The Association of Magazine Media – Event Recap

Yesterday, I attended an event hosted by The Association of Magazine Media (MPA), which was part of their ongoing digital series. The event was titled “Digital:Technology” and focused on “how publishers can use technology to better manage magazine content on print and digital platforms.” Part of the day-long conference was spent discussing 2D barcodes and the like. Here’s my recap.

There were two panel sessions, which focused on codes. The first session was moderated by a reporter from Advertising Age and panelists included senior personnel from ScanLife, Nellymoser, Digimarc and Zoove. The 20-minute discussion covered questions like: How widely used are 2D/mobile active codes? What’s the mix between editorial and advertising placed codes? Who’s responsible for educating the public about 2D/mobile action codes? Why should an advertiser or editor/magazine use the technology? What are the differences between the technologies (i.e., 2D [Scanlife] versus watermarking [Digimarc] versus special phone number [Zoove])? Any favorite applications of the technologies?

In most cases, questions were answered and the party lines were given, meaning that nothing new or so insightful was really reported  or mentioned by the panelists. Essentially, it was said that 2D gets readers from print to digital, needs to offer something of value to be successful, offers useful metrics, and should be properly explained to readers by advertisers and editors alike. Judging from the audience’s reaction, when asked if there were any questions, either the panel did such a great job covering the topic, or the audience was simply not interested in delving much deeper, because no one asked a single question.  (There were about 300 people in the room.)

The second panel discussion on 2D followed immediately after, and this discussion was all about Microsoft Tag, a key sponsor of the event (do we sense a theme). The discussion was moderated by a senior marketing person at Microsoft and on the panel were representatives from Golf Digest, Allure, Health and Martha Stewart Weddings. Here the questions were a bit different, because each of these magazines have already used Tags either from the editorial side or the advertising side. Questions consisted of the following: What  challenges were faced with using the technology? What was the cost and who did the work to use the technology in the magazine? How do you measure metrics and define success? What best practices can you offer?

Here too, many of the answers were general and somewhat vague, but there were some specifics mentioned with respect to scan rates, lift, renewal rates, etc. (how some of the correlations which were mentioned could have been made based off of scan rate metrics I have no idea). Granted, not a whole lot can be discussed in 20-25 minutes, and of course Microsoft wants to come away smelling like a rose, but all this conversation really seemed to focus on was the one or two issues that Tags were used in for each of these magazines and not much else (Golf Digest not included, as they have consistently used Tag for well over a year). I don’t know if this was picked up on by the audience, but in listening to the conversation and trying to remove myself from my connection to the industry, I did not get an overwhelming sense that I must, as a magazine publisher/editor, use this technology (i.e., Tag and/or 2D). Maybe it was me but, with only one question from the audience, which had to do with the sharing of scan rate metrics between the publication and the advertiser, I just wonder.

In addition to the above, I believe I have to make mention of a sponsor at the event, because it shows how 2D continues to be misused in the B2B space. As a sponsor, RR Donnelly had a full-page ad in the event program (see below). 

When the QR Code is scanned, the reader is brought to a 60-second corporate video and then stops. No room left for a contact form to fill out by the prospect, no white paper offered for additional information, no service discount offered, nothing. So, here I am, a company that promotes the use of QR Codes, yet I do not even make use of best practices. Perhaps the headline for the ad should have read, “Need A 2D Barcode Strategy, Because We Do Too.”  

All told, it certainly helps the 2D industry to have had a presence at the conference, and who knows what comes of it for each of the providers/vendors that attended. I just thought a stronger set of examples and reasons to use the technology could have been provided to the audience (i.e., real trend numbers, detailed scan rate data, primary/secondary market research studies by the publications, integrated marketing information, strategic thought process, creative thought process, etc.).

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