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The Tokyo Newspaper / Share the Newspaper

by Contagious Team

Japanese broadsheet creates app with AR overlay to encourage kids to read the paper

Chunichi Shimbun-owned newspaper Tokyo Shimbun released an augmented reality smartphone app that 'translates' stories from the publication into a child-friendly format. 

When hovered over certain sections of the paper, the app transforms the black and white print into animated, colourful commentaries (the video above best illustrates this). Created by Dentsu, Tokyo, the service aims to tackle tricky and confusing issues, such as the economy, bullying and politics, by translating them into interesting content that kids will understand. 

Three advertisers - travel company Hato Bus; soft drink Kirin; and yogurt brand Meiji - have since launched dedicated newspaper adverts that target both parents and children.

Contagious Insight    
Unlike much of the Western world, Japan's newspaper industry is a thriving business. The World Association of Newspaper and News Publishers found that 75 of the top 100 newspapers hailed from Asia, with seven of the top 10 belonging to Japan. The Yomiuri Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun and Mainichi Shimbun are the three biggest selling newspapers on the planet. It's a thriving industry, but also a hugely competitive one, where giants such as the Yomiuri Shimbun (14 million daily circulation) dwarf the Tokyo Shimbun (1m daily circulation) considerably. 

So it's a smart move from the capital's twice-daily publication to extend its readership by tapping a relatively unexplored market - children. Perhaps, the paper will be hoping, the ambition to contribute towards education will urge parents to change their choice of newspaper in the capital. This could also be a strategy adopted by newspapers in other countries whose circulations are dwindling because the act of reading a daily newspaper in printed format is fast becoming obsolete.

From a practicality point of view, however, there are concerns. Firstly, the opportunity to read a paper is often slim - during breakfast, or for half an hour after work - so will parents really want their children borrowing both their smartphone and their newspaper each day? Moreover, newspapers often run sensitive news stories that may not be for the eyes of young kids, even if there is a filter. 

From a purely educational perspective, surely it would have been better to develop a smartphone app that adds to an existing, child-friendly publication? Japan has more comic readers than any other country in the world (75% of all kids read these, according to OECD research), thus providing the perfect platform upon which to build. We commend the business strategy from Tokyo Shimbun - to reach a new demographic of readers with engaging AR content - but wonder if the limitations of the app will quickly surface and hinder repeat purchases.

This story originally appeared on Contagious Feed. Contagious Feed is our bespoke trends, inspiration, insight and analysis service, providing daily innovative marketing intelligence across a comprehensive range of sectors to brands and agencies across the world. For more information about Contagious Feed contact