Archive - Jan 2, 2010

The Year of the QR Code?

Some people look at what is and ask why? I prefer to dream of what is not and write blog posts about it.

At a New Year’s party, I was asked if 2010 will be the year that someone finally figures out where the online revenues for local newspapers are going to come from. I certainly hope so. Already there are examples springing up here and there of local papers that are doing well with their online revenues. However, we have a long way to go.

I normally talk about the importance of localization, and perhaps throw in a few comments about the importance of convergence when I talk about the possibilities for online revenues for local newspapers, but before I get to that, I want to talk about one other area that I think is important, that too many people are missing.

At conferences on online publishing, someone always mentions large publishers that are making more money from selling their data than they are from the advertisements they run. Unfortunately, most data purchasers are buying from very large sites; sites with over a million visitors a month. This just doesn’t work for small local newspapers. However, there is great value in the data from these small local newspapers, and I hope someone comes along, figures a way to aggregate some of this data and sell it as a profit both to themselves and the local papers they serve.

Yet in most cases, aggregation seems to drive down the value that local online sites provide. If I’m a small business in a small area, I want my ads, including my online ads, to target people in my area that are most likely to respond to my ads. Ideally, I would like my ads in the local paper to fit nicely with the online ads, and any other advertising that I might do.

It is with this in mind, that I would like propose a couple examples where I think a little innovation might be able to dig up some good value. Hopefully, they will illustrate the ideas of localization and convergence.

Many local papers run special advertising sections for real estate. Next to the picture and description of a house for sale, a QR Code could be added. When a person is reading the real estate advertising section, they could simply scan the QR Code with their cellphone, and it would send a message to the realtor that has placed the ad.


(Scan this code if you want to send me a text message about being interested in a house in my neighborhood that is for sale. I’ll put you in touch with a local realtor.)

It is worth noting while we see a little convergence and localization in this example, it could also be done for a print only publication.

The next example brings the print and the web a little bit closer. A store that has the ability to accept orders online might place an advertisement in the online section of a local newspaper, with a link to the online store. Using QR Codes, the same could be done with a print version, and a print and online ad could run concurrently.

Since I don’t have my own online store, I’ve set up a sample using an Amazon advertisement for the Nokia N900, my current cellphone, which supports QR Code scanning.


Now, to the nitty gritty. It doesn’t take a lot of work to make good QR Codes. For this article, I used the Kaywa QR Code Generator. There are several other good free QR code generators. I’ve chosen to go with QR Codes instead of some of the other 2D bar codes because QR codes seem to be easiest to generate and scannable on the widest set of devices.

It is also worth noting that if you have a good design team, you can make QR codes very fancy, as is noted in an Engadget article about Takashi Murakami and Louis Vuitton QR Codes.

A final concern, QR Codes are not popular yet in the United States. It seems as if there is a little bit of a chicken and egg problem. Advertisers don’t use them because a lot of people don’t use QR Code scanners yet, and a lot of people don’t use QR Code scanners yet because there aren’t a lot of codes to scan yet. However, someone will break this cycle and start doing interesting things with QR Codes and hopefully this article will inspire others to think up new ideas.

A little innovation, like using QR Codes to converge local advertising could be just the ticket to help build online revenues for local newspapers. Now, I just need to find more ways of building revenues for certain bloggers.

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