Many magazines are having a hard time attracting readers to their websites, so they're trying a new approach. Rather than just listing urls and hoping people will look them up online, magazines are becoming littered with mobile codes. The hope is that while readers don't care enough to look up an editor's blog, they'll bother to hunt down QR codes and snap them with their cell phones.
Jenny Bowman, Glamour's creative services director, tells the New York Times, "Our theme is social networking across the board ... Social is so huge that we wanted to take it to the next step and make it seamless for our audience." The "seamless" procedure involves readers noticing the small print on the September cover that directs them to page 84, downloading the Glamour app, using it to scan icons throughout the magazine, and waiting to see what extra features or coupons pop up on the screen.
Glamour is using mobile technology called Social SnapTags, and Allure and Entertainment Weekly have experimented with Microsoft Tags. The use of mobile codes in magazines quadrupled between January and June, but readers have been slow to catch on. According to a recent survey of 349,000 magazine readers, only 4 percent have used a mobile code found in a magazine.
Part of the reason may be that the codes just lead to content that didn't make it into the magazine and giveaways that no one you know ever seems to win. From the Times:
Lancôme, for example, is offering a chance to win a year's supply of eye makeup for participating readers. Gap clothing store is marketing a 40 percent discount on an item. Other marketers are offering incentives like coupons, free trips, gift cards and free samples.
If magazines are going to ask readers to fiddle with their phone's camera while reading (or looking at pretty pictures), the codes are going to have to lead to something more interesting than yet another makeup ad.