DigitalConvergence Wants Consumers Cued In to its Technology hopes consumers will quickly warm up to the print-to-Web technology it expects to unveil this fall, so the technology company can promote it to catalogers.

The proprietary technology, called :CRQ (See Our Cue), embeds a printed cue, or barcode, onto a printed page. A device called a :CueCat (Keystroke Automation Technology), which connects into a computer keyboard, then takes the consumer to a corresponding Web site after it reads the barcode.

Beginning in September, Forbes magazine is expected to send its subscribers a kit containing both the :CueCat hardware and software. The Sept. 11 issue of Forbes is slated to be cue-enhanced, meaning cues will be embedded in its editorial content and ads. Wired magazine is expected to follow with its own cue-enhanced issue in October.

The company has enlisted RadioShack to distribute free :CueCats to consumers. Between the two companies, DigitalConvergence expects to have distributed :CueCats to 10 million U.S. households by year-end.

The 2-year-old company has yet to determine how it will charge companies to use the technology.

DigitalConvergence, Dallas, claims the technology has the potential to help catalogers generate sales, cut costs and convert catalog buyers to Web buyers.

“You could reduce the copy that's needed on a page, and just have a picture and a price, and for more information swipe the cue,” said David Abbott, vice president of catalog marketing at DigitalConvergence, who was recently hired to promote the technology to catalogers. “That's really no different than calling the 1-800 number, and you've just eliminated the call center,” said Peter Eschbach, vice president of corporate communications at DigitalConvergence.

The company is ready to promote its proprietary technology to consumer and business-to-business catalogers, but Eschbach declined to name which catalog companies it was hoping to lure.

Meanwhile, there are doubts as to whether this technology will catch on in the mainstream.

“It's a behavioral change. So, does someone see the value of doing it? Does it make their life more efficient?” said Lauren Freedman, president of catalog, retail and e-commerce consulting firm The E-Tailing Group, Chicago. “[DigitalConvergence must] have a strong penetration of merchants, and it has to be advertised” to be successful, she said.

One marketing manager for a high-end women's apparel and home furnishings catalog, who asked not to be named, said :CRQ would be a great application for catalogers, but consumers were unlikely to take the time to use it.

“It sounds a little limited because you're asking people to do an awful lot,” the manager said. “Asking people to load something onto their computer is a lot to ask, and it's a lot to ask [just] to have people open a catalog.”

Earlier this month, Digimarc Corp., Tualatin, OR, unveiled a similar technology in Wired magazine, dubbed MediaBridge, which 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. The difference between the two technologies is Digimarc's software requires the consumer to use a PC camera or scanner.

Though Digimarc's technology is a “great application” for protecting intellectual property of artwork and photography, “getting into this line [catalogs] is a stretch,” said Eschbach.

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