Magazines Can Bridge the Gap Between Print and Digital with QR Codes

How often do you come across QR Codes in a day?

Many businesses, from retail stores to restaurants and even clinics, are leveraging these innovative solutions to provide better client experiences. 

QR Codes in newspapers and magazines aren’t a new phenomenon. However, not all publishers take full advantage of them because they don’t realize just how versatile and powerful these tools are.

QR Codes can transform print magazines into interactive experiences that increase readership and provide valuable data for continuous content optimization. 

Here’s an in-depth look at what you may be missing out on if you’re not incorporating QR Codes into your magazine.

Why using QR Codes in magazines is a good idea

QR Codes bridge the gap between offline and online media, providing readers with a higher-quality, immersive experience. You can use them to direct audiences to additional content outside the magazine’s pages, like video content, expansions of interesting articles, and infographics.

With these nifty solutions, you can also seamlessly direct readers to your social media profiles to promote social media growth efforts. Knowing how important a social following is, you can use it to expand your audience and build deeper connections with your readership by participating in hot topics and holding polls. 

QR Codes can also elevate your print advertising campaigns. You can customize them to match all your print ad designs, include tracking data to optimize and analyze print ad ROI, and even edit the embedded link after printing.

Customize QR Codes to match aesthetic page layouts

QR Code Generator PRO has brought custom QR Codes to a whole new level. You can style each code with custom frames, unique edges, specific brand colors, your logo or an image in the middle, and a call to action (CTA).

A snapshot of QR Code Generator PRO to create custom QR Codes

Further, QR Codes are scalable to fit any sizing needs. There are basic QR Code design requirements, like keeping the quiet zone intact and using appropriate color contrast. But you can customize other elements to align seamlessly with your magazine design.

An example of a custom MP3 QR Code in a print magazine ad that directs users to make purchases based on a sample course

Edit and adjust QR Codes to keep content evergreen

Covering trending content is a smart move, as it gets readers’ attention. However, it also becomes obsolete relatively quickly. Luckily, QR Codes can help keep things fresh, but you’ll need to use the right type of code. 

There are Static and Dynamic QR Codes, but Dynamic QR Codes offer more flexibility since you can edit their destination without changing the original code. 

Editability is a major reason why print materials need QR Codes. You don’t need to reprint your magazine to update the information linked to QR Codes—simply redirect their destination to fresh or updated content. You can even update the QR Code solution itself (like swapping out a PDF for a video) whenever needed.

Track scans to see which stories get the most engagement

Speaking of how versatile Dynamic QR Codes are, these codes also come with the tracking data you need to optimize your campaigns. QR Code generator software can track QR Code scans based on location, time scanned, unique vs. total scans, and operating device used. 

As a result, you can analyze, monitor, and test print magazine content to understand what resonates with readers, facilitating continuous optimization. 

Demo version of QR Code tracking metrics available with QR Code Generator PRO

QR Code Generator PRO has different types of QR Codes to suit every kind of digital content. Want to spruce up your magazine content with video or multimedia content? Maybe you need more app downloads? Would you like to direct users to a particular landing page? All of this and more is possible with QR Codes.

Bring users from print to digital mediums

An example of the steps from QR Code scan in a magazine ad to purchase

One of the big issues that publishers face is bringing readers from print to digital platforms. Some may be unwilling to manually search for your website or profile on social media platforms or even forget to do so. 

QR Codes solve this problem by providing easy access to whichever digital medium you want to bring readers to. They’re effective because they offer direct access—all readers need to do is scan them with their mobile devices. There’s no need to type in long website URLs or scroll endlessly on social media, trying to figure out which page is yours.

Examples of magazines using QR Codes

Numerous magazines and advertisers have already taken the leap and incorporated QR Codes into their publications. Here’s how they use them.

Note: Examples and brands discussed below were found during our online research for this article.

To promote app downloads

An App QR Code for mobile retail shopping in a print magazine 

Nowadays, there truly is an app for everything—in fact, there are roughly 2.3 million apps in the Google Play Store and 1.8 million in the Apple App Store. While this gives users many options, it can make it challenging for businesses to get audiences’ attention. 

However, this isn’t a deterrent for magazines like The New York Times. Their issues frequently feature App Store QR Codes to drive readers to download their app for access to more content and features.

To provide access to audio recordings

An MP3 QR Code linked to an audiobook in a print magazine 

Many people don’t have the time to sit down and read a magazine. The New Yorker recognized this challenge and developed solutions for their audience to enjoy their favorite pieces without flipping through the pages: audio. 

The New Yorker provides a variety of audio offerings to cater to the needs of busy readers (well, listeners) and create a more interactive experience. MP3 QR Codes provide direct access to the audio versions of published stories, elevating readers’ experiences. 

To advertise products 

A Dynamic URL Code to make real estate appointments from a print magazine ad

Since QR Codes can connect print and digital and provide seamless access to information, they’ve become virtually every marketer’s go-to tool for promoting sales. 

Magazines are no exception—in 2021, Vogue Singapore featured a giant QR Code on its cover to direct readers to two digital-only covers available for auction. 

Both you and your advertisers can borrow from Vogue Singapore’s idea and use Dynamic URL QR Codes to direct readers to relevant websites for purchases. 

To promote an event 

An Event QR Code to promote concert tickets in a print magazine

QR Codes work great for promoting events, too. They’re convenient and can save potential attendees a lot of time by taking them directly to registration pages. Plus, Event QR Codes provide scan analytics to help you gauge attendance. 

So, it’s not surprising to find magazines using QR Codes to promote events. For example, Vogue used QR Codes to provide easy access to a 360° digital activation to celebrate the launch of Vogue Singapore in 2020. 

When you generate QR Codes for event marketing, interested parties can view the relevant information and save event details to their calendars with a single tap.

3 ideas for how to use QR Codes in magazines

Looking to follow in the path of renowned magazines like Vogue and The New York Times? Here’s some inspiration for how to use QR Codes in your publications.

1. Encourage readers to visit the website to get the full story

One of the downsides of print magazines is that they have limited space. Sometimes, you have to shorten stories to ensure they don’t exceed a page’s word limit, which may force you to leave out important details, impacting readers’ experiences. 

With QR Codes, space isn’t an issue. You can print shortened versions for physical magazines and use QR Codes to send readers to the full-length stories or unedited Q&As on your magazine’s website. This way, readers who want comprehensive information can access the additional digital content with a simple scan. 

2. Share behind-the-scenes videos or other exclusive content

As a journalist, you probably get special access to events, like interviewing a band in the green room or walking around backstage at NY Fashion Week. After these experiences, you can use QR Codes to create additional content for readers who enjoy behind-the-scenes or exclusive content. 

Just link the videos or transcripts from these events to QR Codes and add them to your magazine with a clear CTA that tells readers what to expect on the other side of the scan. 

3. Send readers to social media for breaking news

Print magazines are static and take quite some time to complete. So they may not always capture the latest news in a timely manner—but your magazine’s web version and social media pages can.

Use a Dynamic URL QR Code to direct readers to your website for current or breaking news. You can also use a Social Media QR Code to build your follower base and keep readers in the loop with all the latest news on social platforms. 

Tips for creating an exceptional QR Code

The quality of your QR Codes will affect user experiences and reader engagement. For optimal results, keep the following best practices in mind:

  • Choose a reliable and user-friendly QR Code generator that provides the type of QR Code you need.

  • Follow QR Code size requirements—the minimum QR Code size should be 2 x 2 cm (0.8 x 0.8 in). 

  • Add your logo to the QR Code to promote recognizability and enhance brand identity. 

  • Include a clear and concise CTA to let readers know what to do and what to expect. 

  • Optimize your landing page for smartphone access. 

  • Test your QR Code to make sure it’s scannable and directs readers to the intended destination. 

Create QR Codes that readers want to scan 

QR Codes are becoming indispensable in print media thanks to their ability to provide seamless access to digital content. There are many ways to use QR Codes in magazines to elevate readers’ experiences, from promoting events to enhancing accessibility and sharing exclusive content. But for optimal results, you’ll need to use the right QR Code generator. 

If you’re looking for a simple way to create QR Codes that readers want to scan, QR Code Generator PRO may be the ideal fit for you. It offers the flexibility and customization brands need to create stunning QR Codes for any digital or print media that grab attention and encourage engagement. Our user-friendly platform makes it easy to design codes that match your magazine’s branding and aesthetics—plus you get real-time scan analytics to see how people are engaging with your codes.

Register for QR Code Generator PRO today to elevate your magazine with high-quality, trackable, and updatable custom QR Codes!

Trupti Desai

Trupti Desai is Bitly’s Senior Director of Growth Marketing. She has over 10 years of experience working in B2B and B2C marketing roles spanning the UK and the US. A key part of the marketing strategy at Bitly, Trupti elevates global teams with her expertise and insights and was notably a speaker at the Digital Marketing World Forum. You can connect with Trupti on LinkedIn.

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