Are QR Codes Dead?

Posted on by Dave Erlandson | 4 Comments »

A terrific new study released by Nellymoser (Mobile Activation Study 2013) provides an in-depth analysis of how the top US circulating magazines are employing technology to link directly to mobile (tablet or phone) in order to add more value to the reader.

The report indicates that the number of magazines using technology to link to mobile devices has grown dramatically in the last year. Compared to a total of 8,448 activations in 2012, 2013 saw 13,088 activated pages in the magazines surveyed. Activation TypesThe top activated magazines included Marie Claire, Esquire, Redbook, Cooking Light and InStyle, which indicate a wide range of demographics are actively using the technology. The most represented segments were Fashion & Style (3,893) and Lifestyle & Leisure (3,196) followed by Home & Gardening (855), Home & Cooking (816), Entertainment & TV (750), and Fashion & Beauty (704).

A really interesting trend is the technology to link to the mobile device has shifted dramatically.  For the first time, QR codes were not the primary activation tool. The primary activation type was Image Recognition (IR), followed by QR codes, and watermarking in third.  Image recognition accounted for 60% of the activations, followed by QR codes with nearly 24% and watermarks with 12%.

Magazines publishers are showing a preference to remove the look of 2D bar codes from their printed pages and replace them with image recognition technology.  Image recognition works by analyzing the image or characteristics of the page. While watermarks make use of invisible images embedded in the page.

Publishers are using third party apps such as Magnetique, Digimarc Discover, Blippar,  or QR scanners such as Neoreader or Netpage, or they a building a magazine-branded app that utilizes a licensed version of a scanner,  using a technology such as Layar, Aurasma, or Vuforia.

Using third party apps has the advantage that many of the readers already have the app, however offering your own branded app provides the ability to provide a wider variety of offers and gives the publisher the ability to track usage at a more detailed level.

While the use of QR codes has fallen out of favor for activating content from the publisher, for advertisers QR codes remain the technology of choice, representing 60% of mobile triggers. This is because a high percentage of mobile users already have QR scanning apps. So QR codes won’t disappear any time soon, but eventually, they will be replaced.

Magazine publishers of all types are seeing value in linking their paper product to the online world, where they can engage the reader in additional content of value (e.g. recipes) or video or special offers. Their adoption of image recognition and watermarking technology will serve to educate the market about these technologies and open up the use in other areas of print such as direct mail, catalogs, promotional materials, training manuals and many more.  There will be a big opportunity for companies that can create the programs that link print to mobile as someone has to create and manage all that new content.



4 Responses to “Are QR Codes Dead?”

Comment from Jim Olsen
Time March 20, 2014 at 10:11 am

Great article Dave.

All permutations of interactive print simply make putting ink on paper more valuable. It’s really a true “crossing over” of cross media.

Comment from michael jahn
Time March 20, 2014 at 4:05 pm

QR Codes may be falling out of use within Magazines, but there are many different ways they are used – on the back of Business cards, on mail, on boxes – so, no, sorry, not dead or dying at all.

Comment from Chuck Somerville
Time March 21, 2014 at 8:18 am

Proprietary apps from the magazine, so they can track folks better?

Remember the CueCat: scanner? Digital Convergence didn’t even last two years with the pushback from users who didn’t want to be tracked.

“Magazines publishers are showing a preference to remove the look of 2D bar codes from their printed pages…” not wanting to see a bar code on the page/piece you publish is so 1990s. Smartphone users RECOGNIZE a QR code when they see it, and are then tempted to scan it to see what they get. (Whether it’s in your ad page, on a mail piece or on the side of a bus!)

Customers don’t hate the QR code, they KNOW what it is. You want a stealth bar code instead WHY again? How do you think it will work out for adoption when you have to (1) train users to scan something they otherwise would not recognize as scannable, and (2) induce them to download a proprietary app on top of that.

I gotta be different just to be different doesn’t usually work out so well when the user base knows the existing tech. Examples: Microsoft’s ‘Tag’ codes, the harder-to-print matrix of multicolored triangles needing a different app (different because we’re Microsoft and we can). Search “barcodes for smartphones” in Google Images, and the results tell the story. (While we’re on that attitude may I mention Windows Vista, Windows 8, and several runs at the Windows phone and Windows tablet markets.)

Michael Jahn (above) is right – QR Code is not going away any time soon…

I’ve been dealing with bar codes (among many other topics) at Kodak/Scitex/Kodak’s Dayton ink jet printing operation for nearly 30 years. For the last several years, QR Code has been one of the most-adopted symbologies by our users. (Second only to Intelligent Mail Bar code, but then USPS twisted their arms to use that.)

Comment from John D
Time March 21, 2014 at 12:06 pm

I have to agree with Chuck Somerville: QR codes scream SCAN ME! So much so that we have to actively advise our OnMerge Barcodes customers to avoid QR and use Datamatrix when they don’t want John Q Public to scan something. Not that most phones can’t read Datamatrix — it’s just customer perception.

Small businesses and organizations — the non-Fortune 500 — are avidly adopting QR. If anything, we’re seeing acceleration of growth in that segment. They’re cheap and convenient for anybody to produce, even for a 1-person newsletter with a sub-100 circulation. Just try justifying an app (or any other fancy technology) for a condo association newsletter!

From our perspective as a maker of easy-to-master barcode software, we’re seeing incredible demand from printshops which have never offered barcodes before. They’re being forced to dip their big toe into QR codes by their small-business customers who are demanding personalized QR codes — or else.

Lastly, the novelty of apps has worn off. Getting people to install an app is a much harder sell than it was even a year ago. My own phone already has too much stuff on it, so I now hesitate to install yet more crap unless it really adds value for *me*. Yup, people have figured out that home screen real estate is scarce and valuable.

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