[ViewPoint] A New Day for Print - and for PCT

Columns - View Point

July 27, 2011

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve loved magazines. I love that they come every month in the mail — a surprise gift waiting for me in my mailbox when I arrive home. I love that they have huge, colorful pictures and glossy paper. I love that they’re portable. I love that they’re available whenever I want them (no WiFi spot is necessary and I don’t have to put them away when the flight attendant tells me). I love that the content is really focused to what I’m into at the time (of course that comes with subscribing to the right magazines!).

But today, magazines are more than those glossy pages. Magazines have started to come to life.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock like those guys in the Geico commercial, you’ve begun to see QR codes almost everywhere you go. You may not know their name but I guarantee you’ve seen them on business cards and on signs and in newspapers, stores, advertisements, magazines — and even in this magazine.

What are QR codes? QR codes (which stand for "quick response") are a new way for you to experience publications like PCT. QR codes can store all kinds of data including web addresses, photos, videos, coupons, MP3s…the possibilities are endless.

Think of these little squares as gateways into a digital world. When you scan the code with your phone’s camera, you are immediately directed to whatever additional content it’s linked to.

For example, recently in my local grocery store ad there was a recipe for salsa. The printed circular, of course, included the ingredients necessary to make this tasty snack. But it also included a QR code that I could click and watch a chef actually make the salsa. Cool, huh?

Above is PCT’s QR code. When you click this code with your QR reader on your phone, you’ll be taken to the iTunes store to download the PCT app, which allows you to view the magazine online just as it appears in print. From that point on, when the electronic version of PCT magazine becomes available (almost always before you receive your print edition), your phone will alert you that you’ve received the magazine on your phone. So if you’re on the road, away from your mailbox, you can always stay in touch with PCT.

Here’s how to use these black and white boxes with your phone:

1. Download a QR reader to your smart phone. There are many options — go to www.mobile-barcodes.com/qr-code-software for a list. (Or just go to your phone’s app store.)

2. Launch the QR reader app to your phone.

3. When you see a QR code in print, hold your phone over the digital tag until you see the tag in the crosshairs on your phone’s camera and let the device take it from there. You’ll be transported immediately to additional content.

Several of PCT’s advertisers have begun including QR codes in their ads. (Or, you may have seen Microsoft Tags — which are pink, blue, yellow and black. They’re another type of code that works the same way.) Some industry suppliers offer videos of their products, product literature, MSDSs, rebates and more via their QR codes. This additional content is definitely worth checking out because you never know what you’ll find.

In the coming months, PCT will include QR codes with articles wherever applicable. If we run a news article about an event but can’t include all of the photos because of space limitations in print, we could run a QR code so you can scan it and see those other images. If we interview an industry supplier about their newest product or formulation, and they have a video of the manufacturing plant that makes it or details of the R&D process, we could run a QR code so you could see the product for yourself. Or if we interview an industry researcher and create a podcast in the process, we could direct you to a QR code so you could actually hear the researcher.

See what I mean about the magazine coming to life?

The author is editor of PCT magazine.