Facebook Removed 1.9 Million Pieces of Extremist Content in Q1 2018

Today, Facebook released its first ever Community Standards Enforcement Report to the public. This report includes a preliminary inventory of rule-violating content and the removal action Facebook took on it.

The report, which was included in the company’s overall Transparency Report, largely covers the content in violation of Facebook’s Community Standards that was discovered and removed from October 2017 to March 2018. 

It focuses on content that falls into six key categories:

  1. Graphic Violence
  2. Adult Nudity and Sexual Activity
  3. Terrorist Propaganda (ISIS, al-Qaeda and affiliates)
  4. Hate Speech
  5. Spam
  6. Fake Accounts

Earlier this year, Facebook published its content moderation and internal Community Standards guidelines, in hopes of shedding light on why certain items are removed from the network. In the context of this newly released report, it was perhaps an anticipatory move prior to publishing content removal figures.

Here’s a look at the nature and extent of content removal in the above six categories.

Facebook Publishes Its First-Ever Community Standards Enforcement Report

1. Graphic Violence

Facebook either removed or placed warning labels on roughly 3.5 million pieces of violent content in Q1 2018, 86% of which was flagged by its artificial intelligence (AI) system before anyone reported it to Facebook.

The Community Standards Enforcement Report includes an estimate of the total percentage of content views consisted of graphic violence. For instance, out of all content viewed on Facebook in Q1 2018, the company reports that somewhere between 0.22% and 0.27% violated standards for graphic violence.

Screen Shot 2018-05-15 at 11.04.29 AM

Source: Facebook

That’s up from the estimated 0.16% to 0.19% in Q4 2017 — “despite improvements in our detection technology in Q1 2018.” The explanation for that, the report says, is simply due to a greater amount of content of this nature published on Facebook.

Additionally, the 3.5 million pieces of content within this category — on which Facebook took action — is also an increase. The volume of content detected in Q1 2018 rose from 1.2 million in Q4 2017.

So while there was likely an overall increase in the content of this type shared on the network, the growth in the number on which Facebook took action is probably due, the report says, to improvements in its AI detection systems.

2. Adult Nudity and Sexual Activity

Facebook removed 21 million pieces of content containing adult nudity and sexual activity in Q1 2018 — 96% of that was discovered by its AI technology before it was reported.

It’s predicted that 0.07% to 0.09% of all content viewed on Facebook in Q1 2018 violated standards for adult nudity and sexual activity in Q1 2018 — so, roughly seven to nine views out of every 10,000.

Screen Shot 2018-05-15 at 11.15.32 AM

Source: Facebook

That’s an increase from six to eight views in the previous quarter, which is too small for Facebook to account for what might be causing it. In the previous quarter, as well, Facebook took action on a similar number of content pieces within this category.

3. Terrorist Propaganda

Facebook doesn’t currently have statistics on the prevalence of terrorist propaganda on its site — but it does report that it removed 1.9 pieces of such content from the network in Q1 2018.

Screen Shot 2018-05-15 at 11.21.19 AM

Source: Facebook

Facebook’s interception of 1.9 million pieces of extremist content is up more than 72% in the previous quarter, when 1.1 million pieces of terrorist propaganda content was removed.

Again, Facebook credits its AI detection systems for this increase — 99.5% of such content removed in Q1 2018 was removed by these systems, compared to 96.9% in Q4 2017.

Facebook classifies terrorist propaganda as that which is “specifically related to ISIS, al-Qaeda and their affiliates.”

4. Hate Speech

One of Facebook’s boasting points in this report is the fact that its artificial intelligence systems were responsible for flagging and removing a good portion of the standards-violating content in many of these categories.

But when it comes to hate speech, writes Facebook VP of Product Management Guy Rosen in a statement, “our technology still doesn’t work that well.”

Human review is still necessary to catch all instances of hate speech, Rosen explains, echoing many of the statements made about AI ethics during F8, Facebook’s annual developer conference.

Not only is hate speech nuanced, but because humans (who train the artificially intelligent machines designed to help moderate content) have their own implicit biases, that can sometimes cause flaws in the way something as relatively subjective as hate speech is flagged.

Nonetheless, Facebook removed 2.5 million pieces of hate speech in Q1 2018, 38% of which was flagged by AI technology. It does not currently have statistics on the prevalence of hate speech within all content viewed on the site.

Screen Shot 2018-05-15 at 11.23.31 AM

Source: Facebook

5. Spam

Facebook defines spam as “inauthentic activity that’s automated (published by bots or scripts, for example) or coordinated (using multiple accounts to spread and promote deceptive content).”

It represents another category for which Facebook does not currently have exact figures of prevalence, as it says it’s still “updating measurement methods for this violation type.”

However, the report says that 837 million pieces of spam content were removed in Q1 2018 — a 15% increase from Q4 2017.

Screen Shot 2018-05-15 at 11.39.38 AM

Source: Facebook

6. Fake Accounts

“The key to fighting spam,” writes Rosen, “is taking down the fake accounts that spread it.”

Facebook removed roughly 583 million fake accounts in Q1 2018 — a decrease of over 30% — many of which were voided almost immediately after they were registered.

And despite these efforts, the company estimates that somewhere between 3-4% of all active accounts on Facebook during Q1 2018 were fake. 

As for the decrease in fake account removal from the previous quarter, Facebook points to “external factors” like cyberattacks that often come with a deluge of fake account creation on the network — usually by way of scripts and bots, with the goal of spreading as much spam and deceptive information as possible.

Because these factors occur with “variation,” Facebook says, the number of fake accounts on which the company takes action can vary from quarter to quarter.

Why Facebook Is Publishing This Information

In a statement penned by Facebook VP of Analytics Alex Schultz, the company’s reasons for making these numbers public is fairly simple: In transparency, there is accountability.

“Measurement done right helps organizations make smart decisions about the choices they face,” Schultz writes, “rather than simply relying on anecdote or intuition.”

And despite strong Q1 2018 earnings, as well as an enthusiastic response from the audience at F8, Facebook still continues to face a high degree of scrutiny. 

Tomorrow, for instance, brings yet another congressional hearing regarding the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where whistleblower Christopher Wylie is due to testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

This week, Facebook has issued a particularly high volume of statements and announcements about its growing efforts in the areas of transparency and user protections. The last time Facebook issued a high volume of this type of content was in the weeks leading up to CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional hearings.

These latest announcements could indicate preparations for further hearings — some outside of the U.S.

Facebook — Zuckerberg, specifically — is also under mounting pressure from international authorities to testify on user privacy and the weaponization of its network to influence major elections.

European Parliament continues to press Zuckerberg to appear in a hearing (now, it’s willing to do so in a closed-door session, according to some reportsafter initial rumors of such a testimony surfaced in April. 

Additionally, members of U.K. Parliament have been particularly staunch about Zuckerberg appearing before them, after recent testimony from CTO Mike Schroepfer allegedly left several questions unanswered.

In an open letter to Facebook dated May 1, House of Commons Culture Committee chairman Damian Collins wrote that “the committee will resolve to issue a formal summons for [Zuckerberg] to appear when he is next in the UK.”

Yesterday, Facebook’s U.K. Head of Public Policy Rebecca Stimson issued a written response to that letter, in which she outlined answers to the 39 questions that the Committee said were left unanswered by Schroepfer’s testimony. 

“It is disappointing that a company with the resources of Facebook chooses not to provide a sufficient level of detail and transparency on various points,” Collins responded today. “We expected both detail and data, and in a number of cases got excuses.”

Featured image credit: Facebook

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What’s Your Version of ‘Autosave?’

I remember when autosave didn’t exist in writing software. In the old days, if your computer temporarily borked, you might have lost some important text if you didn’t recently save your work … I still compulsively click “Save” out of habit when I write and edit. Luckily, if you’re working online today, such as in … Continue reading “What’s Your Version of ‘Autosave?’”

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How to Build Your First Email List From Scratch

Contrary to popular belief, email marketing is not dead.

Sure, there are newer content marketing strategies out there today that may seem more appealing. But if you want your business to thrive, you’ve got to have a core foundation for your strategy.

Stick to the basics. If you’ve recently launched a startup company, one of the first things you should do is build an active email subscriber list.

It’s one of the best ways to get people excited about and engaged with your brand. You’ll use this list to stay in contact with your customers on a regular basis.

Ultimately, your email subscriber list will help you increase engagement, generate leads, and drive conversions.

What’s even more appealing about email marketing is how profitable it can be. In fact, the average return on investment for email marketing campaigns is a whopping 3,800%:

image7 1

If you have been in business for a while but still don’t have an active list of subscribers, this guide is relevant to you as well. It’s not too late for you to get started with your first list.

You may be a little bit behind right now, but if you want to catch up to your competitors, start focusing on your email marketing strategy as soon as possible.

That said, starting from zero can be daunting. It feels as if you’ve got a long climb ahead of you.

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.

Fortunately, if you follow the tips I’ve outlined in this guide, you’ll have a much easier time building your first email list from scratch.

Pick your platform

Before you proceed with anything else, you need to choose email software you’d like to use.

This will depend on many factors based on the wants and needs of your company, but you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. Constant Contact is a great starting point for beginners:

image6 1

But it’s not the only option. Check out similar email marketing platforms such as:

For the most part, they all will have similar features and benefits. It all depends on your preferences for the interface, pricing, and other factors.

Compare at least a few of these choices before deciding. One thing for sure: you’ll need software to help you with this task.

Email marketing platforms will make your life much easier. That’s because what you’re trying to accomplish here is much different from sending a mass email to your friends and family.

Sending promotional content to your subscribers directly from your personal email account isn’t a viable option if you want to take things seriously.

Plus, you’d spend way more time than you needed to if you did this manually. We both know how much you value your time, so take advantage of any available time-saving marketing tools.

Build your opt-in landing page

Now that you’ve selected a platform for sending emails, it’s time for you to set up a way for your website visitors to subscribe to this list.

You need to build a strong landing page specifically designed for turning web traffic into subscribers. In theory, this is simple, right?

But you’ll need to do much more than creating a landing page that says “Sign up for emails.” That alone won’t be enough to add subscribers.

There is a science behind landing pages that drive conversions. For example, you need to take into consideration the placement of your opt-in button:

image2 1

As you can see from this data, placing the button in the footer results in a drastically higher conversion rate than placing it in other locations on the page.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for you to take your time when designing the layout of your opt-in landing page. Make sure it’s simple and clear, and think about other aspects such as the color scheme.

That’s because you can’t rely only on users visiting your website to navigate to this page. As I’ll discuss shortly, people will land on this page from a variety of sources and marketing channels. And that’s why you’ll need to take other factors into consideration as well.

Drive traffic to your landing page

You’ve got your email platform set up, and your landing page has been built. Now, you need to convert your website visitors into email subscribers.

The best way to do this is to get as much traffic as possible to your landing page.

You can start by increasing your SEO efforts, but that alone won’t be enough to build a huge subscriber list. You’ll need to feature this landing page on as many of your marketing channels as possible.

Share the link on your social media channels. Blog about it.

Put a CTA on the sidebar of each page on your website to increase the exposure and encourage conversions.

Here’s a great example of this strategy being used by HubSpot on its blog homepage:

image5 1

Notice that a subscribe option is featured on multiple locations of this page. This makes it easy for visitors to spot it.

You can employ the same strategy. Visitors will need to make only one click to get to the opt-in landing page you built.

Anything you can do to drive more people to this page will increase your subscription rates.

Give people a reason to subscribe

Your company might be great, but not everyone knows that. This is especially true if you have a startup company.

Plus, people get enough emails throughout the day. Do you really think they want to receive more?

In fact, the average person who works in an office receives 121 emails each day.

Furthermore, 49% of consumers report they receive too many marketing emails from businesses.

It’s important you recognize these statistics. That’s because website visitors and customers won’t subscribe to your email list unless you give them some type of incentive.

You’ll need to provide them with some offer or value that improves their lives or experience with your brand.

Monetary benefits and discounts are some of the best ways to entice prospective subscribers.

For example, let’s say you’ve got an ecommerce store. You can have a pop-up or promotion on your homepage offering a discount off a purchase when a customer signs up to receive emails.

I don’t want to call anyone out, so I won’t use their name. But here’s an example of something I recently saw on an ecommerce website:

image1 1

Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t completely off the mark. But look at this pop-up, and tell me if it excites you.

Telling subscribers they will be the first to know about a new product release, promotion, or story may not be enough to get them to opt in.

Instead, take a look at this example from Bed Bath & Beyond:


Compare this to our previous example. It’s much more enticing.


That’s because Bed Bath & Beyond is offering value people can actually use. People can get excited about a 20% off discount.

They may sign up just to receive that initial discount, but if you establish a good relationship with them, they could turn into subscribers for life. We’ll discuss that in greater detail as we continue.

Segment your subscribers

Here’s something else you need to recognize and keep and mind.

Not all your subscribers are the same, and not all your subscribers will sign up for the same reasons.

The key to building a great subscriber list is identifying these differences and grouping people accordingly—in other words, segmenting.

According to a 2017 study by MailChimp, segmented email campaigns have a 14% higher open rate. What’s even more astonishing is that segmented campaigns have a 101% higher click rate.

Segmenting your subscribers will help you lower your bounce rates and unsubscribe rates as well.

How do you segment your subscribers? You have many options, but some of the most common methods include factors such as:

  • interests
  • location
  • type of message
  • email frequency

If you properly design the opt-in landing page I discussed earlier, this shouldn’t be difficult. Here’s a great example of how Bonobos uses this strategy to segment its list based on frequency:

image4 1

Now, they won’t have to worry about sending too many emails to subscribers who want to hear from them only once a month.

Giving your subscribers the option will improve their experience and ultimately increase sales in the long run.

This will also keep your list strong and active, reducing unsubscribe rates.

Encourage your subscribers to invite their friends and family

To get the most out of your subscriber list, have your subscribers work for you.

Make it as easy as possible for them to forward your content to their friends and family.

Even if you’ve got a great newsletter or promotion, it’s unlikely that most people will do this out of the kindness of their hearts. You’ll have to continue with the strategy of giving them an incentive or added value to encourage an action.

You should offer a discount to your subscribers for getting their friends or family members to join your email list as well.

Research shows that 28% of people would be more likely to make referrals if they received a reward for doing so.

The idea here is to create a snowball effect.

You want each new subscriber to get more people to join. As I said earlier, you can’t rely on people signing up only from your website. Encouraging sharing will help you get more subscribers.

Send relevant and timely content

Now that you’ve got subscribers, you don’t want to lose them.

Make sure you send promotional content to your subscribers. Recall the discussion about segmenting your subscribers, and communicate with them accordingly.

Each campaign needs to have a reason and a purpose.

Sending a message “just to say hello” is a quick way to get lots of unsubscribes. Avoid that at all costs.

You worked hard to get people to opt in, and now you’re losing them. That’s why you need to create highly relevant content for each message.

Don’t get me wrong. Unsubscribes are inevitable, and they happen to the best of us, including me.

Here’s a look at the top reasons why people unsubscribe from email lists:

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Don’t spam your subscribers.

As you can see from this graphic, the most common reason for opting out of promotional emails is receiving too many emails.

Sending emails too often can annoy your subscribers. This can have an adverse effect on your company beyond losing subscribers.

Developing a negative association with your brand could cause them to stop buying as well. Just make sure all your content is relevant and sent in a timely fashion.

Keep adding subscribers

So you’ve finally reached your first 100, 1,000, or maybe even 10,000 email subscribers.


It’s time to kick back, put your feet up, and relax, right? Wrong.

Growing your email list needs to be a constant priority. The sky is the limit here. There is no downside to adding more subscribers.

Depending on the platform you selected earlier, you may get charged more, monthly or annually, based on the number of people added to your list.

But the costs are marginal and worth it because of the high ROI of email marketing campaigns.

Now, you just need to use your email strategy to increase conversions and drive sales through offering great content.


No matter what type of business you have or what industry you’re in, you need to have an active email marketing list.

But for those of you who haven’t started this yet, building this list from scratch can feel like an overwhelming task. Just follow the guide I’ve outlined above to make your life easier.

Start by selecting a platform to use. Next, build your opt-in landing page, and find ways to increase your website traffic.

Give people a reason to subscribe. Offer value and incentives to get them to join.

Segment your subscribers so it’s easier to send them timely and highly relevant content.

Follow these tips, and you’ll be on your way to growing your email marketing list from scratch in no time.

What strategies is your brand using to add more subscribers to your first email marketing list?

The post How to Build Your First Email List From Scratch appeared first on Wicked Baron's Emporium.

How to Make a QR Code in 7 Easy Steps

“Really? We’re talking about QR codes?”

Fair reaction. For several years now, QR codes have been at the center of the popular “___ is dead” trope we marketers love to argue when talking technology. We’ve even debated it ourselves on this blog.

But if there’s one thing the QR code debate shows you, it’s that there sure isn’t a consensus – the efficacy of QR codes still hotly contested.

Download our full guide to creating and using QR codes effectively here.

Nonetheless, there’s no denying the popularity and convenience of the QR code. Keep reading to learn how to create your own QR code, and how you can encourage your customers to scan them when they come across your content.

What Is a QR Code?

QR codes, short for “quick response” codes, are square-shaped black-and-white symbols that people can scan using a smartphone to learn more about a product.

These encrypted squares can hold links, coupons, event details, and other information that users might want to take with them for referring to later.

QR codes usually look something like this:


Although not every QR code is shaped like a perfect square, they’re most often found looking like the image above — with varying patterns displayed inside. You’ll often find them on direct mail, signage, billboards, and even commercials where you can quickly scan the code on the screen using your phone.

QR Codes vs. Barcodes

Does the rise of QR codes mean traditional barcodes are a thing of the past? Of course not. Traditional barcodes are still a common way for businesses to identify consumer packaged goods (CPGs) and manage their product inventory. 

        Barcode example             QR code example

Images via Wikimedia Commons | Wikimedia Commons

However, there are a number of differences between barcodes and QR codes — both in their uses and their characteristics. Here are three important differences:

QR Codes Are Shaped Differently

Barcodes are typically rectangular in shape, requiring scanning devices to read the barcode’s data horizontally. QR codes are often square-shaped, displaying their data vertically or horizontally. 

QR Codes Hold More Data

Due to a QR code’s square shape, it can hold much more data than a barcode. In fact, QR codes can hold hundreds of times more encrypted characters than a barcode.

QR Codes Hold Different Data

QR codes are often used differently than barcodes. Barcodes hold key product information at the point of sale, such as the price and name of the manufacturer. QR codes offer more passive and intangible information, such as location data and URLs to promotions and product landing pages.

How Do QR Codes Work?

Originally designed in Japan for the automotive industry, marketers adopted the barcodes because of their large storage capacity and ability to translate additional information to consumers beyond what creative and/or packaging could convey.

If a consumer sees a QR code somewhere, they can take out their mobile device, download a free QR code scanning app, and “scan” the barcode to gain access to additional information, like so:

Person scanning QR code with a scanning mobile app

So if you wanted to create, say, a bus stop advertisement promoting your podcast, you could display a QR code on that printed ad that brings people right to your iTunes page when they scan it with their phones. Pretty simple, right?

How to Make a QR Code

The QR code creation process is pretty straightforward. Here’s how to get started.

Step 1: Select a QR code generator.

There are tons of QR code generators out there. The best ones give you many options for using your QR code, and compatibility with most mobile QR code reader apps.

Other things to look for when choosing a QR code generator are whether you can track and analyze performance, and if it allows you to design a code that’s unique to your brand.

Some QR codes, for example, display logos and other icons within the code that immediately tell people what information they’ll get from scanning it.

Step 2: Choose the type of content you’re promoting.

Let’s select one of the QR code generators above and do a walk-through together. I’ll select qr-code-generator.com, one of the eight preferred QR code generators above.

First, select what type of content you want your QR code to show the person after they scan it. You can choose from one of 10 types, as shown in the screenshot below. For our purposes, we’ll promote a URL that directs users to our podcast.

Icons detailing types of content a QR code generator can promote

Step 3: Enter your data in the form that appears.

Once you select the type of content you’re promoting with this QR code, a field or form will appear where you can enter the information that corresponds with your campaign.

If you want your QR code to save contact information, for example, you’ll see a set of fields where you can enter your email address, subject line, and associated message.

To save a link to our podcast, we’ll simply enter the URL in the field that appears, like so:

QR code URL form

Step 4: Consider downloading a dynamic QR code.

See the option below for “dynamic”? One significant pitfall to making a QR code is that you can’t edit the data it contains once you print it. But with dynamic QR codes, you can edit this data. 

Dynamic QR code generator

With a free membership to QR code generators like qr-code-generator.com, you can print a dynamic QR code, scan it, and pull up an editable form where you can modify the data your visitors will receive when they scan the QR code themselves.

Step 5. Customize it.

The fun part of creating QR codes is customizing the design of the codes to your brand. Want your code to look like your logo? Go for it. Want it to reflect your website’s design scheme? No problem.

Using qr-code-generator.com, we can customize our QR code by clicking the button to the top-right, as shown in the screenshot below. Keep in mind not every QR code maker offers this design option — depending on the QR code you’re looking to generate, you might find some tools limited in their functionality.

Customize your QR code with a logo

Of course, you can customize your QR code further — adjusting the colors, adding a logo, creating social options, and more. 

Keep in mind, however, that some customizations can make it more difficult for QR code scanning apps to properly read the code. It’s a good idea to generate two versions of your QR code — one plain version and another with your preferred design.

Step 6: Test the QR code to make sure it scans.

Because a customized QR code can make it difficult for some mobile apps to “read,” don’t forget to check to see if the QR code reads correctly, and be sure to try more than just one reader. A good place to start is the free tool Google Goggles, which takes a picture and then tells you what link or item it “reads to.”

Another great free tool is QR Code Reader, which automatically takes you to whatever it “reads.” Apple’s Passbook also offers a built-in QR code reader on iOS 7, so you should test to make sure your code is readable there, as well.

Step 7: Track and analyze performance.

Just like any marketing campaign, you should follow up on any collateral or campaigns using QR codes to see whether they’re actually working. How much traffic comes from each specific code? Are people scanning your code but not redeeming their offer once they get to the landing page? Or are they not even compelled enough to scan your QR code?

Knowing this will help you troubleshoot and adjust your poorly performing QR codes to more closely mirror those that work well. I recommend you include a UTM tracking code on your URL so you can better measure performance — this is particularly important if you use closed-loop marketing analytics, and are used to more in-depth reporting on your campaigns.

How to Use QR Codes (And How Not to)

Now that you see how simple the QR code creation process can be, let’s talk about some best practices that’ll help increase the likelihood your QR code actually gets used.

Display your QR code where it’s convenient for people to scan.

Put QR codes in places where scanning is easy, and there’s enough time for the consumer to actually scan the code. While you may often see QR codes on billboards and TV commercials, they’re not exactly the most user-friendly locations. Think of places and mediums where consumers have the time to scan the code, and, ideally, a Wi-Fi connection as well.

Optimize the QR’s destination page for mobile devices.

Mobile-optimize the page to which you’re sending people. Consumers will be on their phone when scanning the QR code, so they should be brought to a page with a positive mobile experience.

Include a CTA that prompts people to scan your QR code.

Offer a call-to-action (CTA) with the code — that is to say, tell people what they’re supposed to do when they see the code, and what they’ll receive if they do it. Not everyone knows exactly what a QR code is, and those that do won’t be motivated to scan it unless they’re sure there’s something worthwhile on the other side. 

Don’t limit your QR code to one mobile scanner.

Don’t require a special QR code scanner. Your QR code should be app-agnostic so anyone can scan your code with any reader. A lower barrier to entry makes success more likely for you and the user. 

Use your QR code to make someone’s life easier.

Don’t use a QR code just for the sake of using one. For instance, it’s common for marketers to think, “How can I bridge the offline experience with the online experience? Uhhh … QR code!” That’s not wrong … but it’s not always right, either.

If you have content that makes sense to deliver to a mobile user, and you have an appropriate channel to do it (see use #1 at the beginning of this section), it’s more likely your QR code will drive results. For example, in South Korea, grocery store chain Tesco drove tremendous national business growth by using QR codes in subway stations (I guess they have mobile service in their subway stations) to let riders order their groceries while they wait. It’s a great example of using QR codes for the right end-goal, at the right place and time. 

This article from Search Engine Journal has some more examples of good times to use QR codes, as well

If after reading this you’re not convinced QR codes are the right move — or you just want some additional ways you can connect the offline world to the online world — consider also adding a short, memorable URL people can type in easily on their mobile phones in your creative. 

The future of QR codes could also mean an evolution — augmented reality apps certainly stem from the same concept, after all. Consider the AR News App, which lets readers augment a newspaper story into a child-friendly article by downloading an app and hovering over stories with a special marker (sounds pretty close to a QR scanner, doesn’t it?).

It may be that QR codes aren’t quite dead, but just the first step in a long evolution.

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