Congratulations to HarperCollins for embracing cutting edge mobile technology to connect teenage readers with its latest book releases (see story below). Though I should have seen enough whizz-bang technology to remain objective about it by now, I still can’t help the tinge of excitement I get when I scan a mobile barcode, like the one that appeared on my laptop screen when I opened up the HarperCollins press release, to be taken directly to content on the mobile Internet.
The publisher, and its technology partner QMCODES, hope that mobile-savvy teens will embrace the technology with open arms. HarperCollins has even taken a positive step to get round the most obvious drawback – the fact that most people don’t have a barcode reader on their phone – by putting one on its own mobile website. The two companies deserve every success. And yet…
The ‘and yet’ is really around the take-up of the technology. When you’re writing for an audience made up of mobile-savvy people who all have data plans and all browse the web on their phone as much as they do on their PC, it’s easy to assume that everyone lives their life this way. The point was brilliantly illustrated at the Mobile Web 2.0 Summit last week by Andrew Grill, chairing a session on mobile social media, who took time out to ask the girl passing the microphone to people who wanted to ask questions, how often she used the mobile Internet. She replied that she hardly ever used it because she was worried it would cost a lot of money. I don’t think she knew there was such a thing as a data plan.
I don’t know if there are any stats on this, but I would love to know, firstly, what percentage of teenagers are on a data plan, and secondly, what percentage are even on a contract. If there’s a market research firm out there that has the answers to these questions, or the means to find them out, please get in touch.
I don’t want to sound cynical. The only way that things like QR Codes are going to enter into the public consciousness is if more companies like HarperCollins are brave enough to use them. But I don’t think that putting a mobile barcode reader on your mobile site goes far enough. Someone needs to tell these mobile-savvy teens that you can surf the web on your phone without running up a huge bill. While they're at it, how about a super-cheap tariff to encourage take-up? If it’s anyone’s job, it’s the networks, but from where I’m standing, I don’t see much happening.