The Mercury cracks the QR code

qr code, qr code reader, electronic business card, iphone app, android appDurban’s The Mercury newspaper has embraced the concept of Quick Response (QR codes) and will this weekend launch its first ‘added value offering’ with the Springbok game against Australia as the event to kick its QR code campaign into touch.

Angela Quintal, editor of The Mercury, said it was part of the newspaper’s strategy to be “innovative and have a fresh look at how we cover the news”.

“We are always looking for new ways to give our readers something extra … something more than simply stories and pictures, and QR codes enable us to do this,” Quintal said.

Quintal said the news and sports teams were often frustrated at not being able to find a place in the paper for all the “top-notch information and visuals that have been sacrificed because we simply can’t fit them into the day’s paper”.

This way, they can package the photographs and stories behind the Tri-Nations clash, upload all the information to The Mercury’s site. Readers, and potential readers, can scan the QR code with the QR code reader iPhone App, Android App or Blackberry App of their choice, which will then take them to the extra sports spreads.

Quintal said that The Mercury is still building its mobi site as part of a group initiative (along with other papers in the Independent Newspapers stable and IOL. “ For now, we are making use of an foreign service which allows us to create our own mobile-friendly pages,” she said.

The Boks, she said, were not directly involved other than the fact that The Mercury was using the Tri Nations clash as the subject of its first foray into the world of QR codes.

“We have been looking for an event that would allow us to test QR Codes and their uses in the newspaper domain. With the World Cup coming up there is lots of public interest in the rugby Test, and it was the kind of event which lends itself to adding value with QR Codes,” said Quintal. “We are giving our readers extra picture galleries of the on-field action as well as fan pictures, a few extra stories and analysis of the match.”

“Building up to the Test match, we have run an educational campaign to get readers  to recognise QR codes whereby they are able to scan a code and enter to win R1 000 each day this week. An offer for one month’s free trial subscription is also offered on via this code,” she explained.

“Match-day posters (waved by fans inside the stadium) will include a QR code linking to a cash giveaway competition and a call to get The Mercury on Monday.”

Quintal said she wasn’t sure if The Mercury was the first newspaper to use QR codes. “We have seen them used in some magazine titles and Independent’s Group Motoring supplement has been using codes on a trial basis, simply providing links to extended image galleries hosted on a non-mobile web page.”

She said the QR project was being driven, for now, by The Mercury. “But the idea actually originated at a group sport level and if it is successful it will be rolled out to other papers in the group”, particularly because the exercise is “surprisingly cheap using our current resources”.

South Africa has an extraordinarily high number of cellphone users so using the the scannable patterns makes sense. “QR codes also present us with a flexible mechanism for promotions. A particularly exciting campaign we hope to implement soon will place The Mercury within an interactive sequence of events – something we’re hoping will excite readers as much as it does us,” Quintal said.

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