Commentary

Google Highlights How Its Lens App Works With Magazines

Google this week announced upgrades to many of its technologies, some of which may affect how publishers work with advertisers.

The internet search giant, which commands about 37% of the U.S. digital ad market, hosted its annual I/O developer conference this week to showcase advancements to its website, mobile apps and infotainment system for cars.

The updates included an emphasis on visual search with Google Lens, the image-recognition technology that’s included in several of the company’s apps.

During a keynote presentation, Aparna Chennapragada, Google’s vice president for the camera and augmented reality products, showed how Google Lens can bring magazines pages to life.

By pointing a smartphone camera at a recipe page in Bon Appetit, for example, readers can see a step-by-step video on how to make the dish.

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Who would have though that Google would demonstrate its latest visual search technology with a print publication? The notion is so quaint in the digital era.

Of course, the Bon Appetit demonstration isn’t the first time that magazines have worked with digital technology.

As far back as 2000, a company called Digital:Convergence sold a product called the :CueCat that let magazine readers scan bar codes to connect to websites. However, the idea failed to gain traction, and the company disappeared. Time later named the device one the 50 worst inventions of all time.

A decade ago, other companies, such as Scanbuy and SpyderLynk, introduced services to let magazine readers scan special codes in magazine ads to get more information or place an order.

The Google Lens integration with magazines may not amount to much, given the predicted disappearance of print publications as readers migrate to digital formats with greater connectivity. Scanning a digital magazine page with a smartphone is unnecessary if it's hyperlinked to other content, such as videos or an advertiser's ecommerce site.

The key difference with past efforts to make the printed page more interactive is the support of Google, which has massive scale and greater staying power in helping consumers find information on the internet. That may bode well for more collaboration between Google and the publishers.

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