Editors Prefer MS Tags Over QR Codes – Why?

Microsoft Tag comic imageI was involved in a discussion last night with some great people from various advertising agencies that had been involved in recent QR Code campaigns. Unsurprisingly we talked a lot about QR Codes but I asked them a question that has been puzzling me since I read Nellymoser’s recent analyses of 2d barcodes in magazine advertising.

The analyses reveals that “Editors continue to prefer Microsoft Tags. Ninety of the 102 editorial action codes printed in Q3 were MS Tags (88%). This percentage is almost the same as Q2 when 115 of the 123 action codes used in editorial were Microsoft Tag (93%)“. Given that QR Codes outnumbered MS Tags on non-editorial pages two to one I wondered what brought Editors to the opposite conclusion to that of their advertisers?

When I put the question there was no shortage of answers, “Editors love bling”, “They have been influenced by Microsoft” and “They want to differentiate themselves from the advertisers” were popular responses. The most thoughtful explanation came in the form “Anecdotal evidence suggests that for the same ad in the same magazine QR Codes are twenty times more likely to be scanned than an MS Tag. Advertisers are generally aware of this and Editors are not”.

Personally I am not totally convinced by any of the explanations I heard and would like to know what you think. Any bright ideas or observations?

12 thoughts on “Editors Prefer MS Tags Over QR Codes – Why?”

  1. From what I have seen I would guess that Microsoft put money into convincing companies to use MS Tags in magazines. The use of Tags seems to have been concentrated in only one or two issues of any particular magazine with no, or very little, consistent and continuous use from companies using them.

    QR Codes have no single champion, and certainly not one with a purse the size of MS’s. It has been taken up by all sorts of companies large and small, but without the campaign that Tags have had.

  2. Interesting post, Roger! Tag has definitely had a lot of success in the publishing space, due in part to the free platform that includes reporting etc. I’m curious about how the agencies came up with the 29X more likely to be scanned number. Even with the inaccuracy that comes with an anecdotal observation, that seems pretty high considering 3rd party research that states the opposite: http://www.slideshare.net/MicrosoftTag/day-in-the-life-of-mobile-tagging

    Nick Martin
    Online Community Manager
    Microosoft Tag

  3. Roger, I think the comment, “Editors love bling” is pretty much right on. Editors like the fact that they don’t look like a code that could be found on the envelope of your utility bill. The problem is that they don’t realize that people don’t recognize them, particularly when they go crazy and try customizing them – a process that also increases the likelihood of failure (see http://mobilemarketingfail.com/2011/02/24/essence-magazine-just-cant-get-mobile/)

    Atomic Mobile

  4. Nick, your referenced report appears to be severely biased and unrealistic. Perhaps the research was done on the Microsoft campus. We are located in Chicago and QR Codes are by far the most used symbols in newspapers and signage.

    Proprietary codes, such as MS Tags, do not have standardized specifications for origination and print quality. Consequently, it will be very difficult for these codes to gain larger support without technical boundaries. QR Code have AIM technical specifications and ISO print quality guidelines. Since the user experience is critical to success, many top CPG manufacturers and printers verify the print quailty of the barcodes they image (i.e. coupons). Unlike MS Tags, there is equipment available to evaluate QR Tags against the ISO print quality standard.

  5. I’ve seen this, and it doesn’t make sense from my perspective. Microsoft Tag requires a license, which isn’t free, to encode and print the tags. Compared to QR codes, which are open and free for the public to take advantage of (or Data Matrix, or Aztec Code, or …).

    They require a data connection to retrieve the data, rely on Microsoft’s servers to remain running, and could theoretically suffer from a MITM attack.

    Another concern is availability of readers. You must download and install Microsoft’s Tag reader to decode their tags, whereas the QR code readers are much more plentiful from a large array of 3rd party developers. I’ve even seen some feature phones with QR decoding capability.

    TL;DR- I don’t get it. Microsoft Tag, like EZ Tag, Snap Tag, or Bee Code, is just another proprietary code, that costs you money, runs potential security risks, and just hasn’t penetrated the market. Not by a long shot. Stick with QR.

  6. Hi Roger.

    I’ve also noticed a push by Microsoft Tag that alleges that MS Tags are better than QR Codes in specific ways. The rationale provided is ?disingenuous at best and results in misinformation for those researching 2D Barcode options.

    Here is a link to our thoughts on the matter:

  7. Honestly, I’ve never heard about ms tags. So I did what is the most natural: went out and started looking for the standard. Nil. Okay, maybe some source code. Zilch. Oh, okay, but at least some code generators? Nada.

    They must be kidding! Should we replace open standards based, open sourced solutions with closed source, most possibly patented to death and beyond, completely nonstandard secret methods, which doesn’t even have a closed sourced generator? That we should “rent” a code from m$, while providing all our data to them? That is so wrong.

    I wouldn’t even used it if it were “free” but closed sourced and closed standard, since it chokes not only competition but technical advancement as well. QR code is everywhere because it’s open, and people use free implementation for their needs.

    An I almost tried their code reader on Android, but, oh well, it asked for “full internet permissions”. HAHAHA! That was a good one, Micro$oft, that was a really good one. Now go back into the corner.

  8. QR tags are more ubiquitous for all the reasons previously stated about the MS tags. Developers and entrepreneurs will continue to evolve the QR code. They are a cool technology that will level the playing field for small business who want to do what the big boys do. Gaining access to the smart phone/tablet is CRITICAL. And by the way….VizConnect.com is helping.

  9. Colors? Let’s be frank and say that a monochromatic QB code is not that visually appealing, although the better designers do some amazing work to make them less dowdy.

    Should there emerge a standardized QR variant which leverages color in the way that MS tags do, this “battle” is over, at least from an information-density standpoint.

  10. Editors most likely have gotten paid off by MS to use the codes early on. Since MS is probably a big advertiser, they could easily say to an editor, use our codes and we’ll advertise…

    Cynical yes… but I wouldn’t put it past them

  11. Everybody here needs to do some actual research on MS Tag. Most of the comments are factually incorrect.”Microsoft Tag requires a license, which isn’t free, to encode and print the tags” completely false..
    The Microsoft Tag Reader App scans Tag, QR and NFC.. And it is free. Don’t get me wrong I love 2D and all that is associated with it. But QR is a like a candle compared to bright side of Tag. The only time I see people get so crazy in their wild comments is in politics.. How about educating yourselves before making unsubstantiated statements.. d

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