Advertising: Golf Digest, other titles eye scannable print ads for smartphones

It's a tough time to be in the magazine business. Circulation has steadily declined since 2005. Advertising plunged 21 percent in the first half of the year. Online display advertising, one of the few media sectors to show growth during the period, gained just 6.5 percent, according to TNS Media Intelligence. And just today, Condé Nast said it's closing Gourmet and three other magazines.

Magazine publishers won't sit idly by and watch their subscribers -- and advertisers -- migrate online. Several publications, including Woman's Day, are incorporating new advertisements that allow readers to "snap" photos of bar codes with their smart phones, which may enter readers into a sweepstakes or send them free samples and product coupons. It's not the first time print publications have sought to capture some online magic. Early versions of the service failed to entice readers because, rather than offering something new, they merely linked to URLs, according to MediaWeek.
Golf Digest, a Condé Nast magazine, is testing the technology in its November issue with editorial pages that link to online videos demonstrating tips and techniques for bettering readers' games. The publication intends to monitor the technology, from Microsoft (MSFT), and may take it to advertisers if it proves popular with readers, says a spokesman for the magazine.

And Everyday Food, a cooking magazine from Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO), is trying out a similar service in its November issue, which hits newsstands at the end of October. Instead of videos, the magazine will provide readers with recipes and will enter readers into a $1,000 sweepstakes. Woman's Day, owned by Hachette Filipacchi, has several "snapable" ads in its current November issue, including a chance to win a $500 shopping spree, says Tony Spencer, chief marketing officer of LinkMe Mobile, a company that has developed the Web-enabled ads for smartphones.

Advertisers say they're intrigued. "It's another way to take our messaging to another level," says Brenda White, publishing activation director at ad agency Starcom. "So instead of paging through magazines, it provides our consumers with a way to get some additional value, whether an offer or a coupon." And print isn't the only format trying interactive ads that give something back: Cablevision (CVC) said last month it will introduce TV spots that let viewers click and receive coupons or free samples.

"Everyone is hurting right now because of the economy, so everyone has to think about innovating in a new way to get readers to stick with them and not drop their subscription," says LinkMe's Spencer. "Magazines, and print in general, have to become more sticky, because it seems people are less willing to continue their subscription if it's not interesting."

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