Newspapers promote QR codes, linking print and outdoor media to online, and building tighter social-mainstream media symbiosis



QR code for this blog

The Sydney Morning Herald has recently had big features in its Saturday edition on QR codes, the 2-dimensional bar codes that act as visual URLs for mobile phones, taking them automatically to the linked online content. QR codes are massive in Japan, appearing in magazines, billboards, business cards, shop windows, T-shirts, and more, by dint of NTT DoCoMo’s promotion of the codes. One Japanese magazine consists entirely of free things you can download with QR codes. Now Australia’s Telstra is trying to do the same thing in Australia, shipping all of its NextG phones with the necessary software, and making it freely available to anyone else.

It is very interesting to see a newspaper so actively promote a mobile technology. The Sydney Morning Herald is introduced daily QR codes on page 2 from this Monday, providing a link to the five most popular stories in the paper and other content. This means that you can engage with the media cycle even while reading a print newspaper. I wrote over two years ago about how each story on the online version of the Washington Post was showing links to blog posts about that article. Now this kind of immediate reflection of social media views is available in the print world.

So far in the US there have just been tests of QR codes in San Francisco, providing links to Citysearch reviews of local restaurants and merchants.

While there are a number of competing standards for codes that will link mobiles to online content, QR codes are substantially in the lead, and look set to become an international standard. There is a good chance these could become commonplace globally within the next 1-2 years. What is most interesting is the innovative ways they are used, particularly within mainstream media (which can include television).

9 replies
  1. dean collins
    dean collins says:

    Hi Ross,
    It’s been with great interest that as an expat I’ve been watching the launch of by Telstra.
    As a consultant who has briefed clients in the past about QR and other 2D code solutions (check out I assure you that QR codes have been used in Australia for a long time before this recent push.
    However the barrier to entry has always been carrier installed qr reader software, although of course software can always be downloaded onto the handset by the owner (my favorite reader is from Quickmark).
    What’s surprised me on client calls over the last few days is the basic lack of understanding around what QR codes can actually be used for – I think it’s one of those things that they have been around forever but marketers have never really looked that closely at them so I’ve posted a 60 second overview for dummies at
    Dean Collins
    [email protected]
    +1-212-203-4357 (Direct)
    +61-2-9016-5642 (Sydney in-dial)

  2. Mike Hickinbotham
    Mike Hickinbotham says:

    Hi Ross,
    I work at Telstra, but I’m writing in a personal capacity.
    Mobile codes in Japan are in a developed state and there is a lot we can learn from their experience.
    In research conducted by MEDIASEEK Japan (Aug 2005) awareness of QR Codes was 96.5% and 73.3% respondents had used QR Codes.
    In Japan, the codes were used to:
    scan a URL to access mobile site;
    register info on a business card (scan to save on handset / scan to call);
    use it as membership cards;
    shop without cash (e-ticketing and vending machines);
    purchase items in magazines;
    use as a ticket for concerts and transport;
    scan at point of sale for more information about product, pricing, promotions etc;
    music album launch and concert tour – scan for more information, download sample tracks, buy tickets; and
    scan to get latest and location specific public transport information and directions.
    It will be exciting to watch over the next six to twelve months how individuals and businesses adopt mobile code technology using the Next G network.
    Mike Hickinbotham

  3. Ross Dawson
    Ross Dawson says:

    Dean, it doesn’t surprise me that you were way ahead of the curve on this :-)
    It really is an issue of imagination – there are boundless ways this can be used to link mobile and fixed media worlds – as alluded to in my new framework…
    Paul, yes it will be great to see how this is adopted in Australia and elsewhere. The potential is fantastic, but we’ve learned there are differences between Japan and Australia (and elsewhere) with the uptake of i-mode :-). It is difficult to map Japanese mobile trends directly onto other markets.

  4. charles lindop
    charles lindop says:

    I am a lot more cynical & took the whole smh “wrap around” as sponsored media / advertising by Telstra. If true this is not a desirable trend. No paper should allow advertising to masquerade as journalism.

  5. Ross Dawson
    Ross Dawson says:

    Thanks Mike.
    Charles, quite possibly so – others have said the same thing to me. Though I still think that what SMH is doing with the QR codes itself is interesting.

  6. Ian Foster
    Ian Foster says:

    Until the media pick the whole concept of QR Codes up and run with it the technology is going to be sitting in the background waiting for it’s big break in the UK.
    I read about QR Codes about 3 months ago and couldn’t find a central resource about what they were and how they could be used in everyday applications so I created
    The website has news, videos and a QR Code forum to bring interested parties together.

  7. Mobile Skynet
    Mobile Skynet says:

    It is very interesting. The question is how to socialize the QR code to the people. Because it is new. We know that every body has the handphone today.
    We are also focusing on Mobile Barcode, Skycode. The process is how to bring people who will use it well.
    Please check our group at We hope that we can do partnership.

  8. Liz Turner
    Liz Turner says:

    These sorts of Mobile Hyperlinks certainly have the power to change advertising, and also how consumers connect to other useful applications at their “Moment of Interest” (TM), as my company outlined in 2000.
    However, as the world is put “on tap”, and the internet is brought out of the house onto the street, there will also be downsides for society. Whilst I am certainly all for the positives of this technology, having been at the forefront of it for a number of years now, those of us at the cusp of this new Marketing revolution will need to consider these downsides very carefully.

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