhol’s early career.

The video is a fit for the issue’s featured “Cinema Style” apartment showcased in the 2011 Designer Vision feature. This “Twilight” video is designed to dramatize the transition of day to night that the issue’s content addresses. The cover trick uses Digimarc’s invisible watermarking technology that lets its app recognize a hidden code in a magazine page -- so, unlike a standard QR code, the analog to digital link does not mar the look of the image itself. Well, except for the blue smartphone icon that the magazine uses to designate a Digimarc-enabled page. We asked House Beautiful Editor-in-Chief Newell Turner why the mag chose this route instead of the QR or Microsoft Tag systems many other print books are choosing.

Moblog: Is the cover the only mobile activated element in the issue?

Turner: November is the first time we’ve utilized the watermarked QR codes on the cover. We started our program with Digimarc Discover in the October issue. I committed to at least five links per issue, but we had seven in the October and November issues. In October, we also introduced a digital table of contents page. It gives us a place to explain the Digimarc Discover program and list all of the links in an issue. I didn’t want to leave readers wondering if they’d found all the links.

We’re just beginning to explore all of the interesting and exciting ways we can tell design stories better through these digital links. The key to the success of the program is to make sure that every link is a valuable experience for the reader. In other words, we can’t fall into the trap of simply linking to things because we can.

MoBlog: Why Digimarc, rather than some of the other systems? Didn’t we go through a period where magazines tried image recognition and they dispensed with it for QR?

Turner: Image recognition is another technology that can be utilized to link the printed page to digital content, but as far as I understand it, image recognition is a lot less reliable with what it brings up. At the same time, typical QR codes are accurate but ugly and intrusive in print. Even the ones that are “designed” look like barnacles on the page.

The beauty of the Digimarc Discover technology is that it’s hidden, unobtrusive to the experience of the page. We’ve designed an icon that we use to indicate where a watermark QR code is located. It doesn’t distract from or ruin the magazine experience.

MoBlog: Was there a sponsorship attached to this?

Turner: There was no sponsorship with our Digimarc Discover program. I wanted to launch and establish it as a pure editorial experience first. We’re obviously already looking at ways to extend the Digimarc program into advertising and commerce. But, for now it’s purely editorial.

MoBlog: Is this the first mobile program you have done?

Turner: This is our first mobile program, and I’m very excited about the cross-platform experience. It works and feels very natural. More and more people are using multiple devices at once when they’re consuming content. For instance, I have my iPad at hand when I read the newspaper in the morning. If an article is too long, I use the Instapaper app to log it for reading later when I have more time. I would say most people have their cell phones within reach pretty much 24/7. So, the two platforms—magazine and mobile device—make a natural marriage.

1 comment about "'House Beautiful' Meets Andy Warhol in Mobile-Activated Cover".
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  1. Amy Lutz from MediaNews Group, October 19, 2011 at 6:30 p.m.

    Looking forward to trying this out!

    Meanwhile, was the headline misspelling ("Beautifull") an editor's typo or a play on words I'm too stupid to understand?

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