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New Stan Utley Book Goes High Tech

  |   jim's digital lab

Untitled-3Our good friend Stan Utley has a new instruction book hitting brick-and-mortar and online bookstores on May 12. The Art of the Swing will feature many of Stan’s short-game instruction concepts, but the book’s over-arching theme is how the swing affects everything…from putting to bunker play and from greenside bump-and-runs to close-in pitching.

As with all of Stan’s previous books, photography will help with some of the concepts so that words and pictures together will enable readers to improve their games and have more fun on the course.

Stan and his long-time collaborator, Golf Digest’s Matt Rudy, began to realize that video may be an even better way to convey some of the more complex ideas and provide a more “portable” set of instructional videos that readers could take to the practice range. But, would this mean putting a DVD into the book, or mail it separately after the reader buys the book and sends in some form of response card? More to the point…how could a reader take the DVD to the practice range? That certainly posed a unique problem since readers are not likely to take their notebook computers out to the golf course.

Stan and Matt began the process by shooting over 45 minutes of HD-quality video and then edited the video into more than 25 separate instructional tips to accompany various chapters and sections of the book…each video running from 90 seconds to 2 minutes in length. But, the question still remained…how would buyers of the book access the videos and how could they make them portable?

Enter Microsoft Tag

Over the last few years, bar code technology has moved beyond the check-out aisle where sophisticated (and expensive) laser scanners “read” encoded information on the bar code. The scans instantly ring up the price, send unit purchase information to the inventory database and enter the sales information (product SKU, aisle number, time-of-day and purchase date, etc.) and place that scanned data into sales information systems that allow managers to analyze store sales trends. So, what is the best day of the week to sell Campbell’s Chunky Soup? I don’t know the answer, but I bet you a $5 Nassau that the store manager does.

The technique of packing all that information onto small bar codes has been around a long time. But, a variety of new versions of bar codes have been developed in the manufacturing sector to track component parts as they work their way from holding bins into the actual product being built on the factory floor. One really exciting format is called QR Codes (or, Quick Response Codes). You are seeing those square boxes pop up in magazine and newspaper advertisements, on web sites, on product coupons and even on business cards. A recent Nike ad featuring Lebron James had not one single word on the full page newspaper ad…just Lebron’s picture and a QR code. Scanning the QR Code launched a special website intended to help kids stay in school.

But, there are other code options available, too. After 25 years in technology, I know first-hand that if something looks interesting, Microsoft will eventually re-invent the wheel and put its own stamp on it. They’ve done that with a bar coding technology they call (what else?) Microsoft Tags. In a more technical sense, these are High Capacity Color Barcodes (HCCB) using a palette of 4 or 8 colors in a 5 x 10 grid of triangles in 2D bar code format. It will also work in black & white. Microsoft Tags look different from QR Codes and traditional supermarket bar codes. But, packed into the almost-square image are encoded instructions to launch an e-commerce web page, dial a phone number, open an email window, send a message or download a file. It will also launch online videos.

It’s that last application that Stan and Matt found intriguing. If each video could be hosted somewhere and ‘private’ URLs created, Microsoft Tags could be created and then printed on each page with specific instructions to launch the video when the tag was scanned by the reader. We worked with Stan’s videographer to create a private YouTube hosting site for all of the videos. A Microsoft Tag ID was created for each video, and that tag was then printed in the appropriate place in the book. There are over 25 unique videos available to the readers of Stan’s new book…so, there are over 25 unique tags printed on various pages in the book.

How Do You Scan The Microsoft Tags?

All a reader has to do is to download a Microsoft Tag reader from any of the app stores available for their particular brand of Smartphone. The price? It’s free, and that’s a very low price! For example, I have a Microsoft Tag reader app on my iPhone that I downloaded from Apple’s app store. After downloading the app, just tap on the tag app icon to launch it (in essence you are activating your phone’s camera display), you then center the Microsoft Tag in the middle of the scanning window on your Smartphone, and the tag will almost instantly launch. In the case of Stan’s new book, each tag will launch the relevant video for each section of the book.

If you are game to try this out, I’ve embedded a Microsoft Tag to the left. When you scan this image with your Smartphone’s Microsoft Tag reader, you’ll be able to see and hear one of the identical videos that Stan will share with his book’s readers on May 12. It’s fun, it’s easy and it’s a really unique and interesting way to create an extraordinary level of reader engagement. In essence, these new tools help bring the printed page to life. As both an old publishing and technology hand, I’m really excited about how these multimedia tools can be used to enrich the user experience. It may not ultimately “save” the publishing world, but I do believe it will add a few years to its life span.

If you try it and like the concept, check out more about Microsoft Tags here. You can also read more about Stan’s new book and the tag concept on Stan Utley’s website. And, if you have any questions or want to provide your feedback or experience with the technology, please drop me an e-mail at jmartin@commlinks.com. Or, weigh in via the Comments section below this post.

There are dozens of ways the golf industry can use bar-coding technology like Microsoft Tags in a consumer-friendly way that are both inexpensive and easy to execute locally. All it takes is outside-the-golf-industry-box thinking…which may be the hardest part! Engage your customers, clients or visitors in new ways. Sometimes you have to break the same-old/same-old mold to build a new business model just right for you and your golf customers.