Google stops print ads and the curtain closes for the mobile barcode initiative too

I read about Google rethinking its print ad and mobile barcode print advertising services with great interest. Other commentary suggested that mobile barcodes were “toast” and this showed that mobile barcodes would never happen etc. Etc.

After considerable deliberation, I have taken a look at Google Print ads and the whole mobile barcode initiative and am toying with a chicken and egg scenario for print and barcode advertisers.
Trying not to sound like a raving mobile barcode lunatic there are several concepts that might have tarnished the success of the Google initiative.

The Print Media Eco-System
The first and it has to be mentioned at the onset is that Google might be in advertising and one of the advertising leaders but it is not a publisher and does not have the leverage in the print and online world as it does online. The first flaw of the whole campaign was for Google even thinking about deviating from the core to push print barcode ads.

This should not sound harsh, but it is the truth. Classifieds and newspaper advertising is a billion dollar industry even with declining sales and the apparent death of print media. This is because networks of individuals have groups of people and armies of contacts and relationships that they bank on to continue to create a newspaper ad eco-system.

Google coming in with an online site and 50 newspapers was lame.

Saving Print Media
The second issue focuses on “who” the consumer is. Google Print ads are an add-on for existing advertisers to control and add mobile barcodes for direct link access to mobile content sites. This is great for the mobile Internet and for online businesses to target a new media. But this is not great for the arsenal of printed newspaper or media fans.

Picture this:
A travels to work daily. A takes the train. A has no mobile connection on the Underground. A sees a mobile barcode saying “take a picture” with your mobile phone for more… A ignores the advert.


Business analyst buys newspaper daily reads it at work every day during break time. Sitting next to PC. Sees mobile barcode but is sitting next to PC so faster lest costly and quicker to just search for the brand name and find the required information on line.

The reader.
Issue number 3 is the big one. All mobile phones and all mobile users that want to access mobile barcodes need a mobile reader. If they don’t have one or if the reader in their phone (if they know where to find it), only reads a certain type of mobile barcode – they are stuck.

I might have five mobile barcode readers on my device –but I am a freak. More than one is too much and only a universal reader will ensure that mobile barcodes and print media win the race moving forward.
Another thought that has been playing on my mind for a while now. The issue of print media, advertising mobile barcodes and leveraging different business models to create a stronger leaner one.


Well. Everyone seems to see the value and benefits of mobile barcodes in the advertising value chain. But no one can pinpoint how to actually corner, win, master a certain market. Handsets might be in every pocket but the battle is getting mobile users to pull out these handsets and use them.

Initiatives in the US promoting proprietary codes will not encourage mass adoption, Google won’t be able to and the end might be nigh for mobile barcodes and the industry – if action isn’t taken.

What action?

Everyone in the mobile marketing and advertising or barcode market must think about what they want to achieve.

1. Personal glory or overall glory and a slice of the action within the mobile barcode market.

Then they must consider which areas market segments and dynamics are growing or worth targeting. The fact that print media has lost in value for a long time now makes me think that Google’s desire to enter that particular market was doomed at the very beginning.

At this time and during this economic climate only a few services and businesses and industries continue to reap the rewards and benefits. These usually include TV (people stay in more). Pizza delivery and take-away industries (people stop going out for dinner and get more take away). Weight industries – during a recession everyone tries to lose weight as they have more time and stress on partying or going out is replaced with what to eat, boot camps and exercise.

With this in mind – these industries can be the way in which players in the mobile marketing and mobile barcode industry blossom. The wrong fruit can kill you; but targeting what is relevant in tough times will make the fruit a lot sweeter than it could have been.

The winner in the race is the one that targets the right industry and not the first industry it deals with.
The second winner is the one with a barcode that can be read easily by any device.

The third winner is one that offers Weight Watchers or all diet companies a free mobile barcode reader for all clients with special online tips and tricks for saving on points or calories (barcodes) for extracting on the mobile device from newsletters, via email or online.

About Bena Roberts

GoMo News' founder and former managing editor, Bena Roberts has now moved on. She's now spending more time with her family. Tony Dennis has now assumed her mantle as the site's editor.
This article was published in Analysis, Mobile Ad&Mktg, Mobile Content, Mobile barcodes, Popular, mobile news and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Google stops print ads and the curtain closes for the mobile barcode initiative too

  1. As a conclusion to Bena’s article she comments…
    “The winner in the race is the one that targets the right industry and not the first industry it deals with.
    The second winner is the one with a barcode that can be read easily by any device.”
    As usual, Bena has her finger on the pulse of Mobile Barcodes and is looking long term on adoption and global accessibility, whilst highlighting the need to not ‘stand still’ whilst ‘standards’ are agreed – part of the reason RFID is taking so long to gain mass adoption.
    These are two valuable points for which there are currently two simple answers/solutions.
    The winner, as Bena says, is not ‘the first industry’ but the ‘right industry’ – so yes it’s industry, enterprise, real business solutions, and behind that lies a key point that began the whole article it’s not simply connecting to a url through a barcode that will make this succeed.
    Secondly, the major players in the industry, the likes of UpCode, 3GVision and NeoMedia should have no trouble adapting to whichever code is eventually adopted, but meantime 1D (the ‘global code’) doesn’t contain enough data to maximise the opportunities, 2D is the frontrunner – DataMatrix as is QR are already extensively used open source codes, and although QR is effectively a Mobile Code, DM can be read by mobile and most classic readers – all of the above can read DM and QR – so why suggest ‘proprietary codes’ that need special readers, why not focus on what’s already working.
    Not every mobile can read codes, those that can do it well with the above codes – let’s make this work for industry and in turn it will reach a wider consumer audience, with intelligent solutions and applications that, just like the mobile itself, we simply won;t be able to do without for the future.

    Mark Hendriksen
    UpCode Mobile Solutions

  2. Sean Owen says:

    Yep, I think you’re essentially right on all points here.

    I would first separate the print ads news from barcodes though. It is not as if barcodes made – or broke – this business at all. I don’t think news about print ads necessarily has direct implications on barcodes.

    I would say the reason that most advertisers hadn’t yet picked up on this technology is even simpler: print ads is a largely very traditional business. Some advertisers don’t have a web site, let alone mobile site, let alone ability to embrace mobile barcodes.

    The more advanced advertisers might advance the arguments you did, then, though the ones we spoke to who were interested seemed quite willing to rush in and embrace barcodes just for the cool factor and potential. I can’t remember anyone that “got it” and then said, well, but we’re not sure there’s a market, people will use it, etc. Either they had no idea, or loved it.

    But an ad is just one place to use a barcode and arguably well down the list of most compelling. This is why I think this doesn’t reflect much on barcodes in general. For Google’s part, they’re using QR Codes internally on intranet and biz cards, publicly in Japan, of course through the barcode decoder/encoder project, and a few other things in the pipe that might be coming out soon.

    Lastly, I think attempts to “win” by controlling the reader or barcode standard are doomed to fail; arguably already have. QR and Data Matrix are the de facto 2D standards, and most readers that want to not get deleted off handsets are supporting them. Same standardization that happened on the web is happening here. Just as companies then proceeded to create massive value with *web sites*, not proprietary browsers or markup languages, so many barcode companies will create value with compelling applications of standard barcode technology.

  3. Bena Roberts says:

    thank-you so much for the feedback – I really appreciate your opinion. I took my time to responding as I think that in this technology world we have to respect patents and first users.

    I do actually feel quite strongly about this because if you don’t then why bother with patents?

    But back to the issue – I think that publishers wanted to get involved because of the Google wow factor…. more than the mobile barcode wow factor.

    It sounds silly but when I think about it more and more I do realise that there was HUGE potential with Google and the publishing world – it was just about 5 years too early. Being in mobile one realises that patience is a virtue!!

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