As an analyst for the office and production printing industries, so many of the solutions and innovations that I’ve seen have been intended to build a better pipeline between content and printing devices. In terms of driving page growth, some of these innovations have been unequivocal successes, starting with advent of networked printers and copiers, followed by the introduction of solution-based smart MFPs, and although still somewhat unproven, the recent emergence of mobile printing applications has all the makings of the next great content-to-printer pipeline.
However, despite the print industry’s best intentions, it has become quite clear that the digital revolution has resulted in an increased number of pages that remain in digital format and are exclusively accessed by our growing array of computing and mobile devices. Compounding this trend is the fact that the printed page has a much shorter lifecycle than it used to, as printed materials are heading to the shredder or recycling bin in a quicker timeframe and wider scale than ever before.
I will keep saying it. Print is far from dead. However, the ubiquity of computing devices is only going to increase, creating more opportunities for (or threats of) paperless documents and workflows. Of course, vendors will continue to seek out new avenues to drive pages from our constantly growing fleet of information devices, but it appears to me that the current pipeline approach misses one very key aspect of the print experience. Despite all of the innovations made in an effort create more print opportunities, little has been done to promote the relevance of the printed page once it is produced. With one exception:
The emergence of QR Codes has recently breathed new life into the printed page as the two dimensional scannable codes connect a document to many readers’ most prized possession, their smartphone, while directing audiences to the web location of the document creator’s choice.
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Until now, QR Codes have primarily found the most use in promotional applications such as brochures, magazines, business cards, signage, and most recently retail price tags. However, if made easily to access and use, office and home applications surely will follow. Event invitations can include QR codes to a Google Maps link. Companies that have headers in their documents can include QR codes to their website. Baby announcements can include a QR code to online photos. Business forms can include codes to blank copies of associated forms. Wedding invitations can include a code linked to the couple’s wedding site or gift registry. The possible applications are only limited to the scope of the internet, which is BIG.
I do not believe that QR codes will reverse the downward page volume trend, but I am certain that it is time for print vendors to reevaluate their content pipelines and look for ways to make the pages that are produced more relevant. To quote Andy Dufresne from The Shawshank Redemption, the printed page better “get busy living or get busy dying” and by connecting pages back to the very devices that are relied on to create them, vendors may find their own version of Zihuatanejo.