Print & Production: The Evolution of Interactive Print

From QR Codes to image recognition, print marketing continues to develop newways to cross boundaries

Today, many marketers are trending away from looking at printed media as their No. 1 channel to reach an intended audience. Digital—including mobile, online advertising, social media buys, corporate websites and others—tends to be a higher priority as marketers see consumers continuing to turn to the Web and, more specifically, accessing the Web via mobile devices.

According to recent comments from Forrester Research analyst Tracy Stokes, consumers today are in control and decide when, where and how they access content. So wouldn’t that require marketers to not pick a platform—mobile/online vs. print/offline—but instead find a way to consistently communicate across all channels?

This question is nothing new. There’s been an evolution in the past few decades on how to integrate different channels, including printed media and online, stemming from when the World Wide Web became a household term.

The Evolution of Interaction
Likely one of the most popular applications to integrate print and digital is the QR Code, invented in 1994. A QR Code is read by an imaging device, such as the camera on your mobile phone, and launches a browser that brings the user directly to the intended URL. However, the QR Code and similar technologies, such as digital watermarking (the technique of embedding an imperceptible code into a printed document), can be considered stale today as technology evolves. And in fact, according to a study conducted by Forrester, only 5 percent of Americans scanned a QR Code between May and July of 2011.

Today’s most talked-about technology that integrates mobile and print is image recognition technology; more specifically, visual search. By leveraging visual search, printed media can be made truly interactive. By definition, visual search technology taps recognition algorithms, data authoring and mobile technologies that work together to connect information on a printed piece with digital information or services on the Internet, or actions that can be taken on a mobile device—like making a phone call.

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