QR Codes: From Print to Web

We’re all familiar with bar codes. Those thick and thin lines tell cash registers the price of your item, track inventories, and can trigger increased production of the item you just purchased.  QR (Quick Response) codes are the next step.

The Pet Shop Boys used a QR Code for the cover art on their 2007 single ‘Integral.’

A recent article by blogger Michael Josefowicz (http://toughloveforxerox.blogspot.com)  notes that, like their retail counterparts, QR codes store and send information.

Here’s how it works: you point your mobile phone at a printed page, and take a picture. This takes you to a website, without having to type in the URL. It’s easy, entertaining, and useful for the user.  The possibilities for both advertising and traditional print journalism are mind-boggling.

For print news, QR codes mean that who is reading what can now be tracked and measured. As Josefowicz puts it, QR codes could finally help solve the dilemma that has long plagued advertisers, the “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” problem  (quote attributed to John Wanamaker, 1938-1922).

Print can now add interactivity to its function, possibly reducing the total domination of web-based news. Each QR code can contain over 4,000 alphanumeric characters. Enough for short articles, URLs, multiple languages, links to wikis, etc.

Developed in Japan in the 1990s to track parts used in automobile manufacturing, these embedded images are now being used in Europe. QR codes are slowly being adopted in the US., especially with the wide-spread use of iPhones and other smartphones. It is estimated that approximately 10 percent of US cell phones are web-ready. In a pilot project, San Francisco has placed QR codes on historic landmarks, restaurants, and shop windows. Passersby are able to take a photo of the code, and be linked immediately to web pages about that location. The codes are being placed on pedicabs in San Diego to promote Tim Burton’s new film “Nine”. Scanning the code will let users watch an exclusive message from the director.

The codes are showing up in clothing, on Pepsi cans, and in magazines. QR codes are used in color, and with photos and other graphics included in the image.  They are appearing as billboard ads, or labels on food products –– just point and click, and read the nutritional information.

The use of QR codes in the traditional news industry is still being explored. Josefowicz imagines a smaller, versioned newspaper that contains news articles along with QR codes. He notes that, “by providing a quick and convenient way to immediately go from a printed page to the web, QR codes provide a new link between the real and web worlds.”

Through QR codes, the printed page now assumes a more important place in the feedback process. Print news is no longer out-of-date as soon as the presses start running. As reporters track the QR code usage (where, how long) on any given story, they will have instant information on what stories are grabbing public attention, or what info the public is seeking online that may have not been covered in the print version. Stories and related articles on the web site can be updated as real-time feedback lets reporters know how readers are moving through the site.

And for a look at bar codes like you’ve never seen them before, check out this recent article in “Fast Company’ – bar codes as art! http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/cliff-kuang/design-innovation/japan-even-barcodes-are-well-designed?partner=rss

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