Tuesday, June 21, 2011

QR codes bring hyperlinks to newsprint

Credit: Imgur

In a column earlier this year, I reflected upon the meaninglessness of instructions to “click here” in press releases that are submitted to print media. The creators of this type of publicity seem more familiar with interactive online platforms and I argued in my column that an effective PR officer will create publicity suitable to the characteristics of the medium that he or she is writing for.

I summed up the difference between static and interactive media as “Newspapers do not have hyperlinks.” In follow-up, however, I’ve discovered a technology that brings an interactive, dynamic quality to otherwise static print media.

Being a geek, raised on sci-fi/fantasy, I find technology inherently interesting — particularly when it so dramatically transforms the characteristics of one medium and imbues it with the qualities of another.

Quick response (QR) or 2D bar codes look  like a mosaic pattern but they’re not just something pretty, albeit abstract, to look at. For an example, look at the arts and entertainment calendar that is published each Thursday in the Lake County Record-Bee. Specifically, look at the little square mosaic next to the  words “Coming Up!”

That’s a QR code. So what does it do?

As explained by Ed Potter at www.optimalresume.com, “Now many camera phones and tablets like the iPad have programs that can interpret this image (known as mobile tagging), and it can be used to display a text message, compose an email, or take you to a website.”

I looked for the most tech-savvy person I knew and had him try out the code. Sure enough, he aimed his Blackberry’s QR code reader at the image in newsprint. The image swam around on the Blackberry’s screen and he centered it within a sort of targeting area. The Blackberry then analyzed the image and once it had interpreted it, it launched a web browser and directed it to www.record-bee.com/entertainment.

You may notice in the Record-Bee that the URL is listed beneath the QR code; that is just plain good manners. Not everyone has a mobile device equipped to read a QR code.

So whether a reader travels via hand-held mobile or has to manually type in the URL, either way, he or she can go to www.record-bee.com/entertainment. Once there, the reader can click on “Coming Up!” to read the cumulative A&E calendar.

Potter’s article goes on to explain how readers can create their own codes and then place them on business cards and resumes. The QR code can be set to direct the viewer wherever its creator intended: to a LinkedIn.com profile, say, and a potential employer can scan the QR code to learn more about that applicant.

Published June 21, 2011 in the Lake County Record-Bee

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