The New York Times Magazine

The New York Times and Google are experimenting.

On Sunday, readers flicking through their copy of The New York Times Magazine’s annual music issue will be able to use Google Lens, the tech giant’s visual search tool, to find additional content by pointing their smartphone camera at the magazine cover and throughout the rest of the publication as both companies test the effectiveness of the technology.

That includes being directed to a behind the scenes video conversation between Jake Silverstein, editor in chief of The New York Times Magazine, and designer Gail Bichler about how they came to the decision that Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X and Megan Thee Stallion would appear on three separate covers.

Readers will also be able to preview the Times’ “25 Songs That Matter Right Now,” while other features include podcast links and allowing users to save articles to the Times’ app through Google Lens.

And it won’t just be Times content. The music issue will feature several interactive print ads from the likes of Volvo and New Orleans Tourism that will come to life with the help of Google Lens.

While a lot of this is available on the Times’ web site or app, the idea is that Google Lens easily connects readers with additional content as they browse through the print magazine.

“We’re always looking to find new innovative ways for readers to interact with our journalism. Part of that involves experimenting with new technologies and new story formats,” Dan Sanchez, The Times’ editor for emerging platforms, told WWD. “One of the technologies we started looking at last year is visual search. The idea is that the same way you do a keyword search on a search engine like Google to try to find more information out about a topic you might be able to use the camera of your phone to get more information about objects in the real world.”

The Times is Google Lens’ first news partner and this will be the first of three fully Lens- enabled issues. If it goes well, it could be used more frequently.

“There are no plans yet [to roll this out permanently]. This is like a public experiment,” Sanchez said. “We already know some of the things we’d like to do in the newsroom, but what we’d like to find out is what creates value to the reader. Compared to the investment this takes from the newsroom, are we seeing enough payoff from readers?”

Eddie Chung, product director of AR at Google, added that if it is a success, then Google will look to partner with other media companies. “We’re at the point of experimentation where we’re trying to prove value,” he said. That includes if readers find it engaging and if more are getting access to  The Times’ digital content through their print publications.

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