O, I C

A Cmore tag on A2 of Tuesday's Gazette

Gazette publisher and editor-in-chief Alan Allnutt introduced a new feature in today’s paper: articles are being outfitted with little boxes containing keywords, which when texted to a special short code sends an email with a link to the article (and any online extras attached to it).

It’s a three-month pilot project being tested by The Gazette and the Calgary Herald. The technology side is handled by Montreal-based Cmore Media (not to be confused with C-More Systems, which makes gun sights).

The idea is similar to the one that has led to 2D barcodes appearing in newspapers such as the National Post: It’s a way to bridge the gap between the non-electronic physical newspaper and the endless possibilities of Internet communication. People who want to get online-only extras related to a story or who want to share the URL with friends online have to go to the newspaper’s website and search for the story. This is inconvenient, so these tags are designed to make it automatic, taking advantage of the fact that people carry cellphones with them wherever they go.

But while Scanlife, the system used by the Post, requires a mobile device to have a camera and a special application, the Cmore system requires only the ability to send a text message (and the patience to do so).

Here’s how it works:

1. Send a text message as instructed. For this test case, I used the one next to an article on Joannie Rochette being on the Time 100 poll. The keyword is “ROCHETTE123” (capitalization isn’t important) and the shortcode to send it to is 11-2-11. (“123” is one of the codes to identify to Cmore that the keyword belongs to The Gazette, so each keyword will end with 123 on weekdays, or 124 on Saturdays or 125 on Sundays).

2. Almost instantaneously, you get a reply text message asking to send your email address:

To get your info, reply to this message with your email address.

Standard rates apply. For help email help@cmoremedia.com

3. Reply with your email address.

4. Cmore sends an email to the address you’ve entered:

Hi [first part of email],

Thanks for signing up for CMORE, the free service that delivers shortcuts to more content online. You have successfully activated your free account. You may log in at your convenience at http://www.cmoremedia.com.

Username: [email address]
Your temporary password is the mobile phone number you used to text your request to CMORE. You may change your password once you have logged in.

All the shortcuts you request using the CMORE service will be emailed to you at the address you provided and also stored in your personal MY CMORE profile. You may reset your password, edit your CMORE profile and view and manage your shortcuts at http://www.cmoremedia.com. Please remember to add CMORE to your email white list so your requested shortcuts do not end up in your spam folder.

To learn more about CMORE or to get help please visit www.cmoremedia.com/FAQ/

Thank you for using CMORE. The Internet. Delivered.

5. Another email contains what you were looking for:

Hi [first part of email],You have requested more information on Rochette ranks in TIME’s top 100 from The Gazette.

To save or share please click here

Special offers from The Gazette:

Sign up for The Gazette’s Food&Wine newsletter stuffed with restaurant reviews, cooking tips, dinner recipes, wine Q&A and more

Join Gazette E-Offers for access to retail discounts and savings, pre-sale tickets for shows, exclusive contests, fabulous prizes and more!

To manage all your CMORE links, click here.

For further messages, steps 2-4 are skipped.

The service is free, unless your mobile carrier forces you to pay for text messages (or, I guess, your Internet provider charges you for emails).

Not only is this being attached to news stories, but advertisers can also use the service to communicate with print readers. And the emails themselves can contain advertisements, as you can see above.

So, will it work?

I’m kind of a skeptic when it comes to these kinds of gimmicks. On paper, they sound fantastic. Apparently they’re all the rage across the Atlantic and Pacific. They’re a way to track people’s behaviour. They connect the online with the print. And they’re a fantastic idea for advertisers, a way to facilitate communication as a result of a newspaper ad.

But in practice, they’re an extra mile most people will choose not to go. In my case, for example, I read the paper on the metro on the way to work, where there’s no mobile service for the most part and I can’t send a text message. Many of the Gazette’s readers are older people who either don’t have cellphones or don’t know how to send text messages (and don’t want to learn). And, of course, many people just won’t be interested in reading more about a story than has appeared in the paper. And if they want to share the story with friends, a 10-second Google News search is faster than fumbling with the phone to send a text message. (Sending these messages is difficult for me because the 1 key doubles as the everything-punctuation key, forcing a lot of scrolling.)

Even if it doesn’t work, it’s a three-month test, so there’s no harm done.

What are your predictions? Will it take off, or will it die out from disuse?

See also: Coverage of this in Marketing Magazine and by Nathalie Collard in La Presse.

8 thoughts on “O, I C

  1. wkh

    I dunno. I saw it today when I bought a copy (I know, wtf?) while waiting for a blood test appointment that took entirely too long. I was going to try it out, but got distracted by the idea one nerdy jew boy and his buddy could get chased down a busy ottawa street by half a dozen arab men wielding a machete and not only attract no attention but outrun them, and then just got home and went to google. I think it might be useful for reminders or something, but I don’t imagine lots of people using this. Sort of like a rec centre. A really great idea (by adults) of what a kid wants to do for fun.

  2. James

    Errrrrrrrrr no.

    Unless your using an iPhone or other smartphone, you want the URL on your computer, not your phone, so the additional stage to send your email is just fiddly.

    What not a bit.ly style 5 – 10 digit URL service shared amongst partner newspapers?

    1. Fagstein Post author

      [Why] not a bit.ly style 5 – 10 digit URL service shared amongst partner newspapers?

      I think that’s a good idea as well. But it assumes that you have a computer next to you as you’re reading the paper. The Cmore system allows you to essentially bookmark an article by sending a text message.

  3. Sikander

    While it’s a useful concept, there is an extra step involved which will likely turn people away. It should be as simple as texting a simple keyword (no numbers attached) and an email address. The article can then be emailed to the email address.

    The extra step makes it sound complicated and will result in an extra charge for those who have to pay for receiving text messages.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      It’ll cost the sender $0.15 per message if they don’t have free text messaging as part of their plan (even most cheap plans nowadays have a small amount of free text messages).

      1. No Agenda

        I once spoke to Virgin Mobile’s customer service and they told me even if I have a messaging plan, texts not going to a person are charged 15 cents regardless. I’m not sure if other companies do this or not though.

        1. Fagstein Post author

          It seems you’re right, Virgin treats short codes as premium text messages, even if they’re not.

          A quick search has revealed that wireless providers are far from clear about text messaging charges when it comes to short codes. What a surprise.


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