Magazines’ use of mobile action codes, including all 2D barcodes, QR codes, Microsoft Tags, and watermarks, exploded in 2011, rising 439% from Q1 to Q4, according to [download page] a January 2012 study from Nellymoser. The total number of action codes in the top 100 US magazines by circulation jumped 64% quarter-over-quarter in Q4, rising from 1155 to 1189. November’s 681 action codes was the most of any month in 2011, up from 278 in July and 88 in January.
According to a survey released in January 2012 by Chadwick Martin Bailey, magazines and newspapers (35%) were the leading sources for consumers who have scanned a QR code.
Advertisers Drive Growth
Data from “Mobile Action Codes in Magazine Advertising 2011” indicates that advertisers were the primary driver of mobile action code growth in magazines over the course of the year: whereas in January, there were 7 advertising codes for each editorial code, by December, that ratio had nearly reached 25 to 1. There has also been a relatively steady increase in the percentage of ad pages containing at least one code. In December 2011, 8.36% of ad pages contained at least one code, representing 45% growth from 5.76% in September and 135% growth from 3.53% in March.
Codes Per Issue Also Up
During the year, both the average and median number of action codes per issue increased: in Q4, 6.5 action codes appeared in each issue that contained at least one action code, compared to an average of 4.83 in Q3 and 2.33 in Q1. The median number of action codes per issue also steadily rose throughout the year, from 2 in Q1 to 4 in Q3 and 5 in Q4. Q4 experienced the greatest number of codes in an issue (74), up from the previous peak of 54 in Q3.
Meanwhile, the proportion of top 100 magazine titles containing at least one action code remained at 96% in Q4, a level it attained in July.
QR Codes Extend Market Share Lead
97% of the action codes printed in the top 100 magazines in Q4 were either QR codes (72%) or Microsoft Tags (25%), although the proportion of QR codes rose 11% from 65% in Q3, while the proportion of Microsoft Tags fell 17% from 30%. Digital watermarks first entered the top 100 list in December, which Nellymoser believes to be the beginning of a trend.
Video Showcase Dominates Code Use
The most widespread usage for action codes in 2011 by far was to showcase a video (54%). Opt-in/sweeps (30%) followed, with sweepstakes easily the largest contributor within the category. 23% of codes enabled readers to share a video link or product information via social media, while e-commerce (19%) and store locator (13%) were also popular code uses.
- Nearly 40% of the action codes used in advertising (1619) came from companies in three industries: beauty, home, and fashion.
- The top 10 magazine titles included 28% of all codes (1255), emphasizing the broad reach of codes.
- Half of the magazine titles on the Q4 top 10 list were not on the top 10 list in Q3. These titles were ESPN, People, Self, Sports Illustrated, and Time.
- By Q4, more than two-thirds of all action codes (1327) were accompanied by information that described what happens after the scan.
- Whereas in Q2, 48% of all action codes contained an instruction regarding how to download a code reader, in Q4, that dropped to 23%. Similarly, in Q2, 17% were accompanied by an icon showing a smartphone scanning the code. By Q4, that had dropped to 5%.
- More than 90% of action codes were placed on the bottom half of the page, the traditional location for a call to action.
About the Data: Nellymoser studied the top 100 US magazines by circulation, limiting the study to monthly issues readily available on newsstands nationally. To compile the data, Nellymoser surveyed and analyzed all of the pages within the top 100 magazines, counting 47,788 total magazine pages and 21,790 total advertising pages.