The Convergence Point

Because Story is independent of medium

Tying Two Worlds

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Video in a print story? Impossible! …right?

Wrong. But only recently wrong. The Gloucester Times, and other Eagle Tribune newspapers started using a bit of technology derived from your local grocery store over the last few months. That’s right, bar codes.

The tribune papers started running a few one to two square inch barcode stamps. They look a bit like an stamp done in the absurdist tradition of modern artwork; a large postage stamp of strange lines and small squares that when read through a smartphone camera, brings up a few extra features for the phone holder. The Times uses it for videos that accompany stories and pieces in the paper’s Taste of the Times insert, which runs every Wednesday.

An article from the Green Bay Press Gazette comments on the bar-code’s use as a sales tool, which lets viewers go deeper into ads on their computer screens, or on print pages. The technology places the smart-phone a few steps farther into the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy role that mobile phones have adopted lately.

The Times ran a story about a group of ad-hoc woodworkers and shipbuilders in Essex who’re helping out a local boatbuilder, Harold Burnham, craft a schooner. In a box under the story, the editors set one of the barcodes, which would let readers, smartphone in hand, access a video of the construction. So, while sitting down with the physical edition, the readers could tap into the digital video. All without going to the website and abandoning the edition altogether.

Perhaps the most effective use of the barcodes comes through the Taste of the Times, which details recipes from local chefs about traditional, and inventive meals for the community. The video offers some instruction on making the meal, letting residents read, watch, and cook, all within the same few steps, and without leaving the kitchen.

These smart-phone bar codes tie the two worlds together, in a way that’s crucial to keeping a print copy relevant. They bridge that gap we’ve talked about, between the community’s physical and digital realities.

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