Future Tool: AirClic
Needless to say, the :CueCat is no longer anyone’s pet project. However, the idea of delivering printed information to interactive devices is alive and well at a company called AirClic.
New York–based AirClic, a two-year-old firm, has developed a way to send information — an interesting story in a magazine, for example — to PCs and various mobile devices without a separate scanning device.
Instead, AirClic uses SmartCodes, ID numbers that link consumers to specific Web content when typed into a cell phone or another compatible device. SmartCodes work on any computer with Internet connectivity, PC or Mac, and on a number of wireless devices, including PDAs on Palm or Pocket PC platforms, RIM devices, and most mobile phones.
The first incarnation of the AirClic technology found a home in supermarkets, where customers would key in the UPC codes of grocery items to learn about special offers. But now the company is concentrating on publishing, aiming to entice magazine publishers into printing SmartCodes that would allow their readers to do more than just read the articles. For example, the two tech magazines that have already signed up to use SmartCodes — EContent and CRN — allow their readers to save a particular article in their AirClic account online for future reference.
"It enables readers to save or share editorial content," says Matt Golub, AirClic's general manager. The magazines haven't used AirClic yet to provide additional information, the way a link on a Web page would. But that is certainly possible, as is the ability to use the technology to support advertising.
Golub says deals are in the works with business and consumer magazines, which will use AirClic for advertisers. Magazine ads will be tagged with SmartCodes that will enable readers to get more information about the products or buy them immediately by linking to a shopping cart function. Readers can save the ads for future consultation or interact with them in real time, Golub says.
For SmartCodes to work, magazine publishers will have to educate readers, either by sending them an email or printing instructions next to the codes.
Knowing what they know about :CueCats, what makes these guys think they can make it? :CueCats failed for two main reasons: because a separate device was needed to scan the codes, and because readers had to be seated at their computers to use them. AirClic doesn't need a separate device, since it works with any computer or mobile device. And, "the solution is mobile; you don't need to be at a computer to use it," Golub says.
AirClic raised $72 million from investors, so it's on the go. It remains to be seen how the technology works for magazine publishers, and whether they will be able to interest advertisers in using it to extend their ad impact.