If you picked up a paper copy of the Free Press on Sept. 4, you have a paper unlike any that has rolled off our presses in the 141 years we have been publishing. What's more, this edition is making newspaper history as it will offer the kind of connectivity and interactivity never before seen in a major Canadian daily.
Welcome to the new reality for our readership, courtesy of cutting-edge technology that will add a whole different level of wow to your Free Press experience.
What Vol. 141, No. 288 offers our readers is immediate video, photos, sound and a whole lot more. Yes, you read that right. A newspaper that allows you to play a breaking news video straight off the page. A newspaper that allows you to point and click your way to slideshows from a concert at the MTS Centre or Bomber fans at the Banjo Bowl. A newspaper that lets you hear Doug Speirs read his Doug House column to you. A newspaper that embeds the answers in the crossword puzzle so you don't have to wait until the next edition to find out the 10-letter word that stumped you.
This new reality for the Free Press comes via technology that allows us to link directly from pages you are holding to the interactive and engaging features now available on our digital platforms. The technology is known as Augmented Reality and makes use of the camera and sensor in your smartphone or tablet to add a layer of digital information to your newspaper and to connect you to a much deeper reader experience.
Better still, you'll be able to do it all for free. All you need to do is go to Apple's App store or Google Play and download the free app from Blippar. Blippar is a British-based company whose augmented reality app has been front and centre in the highly competitive newspaper wars being waged in that country. Once you have the app loaded, simply hold your smartphone or tablet over any page in the Free Press that displays the icon advising additional content can be unlocked via Blippar.
After just a few seconds of scanning, you'll be able to connect to an enhanced view of your Free Press. In case you are wondering, the new verb to add to our technological lexicon will be Blipp, as in Blipp your newspaper.
We're making this investment in your newspaper because we believe our readers deserve more. When you open your Free Press, we want you to be able to access all that is offered from the newsroom that won the 2013 Canadian Journalism Foundation Award of Excellence.
We want you to be able to see exclusive videos. We want you to be able to read as deep as you want by accessing backgrounders. We want you to be able to share your opinion as soon as you have read the story.
Update: Tips for Free Press's new augmented reality
The first time I tried to surf the Interweb as part of a newsroom training course in the early 1990s I didn't know my URL from my browser. Suffice to say, it didn't go so well.
The first time, I was handed my Free Press BlackBerry, I was more than all thumbs and it took some time before I managed to send that first email.
And the first time I tried to use Blippar on my BlackBerry to test-run augmented reality in our newspaper, I ended up scanning my foot.
I offer these insights into my initial "epic fails" at new technology to say to those of you who had some difficulty accessing the new reality of your Free Press, just hang in there. I know lots of our readers had no problem unlocking the pictures and videos embedded in their paper and they were quick to email or tweet that they loved the experience.
But for those of you who might have ended up staring at a blank screen, or even scanning their foot, here are a few trouble-shooting suggestions once you've gone to blippar.com, the Apple App Store or Google Play and accessed the free app:
- Make sure your device is one that can operate the free app from Blippar. In most cases, any camera-equipped smartphone or tablet will do the trick. In terms of BlackBerry devices, the Z10 can blipp but not the Q10. However, Blippar will be available on a wider range of the latest BlackBerry devices in the next few months.
- Make sure you hold your smartphone or tablet about 12 inches above the page you want to scan. What you want to do is let your device's camera recognize as much of the page that is about to be blipped. Hold your device steady and let the app do the work. Remember: The red scan icon on the page is there to tell you additional content is available. In other words, don't just zoom in on the icon.
- When you are scanning, make sure there is enough light for your device to read the page. If you need additional light, tap the light in the upper left-hand corner of the Blippar screen.
- Once the app has locked onto the page, the icon should launch and tell you what you've blipped. Tap on it and you should be good to go.
- And if the content still won't spring to life on your device, give it a minute and try again. Like most technology, augmented reality works perfectly -- except when it doesn't.
I hope this helps you join others who have been able to access the new reality in the Free Press, the first major daily newspaper in Canada to make use of this interactive technology.