From a Circle to a Sphere: Evolution of delivering digital content

by Anna M. Gonzalaz, @WebAnna on Twitter

For the last couple of years, I’ve been working to strengthen news content through viewer interaction and user generated material.

As I said in a recent interview, I’m always pointing to two spaces in the air, drawing a circle between the two and saying, “This is what I mean by the TV/ web relationship – it’s like the circle of life (as cheesy as that sounds). One platform feeds the other.”

But my personal revolution came when I started to challenge myself by thinking about the online/on-air – IRL relationship. How can you take the online experience to the next level by interacting with the audience in real life (IRL), creating a whole other dimension of delivering content?

Part of this is already achievable with augmented reality. As William Hurley recently explained in an interview, AR is basically a layer of information on top of one of the senses.

Google Maps, for example, gives you a sense of location through the street view. You can also see videos taken in the area by choosing “Videos” under the “More” category at the top right of the map.

Essentially, news organizations using YouTube can create a multimedia look at a neighborhood or region.

But this idea can be taken further. Multimedia journalist Rachel Youens recently painted a picture of how news can use augmented reality using QR (quick response) codes.

A QR code is like a bar code with information attached to it. When you scan the code through an application on your mobile phone, it can bring up the information associated with it. For example, the code can send a text message directly to your phone or bring up a web page.

Let’s take the Texas Governor’s Mansion fire as an example. Two years after the fire, a suspect has yet to be identified. Imagine standing in front of the mansion, scanning a plaque with the QR code on it and bringing up this video, which tells the history of the fire and the restoration efforts.

During SXSW, Rachel placed plaques with QR codes around Austin. Each time the code was scanned, a fashion story about the location popped up on the smart phone’s browser.

Similarly, the Wall Street Journal is taking it’s digital content to the streets of New York with the mobile game FourSquare.  Through the WSJ’s tips on FourSquare, people can find more out about a restaurant through the latest review.

This is a whole new way to bring information to people and reach them directly.