What you need to know about QR codes and the future of print engagement with mobile

by Shawn Smith on April 5, 2008

QR code in San Jose Mercury News - Flickr photo by Chika

Image by Chika

Newspaper execs have been banging their heads for the past few years at understanding what’s the next step in the mobile market for news. What do consumers want? How do newspapers engage mobile phone users? How do consumers want to receive news on their mobile devices?

Asia may have an answer with QR codes.

Stay tuned for a series of articles that will discuss the use of QR codes, how they will revolutionize and make print relevant in a digital society and how to get started using them.

First, let’s start with understanding them.

What are QR codes?

QR codes, or Quick Response codes , are two-dimensional bar codes used for commercial tracking and print-to-mobile-to-web messaging, or physical world hyperlinking . Created by a Japanese company in 1994, QR codes are a ubiquitous part of life in parts of Asia.

These jumbled graphics can contain messages and URLs that can be quickly transferred to users’ mobile devices. And they can appear just about anywhere – from magazine articles to food wrappers to earrings.

How QR codes work

QR codes will revolutionize relationship between newspapers and consumers Ever have a lot to say and not enough room to say it? You may not be disgruntled for too much longer.

Quick Response images crunch data down into a graphic which can be viewed at any size readable by a digital camera (including camera phone) or scanner. These images can encode up to 4,296 alphanumeric characters – Does that sound like enough for a newspaper brief?

Besides their high capacity for data encoding, according to the creator of QR codes, other features include :

  • smaller possible printout size than traditional bar codes
  • compatibility with multiple language’s alphabets and characters
  • resistance to dirt and damage
  • readability from any angle!

How QR codes are used

Consumers just need a camera phone and some phone software to use QR codes. That’s it!

QR codes are being slapped up on just about everything in Asia. Here’s just a few examples (via David Harper ):

See QR code in action on the BBC:

Detractors of QR codes in the U.S.

Some say the U.S. won’t likely become big users of these codes for a while because “the technology isn’t there” or “Americans are too slow to adopt new technologies.”

Pshhhhhh. This is the type of thinking that helped Newsweek print an article that the web would never take off .

There’s a learning curve, that’s true. Consumers have to understand the purpose of these codes and learn how to use them. Fine. But not having a plan for that eventuality will put newspapers further behind other media.

Currently, cellular carriers are closely watching a San Fransisco trial-run of QR codes by Citysearch and Antenna Audio, sfgate.com reports (via Gizmodo ).

What’s next?

This week I’ll be posting:

You can also check my QR code stories archive to see all the stories that will be in this series.

Please share your observations on how print can tap the power of these marketing wonders.

{ 4 trackbacks }

QR codes will revolutionize the newspaper-consumer relationship - if papers allow it | New Media Bytes | Online journalism, web production and promotion
April 6, 2008 at 9:12 pm
How QR codes could save newspapers from obsolescence | New Media Bytes | Online journalism, web production and promotion
April 8, 2008 at 6:49 am
How to create and use QR codes for your newspaper | New Media Bytes | Online journalism, web production and promotion
April 9, 2008 at 5:58 am
Tag – you’re it « Moto Maverick Ideas
September 4, 2009 at 6:09 pm


Jeff in Bay City April 5, 2008 at 10:36 pm

the newsweek link is fantastic.
great post.
gimme more.
- jeff

Shawn Smith April 5, 2008 at 10:53 pm

Thanks Jeff. That is a classic for sure. I’ll be posting a couple more items on QR codes this week. Thanks for the kudos!

Stan Wiechers April 9, 2008 at 10:17 am

hey, same here, scanbuy is NOT using QR codes, but their own proprietary system that is not open and where you have to PAY to create your codes. It is based on indirect resolution via ID’s, which is also patented by neomedia. Thank you, Stan

streetstylz May 1, 2008 at 3:22 pm

NeoMedia Technologies has a suite of twelve issued patents covering core concepts behind linking the physical world to the electronic world. These patents cover various linkage methods including: Barcodes, RF/ID, Mag Stripe, Voice, and other machine readable and keyed entry identifiers.

The company behind the :CuCat, Digital Convergence, licensed the patent portfolio of NeoMedia Technologies before launching the :CueCat in back in 2000.

NeoMedia and it’s wholly owned subsidiary Gavitec are both active members of the Mobile Codes Consortium with technology leader HP, marketing powerhouse and advertising agency Publicis Groupe, cell phone manufacturer Nokia, QUALCOMM, along with wireless carriers O2, Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile), and KPN.

Last December, the Mobile Codes Consortium created initiatives that led to activities within the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) and the GSM Association (GSMA) to accelerate mass mobile marketing using mobile codes.

NeoMedia also recently launched the NeoReader, which features NeoMedia’s patented resolution technology combined with Gavitec’s ultra-small footprint and platform independent algorithms. It is able to read and decipher all common non-proprietary 2D codes (Data Matrix, QR, Aztec) as well as URL embedded 2D codes and all 1D UPC/EAN/Code 128 open source codes. The NeoReader supports direct and indirect code linking, which guarantees maximum interoperability with already existing platforms like 2D Data Matrix Semacodes, and Japanese QR links. This allows the user to click on a variety of codes with a single application installed on their mobile device.

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