Esquire Editor-in-Chief David Granger Wants You to Trust His QR Codes

Say what you will about Esquire, the Hearst lad mag’s willingness to experiment—and frankness about the outcome of those experiments—is unparalleled in the magazine business.

As The New York Times breathlessly recounted early this year, Esquire dabbled in e-ink in 2008, offering a cover that blinked at you from the newsstand. In 2009, it published a splashy “augmented reality” issue in which Jeremy Renner let you decide what he wore in a fashion spread. Last year, it launched and shuttered an ecommerce partnership with J.C. Penney called Clad.

Its latest digital add-on, Adweek reports, is a video “trailer” for the August issue (a gambit previously used to promote Chris Jones’s take on the Zanesville Zoo Story), which will be available online and via a QR code on the back of the magazine. A sometimes clunky attempt to merge print and digital media, QR codes are black and white   printed on magazine pages that readers scan with a smart phone camera to “unlock” digital content or, when used in partnership with advertisers, special coupons. Glossy magazines have been testing them out over the past few years and, as Esquire editor-in-chief David Granger endearingly admitted, finding they don’t always work.

“People are suspicious of QR codes,” Mr. Granger told Adweek. “They think it’s an ad for something. But I think we’ve been doing enough amusing stuff with QR codes that readers will actually trust and use them.”

He’s also going to keep throwing these trailers up against the wall until they stick—or we get sick of them.

Granger, who’s experimented with unusual cover treatments in recent years, hopes that Esquire can continue to make trailers for all of its upcoming issues, depending on what assets they have. “This happened to be a really rich issue, but we are actively making the effort to do trailers as often as we can, at least until we—or our readers—get sick of them,” he said.

Mr. Granger’s candor is a welcome reminder that we’re all in this long, slow, death of print together, guys.

Watch the trailer below.