From the Editor: A QR Code: What the Heck Do I Do With That?
A number of years ago, I was editing some articles at home; my brother was over, and we got to talking about the [brackets] that writers and editors put around paraphrased words in quotes, usually used to clarify something. My brother, who is quite intelligent, had seen those brackets in news stories all his life and never knew what they were for—he thought they were typos. It never occurred to me that readers may not know what certain symbols mean. We know because we're in the industry. What else did this apply to? … I wondered.
In this issue's Guest Column, UBM's Paul Miller writes about an audience-focused (or "outside-in") approach to advertising strategy—whereby a marketer decides on its budget allocation for each medium based on the amount of time its target audience spends with each medium.
I was reminded of various ads in the previous issue (May/June) of Publishing Executive that used QR codes—six in all. The QR codes caught my eye and instantly gave me a reason to look more closely at the ads, but I wondered if most readers knew what to do with the QR codes. Maybe most Publishing Executive readers would know, as they're in the industry. But my guess is that that is not necessarily the case. Only two advertisers spelled out for readers what to do to "activate" the QR codes and what you would be accessing by doing so.
Even saying, "scan with smartphone" doesn't clearly communicate what to do. I tested this theory on several friends, showing them some of the ads, and they did everything from take a picture of the QR code to look for scanning apps (having no idea that the little box thing was called a QR code).
Publishing Executive is trying its first editorial QR code, along with a new editorial … um, I'm not sure what to call it … treatment: We are running an interview along the bottom of the entire print magazine, so to follow the interview, you have to read one line on every page, until you get to the end—well, it's not really the end, and that's where the QR code comes in. The interview is too long to include the whole thing in print (with just one line on each page), so we put in the URL where you can find the interview in its entirety, and we included a QR code that lets you go straight to the interview using your smartphone. And, we tell you how to make the QR code work.
What Say You?
The other aspect of an audience-focused approach is audience feedback, or a means of getting it when you don't have data automatically being given to you via web tracking and analytics. As many of you know, we do a reader survey every year, asking questions about what you like and don't like about Publishing Executive. We get a tremendous response to the survey and take the feedback to heart. Many of your suggestions for Guest Columns have appeared in these pages, your biggest challenges addressed in feature stories, and topics of interest covered regularly. (By the way, our reader survey will be sent out soon via e-mail, so keep your eyes out for it!)
So, back to the QR code and our new editorial treatment. The QR code will enable us to track how many people visit the interview using the code. This is tremendous information to have. However, it may be somewhat limited. Some people may prefer to continue reading the interview by going directly to PubExec.com. Some may plan on reading it later, and find it online on their own. Some may love the editorial treatment (which we adapted—OK, stole—from something that Esquire did once; we may be thieves, but at least we're honest thieves). Some may hate the treatment—and it may end up being a debacle of which we never speak again—but they might use the QR code just to see how it works. That feedback is more difficult to capture. So, for that, I will have to ask using "old-fashioned" words: What do you think of the—let's call it cross-issue—interview treatment?
I've said this many times, but I'll say it again. This is your magazine—you have the right and the reason to provide input into its content. So, please, let me know. And I hope you'll check out the QR codes and the different ways they're used—between our editorial usage and our advertisers' usage.
Also, if you've used QR codes, what has your experience been? To share your insights with us, post a comment to this article online, or e-mail me, if you prefer. A number of readers have told me they think QR codes may be more hype than potential for return on investment. And I think we'd all like to hear some different perspectives. … Yes, even yours—the guy with the banana in his briefcase. (Hopefully, some of you read AppWatch in the previous issue.)