For several years I've attempted to bring AR (more specifically mobile AR) to the attention of a segment of media companies: those that produce and sell print and digital content (of all kinds) as a way of bringing value to both their physical and digital media assets (aka "publishers").

My investments have included writing a white paper and a position paper. I've mused on the topic in blog posts (here and here), conducted workshops, and traveled to North America to present my recommendations at meetings where the forward-looking segment of the publishing industry gathers (e.g., Tools of Change 2010, NFAIS 2011).

I've learned a lot in the process but I do not think I've had any impact on these businesses. As far as the publishers of books, newspapers, magazines and other print and digital content (and those who manage) are concerned, visual search is moderately interesting but mobile AR technology is a square peg. It just has not fit in the geometry of their needs (a round hole).

With their words and actions, publishers have demonstrated that they are moving as quickly as they possibly can (and it may not be fast enough) towards “all digital.” Notions of extending the life expectancy of their print media assets by combining them with interactive digital annotations are misplaced. They don’t have these thoughts. I was under the illusion that there would be a fertile place, at least worthy of exploration, between page and screen, so to speak. Forget it.

After digesting this and coming back to the topic (almost a year since having last pushed it) I’ve adjusted my thinking. Publishers are owners and managers of assets that are (and increasingly will be) used interactively. The primary difference between the publisher and other businesses that have information assets is that the publisher has the responsibility to monetize the assets directly, meaning by charging for the asset, not some secondary product or service. Relative sizes and complexity of digital archives could also be larger in a company that I would label “publisher,” but publishers come in all sizes so this distinction is, perhaps, not valuable.

Publishers are both feeding and reliant upon the digital media asset production and distribution ecosystem. Some parts of the ecosystem are the same  companies that served the publishers when their medium was print. For example, companies like MarkLogic and dozens of others (one other example here), provide digital asset management systems. When I approached a few companies in the asset management solution segment, they made it clear that if there’s no demand for a feature, they’re not going to build it.

Distribution companies, like Barnes & Noble and Amazon, are key to the business model in that they serve to put both the print (via shipping customers and bookstores) and digital (via eReaders) assets in the hands of readers (the human type).

Perhaps this is where differentiation and innovation with AR will make a difference. I hope to explore if and how the eReader product segment could apply AR technology to sell more and more often.