Will Barcodes Bring New Life to Print?

There's lots of discussion about whether the avalanche of new tablets/eReaders/slates will "save" traditional journalism and media. No is the short answer; journalism and publishers will have to save themselves, although the new devices may create new opportunities.

What's more interesting is the way in which mobile can integrate with traditional print to enable the medium become more dynamic and more "accountable." This has been going on some time sporadically here and there, most notably with ads including short codes. More publishers are experimenting with QR/barcodes now. 

The NY Times has a lengthy piece about it: 

[M]agazines like Esquire and InStyle are adding interactive graphics to their articles, while Entertainment Weekly and Star are including them in ads.

Meanwhile, publishers using text-messaging programs to try to enliven their pages are packing information into the messages and using reader responses to calibrate their coverage.

The article also discusses the early and failed CueCat print-online convergence effort that attempted to do something similar but relied on specialized hardware. Now with smartphones everyone has (or millions have) the necessary device. 

Meanwhile Time Inc. is using QR codes to promote this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in interesting and creative ways:

Print ads containing the promotional barcodes will begin to appear Jan. 25, two weeks before the issue’s Feb. 9 publication date. The ads will run in SI and other Time Inc. titles like Time, People and Fortune.
 
The barcodes also will appear on Las Vegas hotel room keys and in New York City subway car ads.
 
Users who snap a photo of the barcode with a camera phone will see photos of this year’s “rookie class,” or first-time swimsuit issue models.

The technology is from JagTag, which doesn't require end users to download a barcode reader and delivers multimedia content as well as text. This opportunity exists for magazines, newspapers and Yellow Pages. 

The media get the added value of measured response rates, which may capture activity that call metering does not. And the consumer gets immediate, additional information -- and the potential ability to make a purchase on the spot (or save for late purchase). 

In all it makes traditional print media much more interesting to advertisers and potentially consumers as well. Accordingly we should continue to see the growing integration of mobile and barcodes into print media advertising and editorial over the next 12 to 24 months. Publishers and advertisers will have to continue to experiment and find the most effective and useful implementations. 

Right now we're still in the early "novelty" phase.