There was an interesting project brought up on the most recent episode of This Week in Google (one of the more headier technology podcasts that I listen to) – it’s called Picture the Impossible, an alternate reality game (ARG) developed by students at the Rochester Institute of Technology and run in conjunction with the local newspaper.
I’ve written before about how newspapers really need to innovate in order to survive, so it’s really fascinating to see a project that takes traditional media into a space (interactive gaming) that you absolutely would not expect. In some ways, however, it really isn’t such a bizarre move. Newspapers have traditionally had readers who read mainly for the puzzles inside – my wife occasionally picks up the free paper just for the crossword.
Additionally, the ARG involves games, trivia and scavenger hunts that require knowledge of the local history of Rochester. This takes advantage of the newspaper’s core competencies of both generating local content and maintaining an archive of local content. In a way, it almost mirrors the “locavore” trend, where foodie/environmentalists only eat food grown within a certain distance from where they live.
This goes in direct opposition to what newspapers have been doing, which is to increasingly source content from international agencies like the AP or CNN. I suppose the assumption is that buying news is cheaper than hiring someone to go out and report on it. The new demands on media won’t let local newspapers get away with this anymore. If I want national press coverage, I won’t go to my local paper (or it’s website), I’ll just go to Google News.
In the future, I don’t think I’ll be opening the paper everyday and see an ARG game. It is, however, a worthwhile experiment, and it’s good to see old media trying out something new.