Bridging the Print-Digital Divide with QR codes
As I’m sure everyone is aware, there’s been a lot of talk in the media as a whole about the fate of print news as more people (supposedly) turn to the Internet as their favored information source.
This got me thinking quite a bit about exactly why that is. Many who write about the murder of newspapers at the hands of digital media make it seem as if it is inevitable. As if to say, it must be so, because the Internet is much more shinier and newer than newsprint, and therefore must obviously be newsprint’s destroyer.
I find fault in this attribution of Darwinian evolution to our forms of media.
For the most part, our industry has looked at the Internet as either an opposing force or a distasteful side-dish that has to be served in order to appease the people. Again, I don’t believe that either has to be the case. There are ways of harnessing digital content and making it work in partnership with your print content, meshing the two together.
So, recently while searching for ways that people play with information on their phones, I came across an article on property realtors using 2D barcodes to promote their home listings. The idea of using these little codes commercially is to me, nothing short of genius. Realtors print the codes on their signs, along with instructions on how to use them, and the person walking by can instantly download the full information sheet on the property as they are standing in front of it.
What’s even cooler is that these squares of data can be embedded with links to pretty much any content online you can think of — a full Web site, an MP3 file, a video clip — and printed at the end of an article or in a side box. This, needless to say, opens up a world of potential between bridging the gap between our news site’s content and our print content.
The Vanguard will be using them to hardlink our articles to audio clips of speakers at presentations or events we cover, audio content from concerts or bands we review in the arts section, as well as allow our readers to download the location, time, and directions to an upcoming show or speaking event we preview, to name a few uses.
There’s a few code types out there that can be scanned by phones, but for our purposes we decided to use the QR code popular in Japan, over the U.S.-based Data Matrix or any of the other options such as Beetagg or Aztec. Mostly this is a comfort thing.
Our news editor spent 6 months in Japan this last year and said that the codes were all over the place on billboards, store fronts, magazines, etc. and frequently used by all kinds of people with phones. We ran a test series of QR codes on newsprint at varying sizes, and at all sizes they successfully were picked up by a code reader.
Code generation is free and generators can be found all over the Internet in many formats. Google even has an API you can download for the task.
Code readers are also free for people to download to their phones, and they work with your mobile device’s camera. Some phones come pre-installed with them now (Nokia has about half a dozen models that come preloaded with a code reader), but for those that don’t, either a visit to the manufacturer’s Web site or (in the case of the iPhone) a trip to the App Store will take care of that in about five minutes.
Next week we’ll be debuting the codes to our readers and running instructions regularly for awhile on how to use them. Everyone here is pretty excited to see how the codes are received by people, and I’m even more excited to find more new ways to mesh print with digital.