NFC Technology Enhances Print Media

bookFor years, as digital media has moved into the spotlight, analysts have tried to predict the future of print media. Are we witnessing the descent into obsolescence of paper magazines, books, direct mail, and the advertising that goes along with them?

Probably not anytime soon. Especially as slick marketing campaigns show us how seamlessly digital media can be integrated with print, using bar code and now NFC (near field communication) technology.

In the April issue of Wired Magazine, 500,000 subscriber copies went out embedded with NFC chips. The chips were embedded in a Lexus ad, and when tapped with an NFC-enabled Android smartphone, the ad launches a mobile site, allowing users to “test-drive” the new Lexus in-car navigation service, Lexus Enform.

Notably, this is the first mass produced advertisement utilizing NFC technology in this way. To create the ad, Wired Magazine collaborated with Quad/Graphics, a global provider of print and multichannel marketing solutions. Quad’s stated mission is to take print to a higher level, through technological innovation. Whether or not the ad itself is successful, the implications of NFC technology embedded in print seem to put Quad/Graphics on the cutting edge.

In the field of traditional publishing, digital readers have remained largely separate from their hardcover and paperback counterparts. That could be changing, however, starting with Barnes and Noble’s e-reader, the Nook. Barnes and Noble (B&N) CEO, William Lynch, revealed in an interview with Fortune that plans are underway to embed NFC chips in future versions of the Nook.

The idea is that B&N will work with publishers to embed NFC chips in hardcover books. This would enable any Nook user to walk around a Barnes and Noble store, touching the Nook to books, bestseller lists, posters and so forth, and come up with digital information like reviews, snippets, books on related subjects and so forth. Ultimately, this marries the brick and mortar store with the digital purchase experience: an advantage that Lynch knows Barnes and Noble needs to capitalize on, particularly in the wake of Borders’ closing.

In the Fortune interview, Lynch explains that Barnes and Noble still has “a lot of opportunity in the offline-online integration, and how [they] integrate stores.” The use of NFC technology could give them a big lead in that arena. Presumably because the deal requires the participation of major publishers, Lynch declined to comment on when exactly the NFC-embedded Nooks will debut. However, he implied that it might be within the year.

In the coming year, I expect to see a new consumer experience emerge in the wake of NFC technology and its utilization in print media. Potentially, magazine ads (and other forms of print) will have the ability to more accurately target individual customers. Even our own devices, like e-readers, might be able to give us more targeted, relevant information as mass marketing becomes individualized with the use of technology.

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