QR codes were big in 2010. And with the number of smartphone users continuing to grow, there’s every reason to believe they will be even bigger in 2011.

A QR code looks a lot like a barcode. Users scan the code using their smartphone camera, and it in turn redirects them to a web page or a video (YouTube videos work great). QR codes are a great tool for connecting print readers with your mobile content – whether you are trying to grow awareness of your mobile site or trying to show off great mobile content.

With that in mind, I brainstormed 39 ways that newspapers (or other media companies) could use QR codes to drive engagement and readership. (Make your own QR codes here.)

  1. Ask a “question of the day” in print (a lot of sports sections do this already), and let readers see the answer by scanning the QR code.
  2. Link to the correct answers to today’s crossword puzzle.
  3. Link to expanded box scores in your sports agate.
  4. Does your newspaper do a weekly video program? Run a QR code that links to the video.
  5. Trying to cutback on newsprint cost? Run shorter stories and link to longer versions of your stories.
  6. Allow readers to enter a contest.
  7. Simply run a QR code in print that links to your mobile home page. That crazy-looking QR code will get their attention
  8. Add QR codes to your staffers’ business cards.
  9. Put a QR code on your website rotating into an ad position. It’s gotta be better than most of the filler ads you’re running already.
  10. Print out a giant QR code and place it in a window or on your building where the public can see.
  11. Put one on the side of a bus. Or on an ad inside a bus (or subway).
  12. Next time you’re printing t-shirts for a company event, add a QR code.
  13. Put them onĀ  your newspaper racks – on street corners and in stores.
  14. Have a local coffee shop put them on their coffee cups 0 or place one on their counter.
  15. Put them on all of your marketing material – posters, pamphlets, etc.
  16. Run a poll in print, and let users scan in the QR code that goes with their answer. Example: Ask who will win the Super Bowl, and offer a QR code for each team.
  17. Put QR codes in advertisements.
  18. Run a QR code that links to movie times.
  19. Newspapers have ads all over local sports arenas, use a QR code there to link to your coverage of that team.
  20. Create a scavenger hunt in the paper using QR codes – with new segments every day (to encourage daily readership).
  21. Create a scavenger hunt in your town using QR codes placed at your advertisers locations all around town.
  22. Ask readers to scan in code to review the same restaurant your critic reviewed…
  23. Or to see the menu…
  24. Or go to a page that shows recent reviews near you (using location-based services).
  25. Link to a how-to video with a cooking story.
  26. Use QR codes with listings in your real estate section to see more photos of a house.
  27. Put QR codes at historic/important places around town. Link them to articles where your local experts give info on each place.
  28. Have a QR code that users can scan in to send breaking news to the newsroom.
  29. Do you have a booth at the state fair or other events? Give out QR code temporary tattoos.
  30. Do your reporters or editors give presentations to the public? Put a QR code on one of your slides.
  31. Put one next to your garage sales listings to see a map of sales.
  32. Run one with a photo that links to a full photo gallery online.
  33. People want weather news on their mobile. Link one to your mobile weather page.
  34. Link to election results on your mobile site.
  35. Allow readers to sign up for breaking news text alerts.
  36. Get local cell phone stores to put up a QR code in-store. Potential phone-buyers can test them out while testing out phones.
  37. Do some guerrilla marketing and put them on bulletin boards around town.
  38. Put one with a story so readers can easily share the story with friends.
  39. Do you have a story that will drive a lot of discussion online? Use a QR code to link to where that discussion takes place.

How else have you seen QR codes used? Please share your ideas in the comments area.