Magazine Mobile Codes Up 107%, Now On 10% Of Ads

Mobile-CodesThere are few media platforms more in need of some digital juice than print. As ad pages and newsstand sales plummet, magazines and their advertisers are becoming especially aggressive this year in leveraging mobile activation codes to make that digital link with paper.

According to its latest quarterly survey of the top 100 national consumer magazines in the U.S., Nellymoser finds the instance of mobile codes up 107% between Q2 2011 and Q2 2012. In all, the code counters tallied 2200 QR codes, digital watermarks and Microsoft Tags in the 100 largest-circulation generally available magazines. Just last quarter they counted 1365, reflecting a quarter-over-quarter increase of 61%.

Magazines reached a kind of mobile milestone last quarter in that every one of the top 100 magazines Nellymoser perused had at least one code. And 90% of the titles had more than 10 codes in the quarter.

The count is likely to go up considerably in the next report, since the all-important September issues of many magazines are going all-in for mobile activation. A number of titles are using image recognition techniques to make almost every ad actionable. GQ plans to mobilize every ad in its September issue, while Seventeen will have over 250 mobile-ready images.

Mobile activation is emerging as a standard operating procedure for some print ads. In just a year, the share of print ads with codes has risen from 5% to 10%. QR codes continue to be the leading form of activation, with over 80% of the instances. But watermarking and image recognition techniques via augmented reality apps have emerged as important areas of growth. On the editorial side, magazines prefer the less intrusive nature of triggering technologies.

And as has been the case for quite some time, video continues to be seen by marketers and content providers as the biggest payoff to users who snap and send a mobile code. Forty percent of the codes that Nellymoser activated (and they say they activate them all) led to a video experience. Entering sweepstakes or opting in to some form of subscription content was next-most-popular (19%), followed by links to social media (18%) and online purchasing (14%).

And while the mobile codes are intended to link the user to mobile experiences, the scourge of the mobile misfire remains with us. According to Nellymoser’s analysis of the post-click experiences, a quarter of the landings were not optimized for smartphones. The problem of broken links and codes that simply do not scan properly persists.

Among the top advertisers using codes in their print assets, Sally Hansen had twice as many mobile codes (64) as the next-highest users John Frieda (32). But a range of industries were represented among heavy mobile code users: Infiniti (27), Nivea (26), Cuisinart and Tyson (25 each) and Progressive (23). Beauty, home, health, auto and food & beverages were the product categories that most used codes during the quarter. Nellymoser notes that the auto category saw a huge jump in using the print-to-digital platforms, from 81 codes in Q1 2012 to 195 codes in Q2. 

10 comments about "Magazine Mobile Codes Up 107%, Now On 10% Of Ads ".
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  1. Chris Baker from Dominion Enterprises, August 28, 2012 at 6:47 a.m.

    Are these QR code statistics showing the same growth in newspaper advertisements? Does paper quality impact scanning results for newspapers?


  2. Steve Smith from Mediapost, August 28, 2012 at 6:50 a.m.

    @Chris - this is just a magazine count. I don't know of a group doing the equivalent for newspapers. Personally, I haven't encountered much difficulty recently in scanning codes under difficult circumstances - lighting, angles, etc. - if the codes are simple.

  3. Robert Bentz from ATS Mobile - Advanced Telecom Services, August 28, 2012 at 9:57 a.m.

    The great thing about QR Codes is that they help the newspaper or magazine remain timely since the information behind the code can easily change.

    As for GQ's September issue, I hope that they used custom QR Codes which we have seen get a 2.3x greater scan rate. See:

  4. Sixer Mixer from sixermixer, August 28, 2012 at 12:28 p.m.

    You can dress up a QR code any way you want to, but it's still going to be a QR code. The market will shift to invisible or even more highly customizable solutions, such as digital watermarking, etc... which by the way was behind the 250 "mobile-ready" images in Seventeen's September issue. Do you really want 250 QR codes in one publication? ;-)

  5. Steve Smith from Mediapost, August 28, 2012 at 12:52 p.m.

    @Sixer - You are right. Magazines like the watermarks in their official mobile activation programs, but the advertisers who are not involved tend to go for the QR codes. I think Q3 metrics will reflect more noticeable use of watermark and AR triggers. A lot of the September issues have them, as you note. But there is also code clutter now. Readers are getting prompted to use different mobile tools from page to page, some QR some watermarks.

  6. Robert Bell from AccuZIP, August 28, 2012 at 1:15 p.m.

    Great article showing the continuing increase in QR Codes and what a great profit center they can be.
    We have a very powerful QR Code tracking solution. Know when, where (GPS street view), who and with what device scanned your QR Code in seconds, get email-text notification in seconds, AccuTrace has seen a huge increase in year after year usage.Take a minute and check us out,

  7. Sean Grace from Strategic Franchising, August 28, 2012 at 4:02 p.m.

    Interesting how many point to video content. This seems to be the preference for marketers and users alike right now. It's amazing how many point to sites not optimized for mobile viewing. I've run into this a few times.

    I think it would be valuable for newspapers to use them as a way for readers to get the latest updates online as stories develop.

    However, the use of QR codes is limited and we'll probably see more in the way of augmented reality in the future.

  8. Roger Matus from Nellymoser, Inc., August 28, 2012 at 5:27 p.m.

    @Sixer and @Steve - The variety of different types of codes is one of the reasons that magazines are starting to opt for branded Companion Apps with universal scanners, like the Seventeen app. It makes it easier to use the same app across the magazine experience.

  9. Walter Sabo from SABO media, August 28, 2012 at 7:29 p.m.

    The worst education job ever. 99% of normal people have no idea what QR codes are

  10. cathlyn park from adcreative, December 2, 2012 at 12:31 p.m.

    The rise in use of QR codes isn’t a surprise. Print in general does need that connection with the digital world, otherwise they will all need to fully convert into the digital format. I think the key here is that you need to be creative with these QR codes and link the right thing. We know qr codes increase customer interaction: , but we should see if it translates to real results in traffic and sales really.

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