By: Nu Yang
Quick response codes are showing up everywhere now. The two-dimensional codes that direct smartphone users to mobile Web content are rapidly changing how people receive information, and at one Arkansas newspaper, they are transforming the publication.
It may be unexpected that the Spring River Chronicle, a 3,000-circulation weekly paper published in Hardy, Ark. (population 756), would be one of the pioneers to embrace this new technology trend, but Jody Shackelford isn’t the average newspaper publisher. The 25-year-old started his first publication — a regional magazine — at the age of 22. While most entrepreneurs his age are in search of the next big online idea, Shackelford chose to venture into the newspaper industry earlier this year in order to test a new concept — a print newspaper that reads the stories to you.
“We took QR codes beyond advertising and now deliver full audio versions of articles via QR codes directly from the headlines,” Shackelford said. “Our readers can scan and listen to the newspaper, word for word, while they drive to work or wash the car. They can listen anytime, anywhere.” Shackelford said his goal was to focus on the newspaper’s original content. “What is unique about our application of QR codes is that they connect to full content, not just supporting content,” he said.
The paper’s newsroom houses a green room and a sound booth. On Tuesday nights, Shackelford steps into the recording studio and reads the content — everything from local news to weather reports — into a microphone. Once the file is saved and uploaded (the paper is currently using YouTube), a QR code is generated. The image is placed in the layout, and by Wednesday, the latest edition is set to be read and listened to. Readers have the option of scanning an individual code for each story or one code for the entire paper.
QR codes are also changing the way the paper is thinking about advertising and circulation. “We have created new revenue streams by playing both audio commercials and video commercials directly from the page,” Shackelford said.
Another convenient feature is a QR code that allows readers to subscribe right away with their credit card number when the code is scanned.
In addition to his publisher duties, Shackelford is head of Newspaper Next LLC, a media consulting company, where he hopes to generate more interest in what he calls “audio print” and “video print.” He is currently in talks with two publishing companies to help implement QR codes at their publications.