We’re not ones to criticize innovation but we’re also fans of general usability. And as USA Today tries to make the paper digitally relevant, they’re making it all sorts of confusing.
The newspaper, for all its flaws, has an impressive user interface. Tried and true even.
But USA Today wanted to introduce some digital pizzaz so it’s introduced printed data tags that readers can use to get augmented and/or supplemental material online. The tag is essentially a bar code.
Take it away, Fast Company:
Essentially the paper is trying to add bonus content to its dead-tree edition, bolting on the kind of additional data, real-time dynamic, moving images and dynamic advertising that’s been the provenance of web newspapers for some time—a bridge, if you will, between the paper newspaper and USA Today’s web presence. It seems like a good idea.
But it’s kind of flawed. To access the additional content, readers will have to have a smartphone or laptop with webcam handy—they’ll point the device’s camera at the Tag, and then get surfed to the bonus link encoded in the Tag itself. But if a user already has a web-enabled smartphone or laptop handy, then they may as well be reading the digital edition of USA Today, and the fuss of fishing out your smartphone or laptop while struggling with three square feet of newsprint will put many users off right from the start. Then they’ll have to download a special app from Microsoft, which, though free, is yet another barrier to consumer interaction.
So, thumbs up for the attempt. Thumbs down for the execution.
We sort of agree, but mostly disagree. We think that it’s an interesting evolution of the once-derided Cuecat model to use newspapers with cell phones, but to criticize newspapers for daring to be useful with cell phones – just because they have another product that does something similar – seems like the wrong answer to take from this. And let’s face it – while the experience of the iPhone is nice, it’s not exactly the same thing as a newspaper proper. Just think if the NYT did something like this to extend a really cool package to something on your phone that allowed you to do multimedia or dig into data?
And plus, does that make ads with these tags on them useless? Because there are a lot of ads with QR codes nowadays. Just because an alternative exists (a USA Today app!) doesn’t mean it is or does the same thing.
I agree with you on the laptop bit. Seriously, the experience with the standard Web is much closer and it is much easier to type a URL into a keyboard than a phone.