Friday, June 22, 2001

R.R. Donnelley, AirClic to push bar code ads in phone books | Computerworld News & Features Story Donnelley, the yellow pages folks, want consumers to scan bar codes printed in their ads. There are a number of people working on similar ideas. For example, a company called JumpTech. They work with newspaper publishers, who publish bar codes in their ads. The idea is to give consumers a scanning pen or key chain fob, they scan the bar code, dock the device, and use the resulting list of Web sites to view ads or promotional offers, etc. There’s also the truly stupid Cue Cat, which is wired to your PC. I don't do all my reading or yellow pages perusing at my PC; do you? What these folks don’t realize is you’re not going to get consumers to change their behavior unless they are highly motivated. Why should I find my scanner, scan the ad, dock the stupid thing, and then go to the Web? I feel they’d have much more success if they simplify the process (make it wireless) and give the customer some payback (automatically send a coupon, or an email link to a promotion). Plus, they need to find other uses for the scanner – like scanning goods as you put them in the cart to keep tabs on what you’re spending, again requiring wireless. Or scan the last carton of milk and have the order sent to your online grocery. Or how about using it to scan codes on business cards at networking meetings? I don’t think if I’m looking in the Yellow Pages, I’m going to stop what I’m doing, find the scanner, scan the ad, go to my PC, dock the scanner, bring up the Web page, at least not more than a few times. After that, I’d be disgusted. Palm has announced a scanner plug in module for their new series of handhelds. Symbol already makes a ruggedized Palm compatible, and can even add a credit card swiper. Get those things into the hands of a critical mass of people, and you’ve got a value prop. Otherwise, it seems like something people would try and then either lose the device or lose interest. Plus, with a PDA, you have a display, so you can give the consumer instant gratification. Now, I might use that with the Yellow Pages, especially if it would save me money. Especially if my Palm were also a phone that would call the business. It will be interesting to see if Donnelley can sell consumers on a new way of interacting with the Web, and with advertising.

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