- The New York Times created its first augmented reality (AR) lens on photo-messaging app Snapchat to give users an immersive view of news topics as Election Day nears. The newspaper's "What Is America?" worldview lens was available to Snapchat users ages 18 and older on Oct. 27, and will reappear in the app's lens carousel on Nov. 2, the day before the election, per an announcement shared with Mobile Marketer.
- The New York Times' lens shows a 360-degree view of topics such as climate change, health care, equality, education and the economy in 25 photographs. Tapping on the images reveals headlines from the newspaper from an election-specific section on its website.
- The AR activation is an extension of the publication's "The Truth is Essential" campaign, which included a video titled "Life Needs Truth" on YouTube that shows how the newspaper's journalism influences readers. The New York Times is working with creative agency Droga5 and media agency Hearts & Science on the campaign.
The New York Times' first AR lens in Snapchat shows how publishers can promote their content with an immersive experience on smartphones. The "What Is America?" worldview lens aims to engage younger adults who are difficult to reach through traditional media like TV and print, and demonstrate how the newspaper's journalism keeps people informed about key issues going into the U.S. election. The publication's AR lens is designed to make its political coverage more accessible to a younger group of consumers and may urge more people to vote with its coverage of key issues on its election-specific website.
Voter education remains a persistent issue in the U.S., with turnout often low among younger adults who are most likely to use Snapchat to stay in touch with friends, follow influencers and watch videos. Only 46% of registered voters ages 18 to 29 in the U.S. voted in the 2016 election, which was 15 percentage points less than the average for all voters, the Times reported. That age group overlaps with the more than 100 million people in the U.S. who use Snapchat, including 75% of people ages 13 to 34, according to parent company Snap. The company has helped more than 1.2 million people in the U.S. register to vote through the photo-messaging app, 56% of whom are first-time voters, per information provided to Mobile Marketer.
By creating an AR lens, the Times aims to engage Snapchat users with one of the app's most popular features. An average of more than 180 million Snapchat users worldwide played with AR content each day in Q2, or about 75% of its daily users, according to information Snap previously shared with Mobile Marketer. Its AR ad offerings helped to drive a 52% surge in revenue in Q3 as brands like Champs Sports, Hoka One One, Kohl's, Levi's and Jordan Brand developed immersive experiences to engage users. That success may translate over to the Times' efforts to reach young consumers on their preferred platforms.
The Times is no stranger to creating interactive experiences to engage readers. The newspaper's weekly magazine in March created digital content to accompany its annual music issue, which included print ads with interactive features to activate via smartphone camera. An integration with Google Lens, the image-recognition tool in the search company's app, let readers see videos and animations that accompanied editorial content.
The popularity of AR content has lured other publishers to create immersive experiences for mobile, as seen with National Geographic's AR experience in Instagram for its annual Earth Day issue. Gannett's USA Today also has developed several immersive experiences to enhance its storytelling with digital imagery. As younger consumers seek experiences they can share on social media, these efforts may help to form stronger ties with readers who rely on their smartphones for news and information.