medium_Laurel.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

The argument of print versus digital media is an empty one. Since the first characters were carved into clay and stone, we have expanded our range of media channels in order to improve communications efficiency. The marriage of print and broadcast media has been long, happy and fruitful. The addition of direct mail and billboards to the family has been even more effective for brand development and market awareness. Add digital media to the mix and the whole proposition gets turbo-charged.

The trouble is that so much of digital media is a waste of resources. It’s noisy, cluttered and error-prone, and responses don’t necessarily lead to sales. This means energy supporting masses of redundant electronic transactions. For instance the effort that goes into QR codes is mostly wasted, because relatively few consumers bother with them once the novelty’s worn off. They try them out to see what will happen, but relatively few such clicks generate revenues. According to Mark Fellows of McCann, a global ad agency a preferred alternative is “extended content triggered by page scans of special symbols”. He has worked with IKEA to put special aesthetically pleasing graphic devices into its catalogue pages. Once snapped with a smartphone camera, they link to the IKEA website with images of interesting combinations of IKEA furniture and other home decor ideas. This is still a relatively new concept but the idea is to use print to upsell, so that people buy more goods.

Ricoh is taking this idea one step further with its Clickable Paper technology introduced at drupa 2012. Rather than using an ugly little QR marker to link to supplemental digital media, Ricoh is deploying image recognition technology. Clickable Paper is based on Ricoh Visual Search (RVS) technology, software that identifies hotspots on the page. The link between print and digital media can be made with any content on the printed page and the hotspots can be on a digital page as well as a printed one. The hotspots connect the page content to related material online or to other channels such as social media or emails. Clickable Paper is more secure than QR codes and works with any printed material, even legacy pages. Documents do not need to be specially formatted or written to include the RVS technology, which works with low res data. Online information can be linked to multiple areas of a document or page.

This technology can help cut the amount of purposeless digital media interactions, and improve information distribution. Environmental management is about using such technologies for efficiency, accountability and to minimise waste. Technologies such as Clickable Paper or the IKEA graphic devices can help make digital communications more effective and so less wasteful.

– Laurel Brunner

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