New Print Ads Trigger Web Pages

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Wired magazine will offer ads in its July issue on which consumers can use their PC's digital camera or scanner and be taken directly to the corresponding Web page.


The technology, dubbed MediaBridge, inserts a proprietary watermark on the page. Proprietary software converts the watermark into a URL when the image is read by a camera or scanner. It works with any printed material, including direct mail pieces, magazines, credit cards and catalogs.


MediaBridge's creator Digimarc Corp. has inked deals with Logitech International and 3Com Corp. to include the software with their digital cameras. Users who already own a digital camera can download software for free at www.digimarc.com.


The 4-year-old company hasn't actively approached catalogers yet because "it's just been very busy with the magazine publishers," said Bruce Davis, president/CEO of Digimarc, Tualatin, OR. He believes the service has implications for consumers and business-to-business catalogers, although there are issues to be worked out.


If the page of a catalog contains multiple products with multiple watermarks, for example, "it would be troublesome to pick off the [products] you want," said Jeremy Schwartz, an analyst at Forrester Research, Cambridge, MA. While audio watermarking is being developed on the Internet, he said, this is the first time digital watermarking has been used for visual content.


Wired and Digimarc will offer 25,000 free PC cameras beginning in May in exchange for the recipients joining Digimarc's household research panel.


"It's a means of providing demographic information to advertisers and publishers ... to be respectful of people's privacy but obtain interesting market research," Davis said.


Digital cameras are readily available. Dell Computer Corp., for example, sells PC cameras ranging in price from $79 to $300.


A second ad push will follow in the August issue of Popular Mechanics magazine. It will be expanded to other Hearst publications in 21 U.S. and 98 international editions.
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