QR codes were actually developed to better identify and catalogue spare parts for cars, but now, as I stand by the tram-stop at the Leidseplein in Amsterdam, I can see a QR code on a billboard which I can use to get information about sports shoes on my smartphone, and even design and order my own personalised shoes on the website. In the mornings I get a copy of Spits from Station Zuid and this newspaper uses these codes too. I am reading an article about the Amsterdam canals. If I scan in the QR code I can visit the Spits website, where I can read extra background information that isn’t found in the newspaper itself. I can book flights online and take my smartphone with me to the airport, where I can use the QR code as a digital ticket for checking in.
And what about the future of journalism? Daily newspapers and magazines desperately need their digital platforms and social media to reinforce cross-media links to target audiences. More and more people are using multiple channels that cross-reference each other. They all have different roles, but together they provide a complete package of information. From print to web and back, making more use of QR codes.
Extensive and high-quality pieces of journalism have disappeared as a result of there being a shortage of return on investment, because readers didn’t have enough interest or, moreover, time. Readers wanted short messages that get straight to the point. With mobile devices such as our smartphones, e-books and iPads, it can be different. We can take time- and place-independent information and rediscover depths of curiosity. Indeed, more than that, by publishing articles with QR codes, you as a reader can decide if you want to read the short or long version. If you are interested in a certain subject or section, you can scan or photograph the QR code and be linked to a website with more background information, links, similar articles or simply the long version of the report.
Storytelling used to be a central part of journalism, because reports were valued, understood and remembered more. And as readers we actually still want this. Dutch journalism: use this possibility and do more with QR codes than is currently being done. Use QR technology to produce quality items. We’re ready for it.