A question that has not yet been answered is whether 2-D barcodes, also known as “QR codes,” are here to stay or whether they’re an interesting experiment on the way to something else, such as NFC-based marketing. In Japan and elsewhere around the world QR codes are more well established and have been in use for years.

The benefit of QR codes is that a marketer or publisher can put anything “behind” the code: a website URL or landing page, or a product detail page with lots of relevant and highly specific information. QR codes are also highly versatile and can appear in digital and traditional media or on product packaging.

QR Code scanning is a form of mobile search — yes, that’s what I said. People are actively seeking additional information by scanning the code. It’s a visual query input. In the absence of the code they would type (or speak) a query into a search box.

Proponents of QR Codes in the US cite growing usage by smartphone owners and marketers. There are a number of successful case studies out there, many of them involving traditional media.

But there are also critics who express skepticism about the assumptions surrounding the technology and question whether it will ever be mainstream. Before they can be scanned users must download an app to read QR codes. I’ve also experienced my share of frustration with barcode scanning in the real world (though mainly with conventional barcodes).

Now a new report from comScore, a party with no agenda around QR Codes, reflects growth among selected mobile users: affluent males, 18-34 years old in particular:

More than half of all QR code scanners were between the ages of 18-34 (53.4 percent). Those between the age of 25-34, who accounted for 36.8 percent of QR code scanners, were twice as likely as the average mobile user to engage in this behavior, while 18-24 year olds were 36 percent more likely than average (index of 136) to scan. More than 1 of every 3 QR code scanners (36.1 percent) had a household income of at least $100,000, representing both the largest and most over-represented income segment among the scanning audience.

Beyond this comScore found that the majority of QR code scanning was happening in magazines and newspapers, or on product packaging. This illustrates one of the virtues of QR codes: they can be integrated into the physical world to make products and printed media more “dynamic,” and capture analytics and consumer response to those offerings or ads.

The primary locations where scanning is happening, given the above, are in the home and at retail and grocery stores.

Angie Schottmuller gave a terrific presentation on QR codes at SMX West and has written extensively on QR code best practices. My own view is that QR codes can be used very effectively with little risk or cost to the marketer.

However understanding the QR code scanning audience is important to using them effectively. Accordingly the comScore data and other similar research is important in thinking about where and when to implement QR codes.