Print media take giant tech step

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Technology allowing newspaper and magazine readers to use scanners to surf off the page and onto the Internet is finding an advertiser following.

"The key is getting to the market quickly and having enough penetration of the scanning devices," says Burl Olsen, president of the publishing division of Belo Corp., an investor in DigitalConvergence.com, a provider of the scanning technology.

Such marketers as Ford Motor Co. and Delta Airlines are hooking up with publications taking a shot at the technology.

To facilitate reader usage, DigitalConvergence plans to distribute 10 million free scanners through Radio Shack, Forbes and Conde Nast Publications' Wired, says Don Welch, president of DigitalConvergence's publishing group. He projects 50 million scanners will be on the market by the end of 2001.

The magazine service is in addition to DigitalConvergence's TV application that allows consumers to reach a Web site during programming.

SCANNERS AND CAMERAS

Competitor Digimarc Corp.'s MediaBridge service has licensed its product, which uses a PC camera to read digital watermarks printed on the page, to 160 magazines including Hearst Corp.'s Good Housekeeping, AARP's Modern Maturity, Ziff Davis Media's Popular Mechanics and Wired.

Belo's Dallas Morning News and Advance Publications' Parade, a supplement distributed in 350 newspapers nationwide, also have signed on with DigitalConvergence.

The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., has been testing Code Corp.'s Go Code's miniature b&w bar code technology since mid-May.

Forbes will use printed codes from DigitalConvergence in advertising and editorial content in its Sept. 11 Best of the Web issue. In addition, the publisher will mail out a scanning device and software to more than 800,000 of its readers.

The scanners let readers go directly to the advertiser's product-specific Web page without having to remember a cumbersome URL or drill down through a home page, says Jim Berrien, president of Forbes magazine. That immediacy could increase the likelihood for a transaction to occur, he says.

At the same time, Mr. Berrien says, editors have the opportunity to provide real time content.

"So far, we've seen 45 pages of new business across all categories" because of the added-value offering, says Mr. Berrien. "Marketers see it as way to set themselves apart."

First-time Best of the Web advertiser Eurovacations.com, a 3-month-old destination site, says the value-added offering was the primary reason for buying space in Best of the Web.

"We probably wouldn't have advertised with them, otherwise," says Joe Hartnett, chief marketing officer at Phelps Group, Santa Monica, Calif.-based agency for Eurovacations, noting the publication's circulation is less targeted than niche travel titles.

HIGH-TECH IMAGE

"It was a way to position [the client] as an innovator," he says.

Mr. Hartnett echoes a sentiment expressed by other agencies and advertisers. He says the ability to track consumers "gives us a great opportunity to measure how many people are clicking through."

Delta Airlines is sponsoring the "Delta Fat Cat" promotion and the "Fat Cat Reader Contest." The contest allows Wired readers to use the DigitalConvergence scanner to read URLs and become automatically entered into a drawing. The grand prize is airline tickets. Delta's URL will be printed on 25,000 scanners to be distributed to subscribers for the debut of DigitalConvergence's technology in the October issue.

"This is an opportunity to have our URL linked to a cutting edge technology by putting the brand forward," says a Delta spokeswoman.

"This technology is the real answer to building brand consciousness against permission marketing," says Bob Mancini, executive director of J. Walter Thompson Co.'s Detroit-based Ford Motor Media unit. "You have a consumer who has gone through the magazine, stops on an ad, wants more information, and clicks through. This is not a passive receptacle. This is a person who says, `Yes.' This is a person who is your best prospect."

CHARTER ADVERTISERS

Ford along with Bosch, Jack Daniels, Sears Craftsman and Diehard, Toyota Motor Sales USA and several others have bought space in Popular Mechanics' August issue. In fact, the advertisers paid a $1,500 premium for the high-tech placement.

Other publications may add a premium to the advertising later, but Forbes plans to waive any premium for its charter advertisers.

Still, getting the scanners into readers' hands is critical to the success of these advertisements.

Mr. Olsen says he expects support systems and educational efforts, such as toll-free customer service for technical assistance, free software downloads, editorial coverage and contests to encourage usage will popularize the technology among magazine readers.

In addition, for six months, Digimarc will conduct online consumer attitudinal studies for its customers.

SKEPTICAL ABOUT HURDLE

Changing consumer behavior "is the biggest challenge," says Marissa Gluck, a Jupiter Communications analyst, who remains skeptical the technology can jump that hurdle.

Mr. Mancini expects "a few hiccups along the road." Regardless, he believes the Internet-enabling technology is, at the very least, an important move toward inevitable convergence.

Mr. Mancini doesn't see a downside, "except for companies afraid to get involved."

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