Google Print Using Bar Code Technology

    January 29, 2008

Google’s hoping to spurn more interest in their newspaper advertising service – Google Print – by adding bar codes to ads.

If you have a cell phone that is compatible, you could point it at the bar code and go to a web site printed at the bottom of an ad.

As an example, I’ll take my favorite section of the newspaper – Arts and Entertainment. If you read a review about a performance of Wicked in your area, there may be an ad for the production. If it was a Google Print ad that used bar codes, you could quickly access the right page to buy a ticket at a nearby theater. The barrier at first will be just making sure you have a compatible phone, with Internet access, and the right software installed.

While this technology may not be welcomed (or just ignored) in all cases, imagine this for car classified ads. Newspaper classifieds give so little information and if you could click to an online ad you could get mileage, photos, etc. Another way this could be a welcomed benefit is if you got driving directions, a discount, and for advertisers, a way to track ad responses.

I know Google is creating this to bolster advertising but I can see a lot of applications that could help newspapers become more interactive and possible sell more ads and subscriptions. This is a step to integrate print media with online advertising and content. I’d rather have bar codes on stories than ads, but it’s a good first step. In other words, if I could access more photos, a related blog post, or even the Wikipedia page, I might just renew my weekly subscription to the newspaper. The nice thing about newspapers is that it’s so linear. I read it by sections. Online I wander everything and always feel like I’m missing stories I would have read if I had the physical paper in front of me.

The bar codes can be tracked with Google Analytics so you can measure results. Not only can you get numbers but you can get time of day and a person’s location. Google notes that online jeweler Blue Nile has tested the bar codes. They added a Google footer to print ads that had their URL, search terms, phone number, coupon code, SMS code, and 2D barcode. No word of results.

As an affiliate marketer I can see how you could run print ads in your local paper that went to a landing page online.

This technology is already more mainstream in Japan. There are multiple challenges, like getting carriers to add the functionality. Then it must catch on with the public and advertisers. I wonder how many newspaper readers access the Internet through their cell phones. Google can write software for its open source operating system for cell phones (Android), but that’s not off the ground yet.