Which Mags Were Biggest Users of QR Codes in 2011?

Usage spiked as advertisers drove activity

Mobile action codes are getting harder to miss in magazines. That trend is documented by Nellymoser, a mobile marketing firm that supports brands and publishers’ QR campaigns. The firm has a new report out that says that in all of 2011, nearly 4,500 codes appeared in ad and editorial pages in the top 100 titles.

Women’s magazines were the biggest users of QR codes in 2011. The biggest was InStyle at No. 1 with 141 codes. It was followed by ESPN The Magazine (136), People (136), Self (126) and Entertainment Weekly (123).

The occurrence of such quick-response codes (a broad term encompassing QR codes, Microsoft Tags, SnapTags and others) grew sharply over the year, mostly driven by ad pages. Put another way, 8 percent of magazine ad pages in December contained codes, up from 3.6 percent of magazine ad pages containing codes in January.

Among brands, nearly 40 percent of the codes came from the beauty, home and fashion industries, led by John Frieda (82), L’Oréal (79), Cuisinart (74), Garnier (72) and Revlon (67).

Earlier research into 2-D barcodes in magazines has shown this relatively new technology is starting to catch on with readers. Still, there’s room for improvement among its users. While readers increasingly understand what the funny interactive symbols are for, the codes get better results when they describe what benefit the user gets after scanning them, whether it be free content or a coupon, according to Roger Matus, executive vp of Nellymoser. Still, one-third of those that ran in 2011 didn’t include that information.

Nellymoser has also found that the more codes an individual magazine issue contains, the higher the response rate. Yet, one-fifth of the magazines it studied accounted for nearly half the QR codes that ran in the fourth quarter, suggesting there might be an opportunity for others to step up their frequency.

“The more codes that are in a single publication, the higher the scan rate for the single publication,” Matus said. “We have found this again and again. People get trained once, and they have their phones out, and it becomes part of the process.”

For the survey, the firm looked at all print-to-mobile action codes that were printed in the pages of the top 100 magazines by circulation, excluding membership-based and regional titles.