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What’s the Future for QR Codes?

QR codes, short for quick response codes (those funky squares of seemingly random blank and white areas) are popping up in more places, some of which are unexpected, such as headstones.

They have many uses, but a common one is in marketing, allowing people with smartphones to scan it and be whisked to a website.

With increased usage, does this suggest a growing trend or merely something trendy?

I think QR codes are more novelty than practical.

I remember a time when it seemed every TV ad ended with a website address. That didn’t last long — and I don’t think QR codes will either.

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How Fast Should You Move To HTML5?

If you have a website, and who doesn’t nowadays, you fit in one of three categories:

      1) You use a hosted service that does all the behind-the-scenes technical stuff for you.
      2) You pay someone else to take care of it.
      3) You or an in-house team handles it.

You may also know that HTML5 is the new thing for websites. If you’re in the first two categories, that’s really all you need to know. If you’re in the third category you should track this carefully.

Web browsers handle HTML5 with varying degrees of effectiveness. Therefore, just because a new feature is part of HTML5, it’s unwise to use it before the browsers can actually handle it.

To find what each browser offers, check out html5test.com. It tells which HTML5 features work for your browser and provides a compliance score, based on a 500-point scale. The results are eye opening:

      Chrome 22 leads the pack with 437 points
      Safari 6: 376 points
      Firefox 15: 346 points
      Internet Explorer v9: 138 points

Older versions have lower scores and therefore lower levels of HTML5 compatibility.

The key point is, don’t implement a new HTML5 feature until all the major browsers support it and most users have switched to that version.

Why is an HTML5 post on a blog about publishing? Quite simply because “publishers are becoming developers.” And that’s another thing for us to contemplate.

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AIM is Dead: Considerations of a Product Life Cycle

The headline on Gizmodo reads, “AIM Is (Unofficially) Dead.”

This doesn’t surprise me. I’ve not heard anyone talking about AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) for years, and it’s been even longer since I used it. (Which isn’t surprising given that I never liked AIM in the first place.)

The technology of publishing used to be simple: a printing press. Now we have a plethora of publishing technologies, first to aid in the production of the printed page, but more recently — and importantly — to facilitate digital publishing, in all manner of manifestations online as well as mobile.

Just as AIM had its life cycle — birth, growing up, peaking, maturing, and now fading — so too will each of publishing’s technologies do the same. What is important today will someday become a non-issue. And if we blink or are not willing to change, we could easily miss the transition from one technology to the next — and we would do so at our own peril.

I assume that it was Twitter that caused AIM’s demise. That raises the question of how much life does Twitter have left — and what will be its cause of death?

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What’s the Future for US Mail Delivery?

The future of mail delivery in the United States is murky. This gives magazine publishers and direct mail marketers much to be concerned about, including increased deliver times and costs, fewer options, and overall more uncertainty. Consider that:

  • Currently the number of distribution centers are being slashed. This will increase efficiency but also add one day to most deliveries.
  • Routes will be lengthened. This means that mail will arrive later. Currently our Monday mail often arrives after the business day is over. And if there’s a snowstorm it may not be until after 8 or 9 pm. If our carrier is given an additional 10 or 20% stops to make, how much more will mail be delayed?
  • Saturday mail delivery may be stopped altogether. This will mean more mail needing to be delivered on Monday with even later delivery times. Plus if Monday happens to be a holiday, then there will be even greater pent-up volume for Tuesday. Remember that mail will still be entering the mail stream over the weekend, it’s just that it will have no place to go.
  • Some post offices are being closed and more will likely be closed. That means more time and costs will be incurred when you need to go to the post office.
  • Rates will need to be increased, but no one knows how much.

The wise mailers are already looking for options and contingencies. Unfortunately, this will serve to remove even more mail from the system — and less volume is exactly what the US Post Office doesn’t need.

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RIP Maghound: A Great Idea with One Problem

I’ve been a big fan of the “magazine membership services” website Maghound. With Maghound you select which magazines you wish to receive each month, are charged a fixed monthly fee, and they handle everything else. As a nice side-effect, the publisher doesn’t harass you with endless premature renewal notices or other annoying mailings.

Although I loved the service, there was one wrinkle. The model was built on the assumption of a monthly publication schedule, but few magazines come out monthly any more. Instead of simply charging less for those months, Maghound’s solution was a “substitute list,” which would provide a backup magazine when your preferred one was taking the month off.

Despite this small annoyance, I was greatly dismayed when Maghound emailed me the beginning of February to tell me they were shutting down the service, effective April 30.

Frustrated that I would need to resume interacting with individual publishers and endure their incessant mailings, I happily discovered that Amazon has a comparable magazine service. Interestingly, they handle theirs by the year, not the month.

So I am all set up with Amazon as my new magazine subscription provider, but I will miss Maghound, a great idea that didn’t quite work out.