You can find lots of commentary about future publishing models and how to prosper. Yet many magazines are failing to find their way. Is it because of the fragile economy? That certainly has something to do with it, but doesn’t provide the complete answer. Or is it that print is dying and digital is straining to reach puberty in critical areas like profitability? I’m not quite buying that either.

Perhaps the real reason behind our struggles is that we are just beginning to understand how people are using channels. We’re learning that people aren’t just moving from one channel to another. That would be too easy. Instead, the reality is that people are migrating to lots of different channels.

So for my money, the issue is one of channel choice and how to further tie channels together to increase qualified readership and raise profitability.

Here are three additional ways—ranging from established to newly emerging—to build channel synergy:

Personalized URLs (pURLS). One of the nagging problems in connecting print to a website was the inability to identify visitors who went online but never made further contact. But pURLs solved that problem by providing a unique URL for each viewer of the printed material. By typing the pURL (which typically includes the recipient’s name) into a browser, the reader is automatically routed to a customized homepage featuring a unique offer.

Generally the sponsor includes a special incentive to entice the recipient to use the pURL. For example, an advertiser might include a coupon in the print version with the promise of an even sweeter deal—free shipping, a deeper discount, etc.—by using the pURL.

Creating a pURL campaign is simple using specialized software systems available through printers and other independent vendors. Although once used primarily for direct mail, selective binding technology and digital imaging now enables the use of pURLs in magazines. 

Mobile Barcodes. Everyone wants to get in on the mobile craze and 2D barcodes provide the ideal solution for creating synergy between print and mobile. These mobile barcodes are two-dimensional codes that provide smartphone users with a link between physical items like print and digital information like video.

To capture content held within a mobile barcode, users must take a picture of the code with the digital camera in their software-enabled mobile smart phone. The camera, along with a mobile barcode reader (a decoding software), deciphers the type of data held within the code and acts upon its instructions. These could include connecting the user to a website, downloading an MP3 or dialling a phone number. All of these actions are done instantaneously.

Virtually any printing system can print a mobile barcode. Tips for making a mobile barcode more successful include optimizing online content for mobile, offering something of sufficient value to make the extra step worthwhile and making it easy to download the reader.

Augmented Reality. More on the cutting edge is virtual reality augmentation with print. These applications require readers to have a webcam on their computer and to download software provided by the publisher or advertiser. The user then holds the printed material about one foot from the computer and watches the print come to life.

For instance the pages of a feature article or advertising insert could provide access to different videos related to the corresponding page. Depending on the content and the page, different kinds of interactions are possible. The idea is to use the magazine to navigate through the frames of a video. The software inside the browser recognizes the magazine page in front of the camera and presents the appropriate content on a micro site. The various interactions can be controlled through an Adobe Flash-based application.

So, get busy connecting your print and digital channels. Start building those powerhouse campaigns. Not only will it build valuable synergies, but often the results are downright cool.

Bruce Jensen is group vice president of sales at Transcontinental Printing, a Saint-Laurent, Quebec-based provider of a full range of print and online personalization services.