Canadian Newspaper Reinvents The CueCat?

from the Do-Not-Want dept

The Canada-based National Post is apparently the first newspaper in North America to try adding 2D barcodes to its printed product. By doing so, its newspaper audience can whip out their mobile phones to see what kind of breaking updates have happened since the dead tree publication was stamped with ink. Readers just have to download an app to their phone (if it’s not already a pre-loaded function), find the barcode on the front page of the paper, scan it with their barcode-capable phone, and voila! — instant happiness. This is the best innovation since the CueCat! (/sarcasm)

Seriously, though, I’m not against experimenting with innovative products, but this combination doesn’t make much sense to me. The newspaper audience that is tech-savvy enough to have a barcode-capable phone (and actually use it) does not seem like the appropriate target audience for a system that simply re-directs them to mobile content. Smartphone users are already reading mobile content, so this barcode system unnecessarily complicates what they’re already doing. (In fact, it also drives these users away from the printed edition even more so by promoting the fact that more recent news is online.) And the newspaper readers who don’t use smartphones are obviously not going to jump at the chance to figure out how to turn barcodes into newspaper articles. Clearly, if any audience is going to start scanning 2D barcodes, there must be a useful reason for doing so. Simply being the first newspaper to use barcode technology is nice, but there needs to be a compelling service behind the technology to succeed. I’m reminded of the colorful saying: “The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.”

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Companies: national post

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Comments on “Canadian Newspaper Reinvents The CueCat?”

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Andrew (user link) says:

why not

Doesn’t seem like a bad idea to me… I wouldn’t think printing a barcode would make the newspaper cost more to produce.

The program that reads this barcode could bring up an updated story in their website. This will bring them more trafic(and hopefully money). It may also transition users over to the web edition of their paper.

The barcodes work with a mobile device right now, but I’m sure it could easily be expanded beyond that to other devices(barcode software that brings up a generated website can’t be that hard).

Weird Harold (user link) says:

I'm Opposed to This

I think it should be obvious to even the most painfully stupid that this is just a bad idea. Giving readers an excuse to go to the Internet for *any reason* is just bad business sense.

The paper does a lot of hard work to get in print. Why focus your readers’ attention away from that? Besides, we have to think of the paper industry. What would happen if all papers went online?

Bedlam, that’s what.

Azrael says:

Re: I'm Opposed to This

“Why focus your readers’ attention away from that?”
Considering the fact that i still buy 2 newspapers daily even if i have complete internet access, Nothing.
” What would happen if all papers went online?”
Being offered an easy, free way to access the latest news, Priceless.
“Bedlam, that’s what.”
You, an moron without a clue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'm Opposed to This

The paper industry is already failing. The ones that only make newsprint, or at least use it as the bulk of their business, will be left selling it to grade schools that use it for those cute handprint murals and the like.

The upshot? Less wood being cut. The downside to that? The bulk of virgin wood pulp is from trees grown specifically for the purpose, so there goes some more farmers!

nasch says:

Re: I'm Opposed to This

This isn’t the real WH is it? He is not this stupid, or if he is he’s stupid in different ways. I think this is an impostor. TechDirt, I call upon you to institute registration*, so we can know who we are ridiculing.

* not mandatory – but I’m sure WH would sign up. I just hope he would be the one to actually get that handle!

Andrew says:

The newspaper industry is eventually going to die. You don’t think there is a benifit in keeping people going with their brand? Maybe they need to realize they are in the *news* industry and not the *newspaper* industry. They can make money in many forms of news.

And yes, the paper industry is eventually going to die(or slow down) as well. That’s just the way things are going, everything is being digitalized.

streetstylz (user link) says:

I have followed the mobile code reading space over the years with great interest and intrigue. In particular, a company by the name of NeoMedia Technologies.

During Web 1.0, a company by the name of Digital Convergence licensed the patents of NeoMedia Technologies to facilitate the launch of the “CueCat. The :CueCat was a revolutionary product launched back in 2000 that came way before its time. It had tremendous disruptive potential from a technology standpoint, but the drawback with the :CueCat was that it was a “tethered” device — meaning the user could only scan barcodes while seated in front of their personal computer. The customer had no mobility and could not take the device with them.

Flash forward to today, mobile barcode reading is an everyday part of the popular culture in Japan and Korea. The technology is just now beginning to emerge in Europe with North America not too far behind.

NeoMedia Technologies grandfathered this technology back in the mid 90’s and have been doing mobile code scanning and comparison shopping via UPC codes long before any other company in this space.

NeoMedia on ABC & NBC News circa 2004:

NeoMedia has a rich patent portfolio that covers scanning barcodes with a camera enabled mobile device to connect to the Internet, comparison shop, and/or retrieve online content.

S Dragon says:


Sorry to say but you must be very simple minded to discard the use of 2d bar codes. It must really blow your mind that the Internet is as big as it is. why don’t you crawl back under your rock where you will be protected from all of this
Please do some research on the uses of 2d bar codes before you run off with the mouth. If it wasn’t for the Internet I wouldn’t of had the pleasure of reading your comments and replying to you By the way just how much money do you make working off the Internet are you scared the bar codes might cut into your profits and that’s why they are a waste of time and money? Anyway 2d bar codes will be around long after your gone We will know all about them ….and you are WHO????Oh right the guy that doesn’t like bar codes.CRY TO SOMEONE ELSE


SteveD says:

I don’t know if its as bad an idea as Mike suggests, particularly if it helps you transition your paper customers to your digital site (as opposed to your competitors).

And additionally; all the smart phone users I know love doing this sort of stuff with their phones, if only to show off to people who don’t have one.

mikeho (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Let me first say that I am not against 2D barcodes at all. Barcodes have a lot of potential (and existing) usefulness, and I’m sure 2D barcodes can and will be used in innovative ways….

My post was not to knock the use of barcodes, but to emphasize that not all uses of barcodes are necessarily good, either. And in this particular case, it seems like a newspaper is trying to use barcodes to transition its audience to its digital mobile edition — but the resources it wastes on licensing barcode technology and implementing a barcode strategy could be better used to simply develop a better mobile site that a wider audience would want to visit (regardless if there’s a barcode way to do so)…. It’s a matter of opportunity costs.

mikeho (user link) says:

Re: Re:

From the end of the NYTimes article that one Anonymous Coward commenter above noted…

“The consumer needs a reason to do it,” said Jim Levinger, chief executive of Nextcode, a bar code company. “They don’t just wake up and say, ‘Hey, let’s go scan some bar codes.'”

This is my point exactly… and in the future, why have a barcode if portable cameras can scan and do OCR..? And in the meantime, why shouldn’t a newspaper simply print short URLs in their articles?

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Oh hey

A synapse that should have been long dead just fired.

Back in the eighties, there were magazines that would publish source code in BASIC. Toward the end of their tenure, one or some of them tried to publish barcodes that contained the code to whatever program you wanted. BBSes essentially killed that market.

That at least made sense. You could easily archive the stuff you liked. What I don’t get here is what is the benefit over a URL?

Leigh (profile) says:

I am a freelance employee of the National Post and I wanted to point out a small error here. The imprints don’t require a barcode-capable phone: the software supposedly works with a smartphone’s camera.

Nonetheless I tend to agree that it doesn’t make a lot of sense – but at least its not limited to phones with such an obscure feature as a barcode scanner.

Felix Pleșoianu (user link) says:

@Leigh QRcodes are anything but “obscure” by now. Any phone sold in Japan probably has a reader by default. I know for a fact that Nokia N95 comes with one, and similar software is readily available for other phones. And yes, all it needs in the way of hardware is a camera – a 2-megapixel resolution is enough (though less than ideal).

@Jake “Catch on”? QRcodes are already wildly popular, and have been like that for a few years now. See e.g. for information. Or any resource listed on the Wikipedia page, really.

Michael (profile) says:

tip of the iceberg

We develop offline to internet link systems and applaud the National Post’s convergence effort, though we think that keyword links to online updates from a desktop makes sense as well. We also have a 2D barcode solution, just that North America doesn’t have enough java enabled phones to accomodate the reader firmware. We have begun discussions with transit operators whereby a rider could take a picture of 2D barcode that in about 10 seconds results in a paid ticket. Similar to mobile solutions airlines are using for boarding passes. In fact West Jet boarding passes that you print yourself have a 2D barcode. Until mouse clicks from the offline world are perfected … keyword linking remains a simple and effective option.

Michael (profile) says:

one more application

We have also been talking to retailers about 2D barcode shelf talkers … want more information, simply snap a pic of the 2D barcode and a spec sheet or demo video opens in your mobile browser … can never find a clerk anyway.

And to Leigh, the National Post employee, the phone needs to be 2D compliant, meaning it uses the camera as the scanner to fire up instructions to the web browser.

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