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Print-to-Web Codes: Coming to a Magazine Near You

But isn't a URL still easier?


Dylan Stableford By Dylan Stableford
05/27/2009 -15:02 PM






Last month, a French magazine called Amusement announced that it had become the “first-ever magazine connected to the Internet”—linking a page in its magazine to the Web using RFID (“radio-frequency identification”) technology.

The process, however, was something out of a James Bond film—readers were instructed to bring the page near a specially-designed “RFID interrogator,” which was plugged into their computer’s USB port. As we explained it: “The RFID-tagged page has a unique ID number, which is then scanned by the device, unlocking exclusive online content—in this case, games, videos and assorted digital applications.”

In other words, a pain in the ass for non-nerds.

Now comes the word that simpler print-to-Web technology—big in Japan—may be coming to U.S. magazines sooner than previously thought.

According to a post on PBS’s Media Shift blog, QR codes—two-dimensional codes (like the one used as a Pet Shop Boys album cover, above right) embedded in print, scanned by Web-enabled camera phones—are starting to appear in European magazines. Once scanned, the phone’s Web browser is pointed to a site with, presumably, additional buying information, special offers or exclusive content.

This development would seem to have serious potential over the aforementioned French quarterly’s complicated use of RFID.

But given my own Web-enabled phone’s spotty coverage (hi AT&T!), the rise of URL shorteners and increasing ubiquity of texting—wouldn’t a dedicated (and shortened) URL printed in a magazine or ad do the trick?

UPDATE: As a below commenter points out, U.S. magazines are already experimenting with print-to-Web codes. (FOLIO: even profiled one provider back in March.) What I meant to say (and I assume Media Shift meant too) is that QR codes and similar technology may be gaining traction in the U.S. market soon. They're already here.

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