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Opinion: Inside the QR craze

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In the March 7 edition of Springfield Business Journal, we introduced readers to QR codes.

What is QR? Quick response – to any digital data the code’s creator would choose to embed, from simply a Web site to multimedia content to a text-message coupon. The users are smart-phone owners, who have a factory-installed or downloaded application that scans the bar-code-functioning QR codes through the phone’s camera setting.

The story was published a week or so after SBJ’s staff was introduced to the concept by a source at Digital Print Ink. Photographer April Turner was at the print shop taking pictures of President Steve Counts, and he handed her a staff member’s business card with the codes printed on them for automatic-dial or instant e-mail communication. Turner brought the concept to our editorial team and Web committee for discussion. Boy, did the idea take off in our shop, and much like the early adopters we reported on, SBJ is actively researching and considering how best to roll out the codes in our products.

Our ideas: Our stories could include a key document we’ve uncovered in reporting; SBJ print advertisers might drop the codes in ads to extend the depth of their print campaigns; and, one day, our circulation team may take mobile subscription payments, or “m-commerce.”

As Brian Brown reported in last week’s cover story, there are seemingly endless possibilities with these codes, including the placement – think about T-shirts and tattoos. These print-based hyperlinks bring a new level of communication to consumers’ fingertips, taking desktop functions to the streets.

In the days since running the story, I’ve become more aware of the codes and even met Microsoft’s version of QR, termed tags, that users “snap” to view. These tags look more like pictures, sometimes with color, behind half-opened blinds.

For research, I chose two national magazines at random and tallied the codes or tags published in each. In the 98-page January–February issue of Relevant Magazine, there were 12 codes (two in ads) taking readers to song samples or movie trailers on review articles, and an option to donate to a nonprofit. Another 12 codes, including the Microsoft tags, were planted in Traditional Home’s 154-page April issue. Ads by mainstream companies Target, Kohler, Delta and Broyhill take users to home-décor ideas, product user guides, televised commercials and coupons.

I’ve had my eye out for use in the Wall Street Journal and have only witnessed few advertisers sparsely applying them – and only since November, really. They’ve been largely absent from local media, too. Interestingly, a year ago, the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce placed an ad featuring a QR code in Joplin Tri-State Business Journal.

Still, QR codes have not become completely mainstream in America. Time will tell if they beat the staying power of CD-ROM business cards that we reported companies began producing in the early 2000s. Have you seen one lately?

We are learning about and engaging with the technology, all the while trying to bring more value to the market. A writer at social media site Mashable last week predicted URLs would be replaced one day by QRLs.

That seems a stretch, but now it’s in the hands of consumers.

Springfield Business Journal Editor Eric Olson can be reached at eolson@sbj.net.[[In-content Ad]]

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