Digimarc Hopes to Expand Print-to-Web Convergence

Digital watermarking firm Digimarc and the graphic arts association Printing Industries of America signed a deal Thursday to promote Digimarc’s watermarking technology to PIA member printers.

Digimarc’s software essentially allows printed materials to link to Web sites. Consumers ideally show the watermarked material (emblazoned with a stylized ‘D’ that indicates digital watermarking) to a Digimarc-approved Web camera or scanner, and are automatically taken to a Web page that relates to the material.

The company’s MediaBridge enterprise software allows individual printers to embed Digimarc’s digital watermarks in printed materials during prepress file preparation. Through Thursday’s agreement, Tualatin, Ore.-based Digimarc will give discounts on the software to the PIA’s nationwide network of more than 10,000 commercial printers.

“This agreement is strategic for both Digimarc and the PIA,” said PIA president and chief executive Ray Roper. “We see a lot of potential in this technology. Our members — commercial printers — are always looking for ways to distinguish themselves in a crowded marketplace. The product combines print and Internet technology in a fashion that adds significant value to the printed piece.”

“Through the agreement with PIA, we have significantly extended our reach in the commercial printing industry,” said Steve Whaley, director of Digimarc MediaBridge’s Embedding Institute, which works to promote the services to printers and publishers. “Establishing a foothold like PIA’s in the commercial printing industry could have taken months or years. Now Digimarc is able to provide a wide range of printers with the ability to enhance the communication capabilities of their printed products.”

Digimarc’s watermarking appears in publications such as Popular Mechanics, Smart Money and Good Housekeeping, which link to related Web sites. Ideally, advertisements will link to more information or directly to e-commerce merchants.

Several firms have different solutions to print-to-Web convergence. Another firm with several publishers on board is Digital:Convergence, which offers a PC peripheral to scan barcodes printed material, and then links to Web sites. It recently began offering a pen-sized scanner in a deal with writing instrument manufacturer A.T. Cross — creating scanners that could be used away from the computer, by storing scanned barcodes that users can access later.

Competitor findtheDOT, which launched in November and is seeking to gain a foothold in the market, addresses the same market, but users receive an email with more information about the printed material, rather than being delivered to a Web site.

Another player, Ultigo, digitized printed pages for magazines like Teen and enhanced the pages online with rich media content and e-commerce. It had planned to do the same for ads beginning in December, but instead shut down on a lack of funds.

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