The September Issue + QR Codes

The September issue of Martha Stewart Living is on newsstands now and it is always a little reminder that the routines of fall are something of a comfort. I'm anxious to organize my closet and put on a sweater again; I'm looking forward to making lunches for work and finding time on Sundays for a flea market or two.
The current issue is quite food heavy. There is a gorgeous shot on the cover by Marcus Nilsson of a roasted chicken with a rousing chant in bold print beside it: "LET'S GET COOKING" - a not-so-subtle indication that the content inside will be mostly culinary in nature.  Inside there is a full feature on cooking chicken 10 ways - a helpful repertoire for serving the most popular meat in America. There is also a feature on cookies that uses examples from Martha's forthcoming book Cookie Perfection (October 15, Clarkson Potter) and an Everyday Food section that is overflowing with ideas for weekday lunches, quick after-work dinners and a yummy dessert.

Sandwiched between all this food are the topics I enjoy most as a reader: a great garden feature about the cacti and succulent garden at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California; a feature about New York artist Kiva Motnyk who makes natural dyes and weaves gorgeous textiles, and a really fun feature on hardware store DIY projects for the home: think pegboard organizers, sawhorse desks, copper piping towel racks and steel shelving.

Best of all is the Good Living section, which encourages us to print some of those smartphone photographs that are perpetually locked on our screens. The editors urge us to display them and frame them in evocative ways at home. There are great insider tips from professional photographers and stylists on how to compose and arrange your photographs to great effect. I've taken note!

Kudos to the magazine, too, for continuing its monthly American Made and Change Maker features: they are two columns I always look forward to reading.


For the first time, the magazine has included QR codes throughout its pages, enabling readers to access online content and the company's social media platforms. By hovering your phone (having your camera on helps) over the digital icons that are subtly printed on the pages you are taken immediately to online sources for content not included in the pages of the magazine. This, of course, allows the magazine to print fewer pages, which are costly. For instance, the recipes for the cookies featured in the article "Bite Club" are not printed anywhere in the magazine. The reader must access the QR code to be taken to an online source to retrieve them. As a reader, I'm not entirely on board with this and I'll explain why.

From a business angle, this is smart, of course: Meredith Corp. can save by not having to print the recipes on an extra page or two and the reader is exposed to more advertising through accessing the online platform. From a reader's perspective, it's not great. If you don't have a smartphone you simply cannot access those recipes, unless you find them online after the fact. This alienates a chunk of readers. In my opinion, all of the recipes for all of the foods presented in the magazine should be printed in its pages. It is content we are ostensibly paying for as subscribers and newsstand shoppers so it should be there, in print, ready to be used - now and in the future. It is part of the parcel, part of the product we are buying.

Then there's the potential for technical difficulty. For example, I encountered quite a bit of trouble trying to access the aforementioned cookie recipes by attempting to scan the QR code on the page. I was taken to a Meredith Corporation page that asked me to log in. The image above depicts the login page I was taken to when I hovered my phone over the code. Perhaps it's a glitch with the code? Whatever the case, it was a frustrating experience and I soon gave up. The link has since been fixed, and the reader is taken to marthastewart.com for the recipes, but I would simply like to turn the page and see the recipes for the cookies presented in the pages of the magazine. The QR code should be an alternative, not the only way a reader can get content she is ostensibly paying for by buying the printed magazine.

I suppose my point is that shuttling readers to other sources to get content that ought to be right there in front of us is not especially user friendly. This is not really "additional Living content" we're accessing; it's content that is actually missing from the pages of the magazine we paid for in order to complete the recipes for food showcased on its pages. I hope the editors rethink this approach to perhaps make the process of hovering one's phone over an icon a little more rewarding for the reader, such as providing original or behind-the-scenes content. 


The editors have since provided a link to the recipes from the Bite Club feature in this issue. It is a PDF of all the recipes, which you can download and print if desired. Click here to get it.


Unknown said...

I agree. I tried to get a recipe by scanning the smart code....nothing happened!

Unknown said...

Me too!

Unknown said...

Same here, nothing happened.

Unknown said...

I have tried 3 different qr code readers and am unable to access the recipes. Any advice?

Cathy said...

I just tried it today 9/18/19 and nothing happened

Cathy said...

Well I got it to work - but who wants recipes on their phone ... that's not how I reference recipes. grrrr

A. Jordan said...

I reached out to MS customer service and they apologized for all of the QR code glitches and sent me the PDF. Here’s a link if anyone wants it:


Anonymous said...

Totally agree, my phone it didn't work, but my husbands (which is less than a year old) worked...my phone is just over a year old. BUT, agree...why do I want recipes on my phone...crazy, stupid.