Somewhere, I’m sure I still have one of those little proprietary bar code scanners that got mailed out to millions of people in the hope that we would all use them to follow bar-coded links in printed products to online resources and offers.
I loved CueCat, partly because it was a bold, even visionary idea, and even more because it was such a blatantly bad business and product plan. It earned a place of honor in my own personal pantheon of spectacular and foreseeable dotcom failures, right up there with my all-time favorite, the iSmell Personal Scent Synthesizer from DigiScents.
(Both of these, I see, made it to a fun list of “The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time” published by PCWorld back in 2006.)
QR (quick read) codes have their roots in manufacturing, but now they are being used to attempt the same magic CueCat was intended to perform — turn print products (and signs, billboards, displays or anything else) into interactive media.
There are a couple of key differences, though. First, the QR code inventors are apparently not exercising their patent rights, so the technology is effectively open. Even more importantly, the rise of smartphones has replaced the need for a proprietary and cumbersome device to read the codes. Plus, QR codes seem to fit right in with some of the other scan-reading technologies being used on iPhones and Android devices, so it’s not much of a stretch to imagine people taking shots of QR codes, too.
Today, Sean Burke, publisher for Gatehouse Media New England in Fall River and Taunton, Mass., announced that The Herald News will be experimenting with QR codes to provide “hardlinks” back to editorial and advertising resources.
That’ll be interesting to watch. My guess is that use of QR codes for additional news content will be minimal, but if they can get advertisers to send coupons back to readers’ phones they’ll get some traction. It might also be useful for iCal links, map links and other things that tap into smartphone functions.
Want to play along?
You can generate QR codes at bit.ly or goo.gl or lots of other ways you can find with a simple search of “QR code generator.”
At mashable.com, you’ll find some creative examples of QR code use that should get your juices flowing. One place to start is with the story “5 Unique Uses for QR Codes.” A more recent article there called “Why the Best Online Marketing May Be Headed Offline” updates things a bit. And you can scoot over to memeburn for some more ideas in “9 creative uses of QR Codes for your business.”