Blogs have become a bastion of free speech on the web – where anyone can start their own personal commentary on any topic for free. Businesses use blogs to post their latest news, celebrities make fans salivate as they update their blogs with news about their day, and they even demonstrated the power to keep online vendors in line (Google bombing). The fact is, blogs have become massively popular and it seems the sky is the limit for this online phenomenon. But that is not the end of the story, I wrote this article to tell you how blogs are soon going to influence buyers of your products in the offline world.

Yes you read that correctly; ‘the offline world.’ A new technology has been slated to emerge within the next 2 years that will blur the lines between the web and the real world and make blogging and in-turn SEO even more of a necessity for retailers. The key to this new world will be the popular cell phone and the emergence of barcode search technology.

Barcodes other wise known as UPC (Universal Product Code) are present on the packaging of every consumer product you find in your local retail store. These codes are often shown in a format of closely spaced vertical lines which when scanned by the store’s barcode reader will describe the product and the price. These barcodes were put in place to make monitoring and pricing inventory simpler for retailers. Unbeknownst to the retailers, such technology will soon be used to allow you, the consumer, to not only find the best price for a particular product but to check on consumer opinions of the product. Toshiba recently announced that as early as April 2007 this barcode technology will be available to consumers on its latest cell phone offering.

How this system works is best described by example. While visiting your local electronics warehouse you walk over to a new plasma television and your mouth impulsively begins to water as you watch the HD television feed gloriously swim across the screen. Next you look at the price and wonder just how much you could get for one of your limbs. Pricing aside, let’s assume you can afford the TV and you wonder how this TV stacks up against the plethora of similar Plasma TV’s displayed nearby. To answer your question you casually take out your camera-enabled cell phone and snap a shot of the barcode located below the TV. Within a few moments your cell phone screen displays a menu detailing an average consumer ranking of this TV as well as the best price found within your area. Now, armed with this invaluable data you can either move onto another TV that fits your needs or get the best price possible. Where does all of this information come from? Blogs of course; upon request of your barcode inquiry Toshiba’s servers will pole up to 100 blogs known to have information on the TV and provide you with an average rating based on the opinions found.

This concept has been around for a while but to my knowledge Toshiba is the first to announce a rollout with enough clout suitable to note. Once this technology has taken flight, and I have little doubt it will in one form or another, I anticipate there will be a serious need for a single entity to provide a spam-controlled, un-biased arena for search. Here enters the king of search; Google. Google already has the database and the technology to weed out a vast amount of spam and it would have everything to gain by including a search technology for barcode surfers. All of a sudden, this new technology will gain a legitimacy of epic proportions and consumers would be able to poll millions of blogs versus the mere 100 that Toshiba’s first generation will be capable of. A new generation of vendor accountability will be here and the consumer will be more powerful than ever before. Sound grandiose? Sure, I admit that I am excited, but the implications of this technology are undeniable; blogs and the rest of the online world will play a far larger role over which products are bought in the local store.

With the emergence of this technology every vendor with an inch of respect for the Internet will have to create their own review blog where they will need to provide incentives for consumers to post product/service reviews. That’s right, not only will vendors have to provide a better product but they will need to ask consumers to help them promote it. After all, they will have to stand out from the rest of the vendors asking for the same favour! It will also be important for vendors to ensure that their review blog is optimized for the search engines so that home surfers can find their review sites and to ensure that Google indexes it regularly.

All-in-all I think this upcoming technology offers a wonder of positive possibilities; responsible product manufacturing, fiercely competitive pricing, further credibility for the Internet, and a boom in online investment. Another element which shouldn’t be missed is the further levelling of the online playing field; the best products, not necessarily the biggest vendors will have a chance at a large share of the consumer pie. You just have to love the free spirit of the ‘Net!