View Full Version : New Study: Americans Online

08-11-2004, 12:54 PM
The Pew Internet and American Life Project has just released a new study titled,

"The Internet and Daily Life: Many Americans use the Internet in everyday activities, but traditional offline habits still dominate"

You can find the full text of the report here. (http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Internet_and_Daily_Life.pdf)

What's the most popular ctivity on the web according to the study?
87% of those surveyed search for maps and directions.

Bambi Francisco at Marketwatch offers a summary of the survey. (http://cbs.marketwatch.com/news/story.asp?guid=%7BC4912EF8%2D7D14%2D4769%2DAAFE%2D 86EA7647A997%7D&siteid=mktw)

Importantly, for the search industry, the Pew analysis found that in a typical day, at least a fifth of Internet users will go online to search for answers....Over 80 percent of Internet users have looked for answers to specific questions about a broad variety of issues. Interestingly enough, the number of information seekers looking for religious information shot up 94 percent between March 2000 and September 2002, according to the study. This topped the growth rate of searches conducted for sports scores and health or medical information.

"Because the vast majority of the online population already uses search and because the size of the online population with inevitably begin to slow, future growth must come from growth in the frequency of searches per person," said Ken Cassar, director of strategic analysis at Nielsen//NetRatings.

It's also worth metioning a recent FIND/SVP study (http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?1002877). It said that, "84% of business executives feel that Web searches -- using the generally consumer-centric search engines now available --take longer than they should due to poor results. It is estimated that the loss of productive time using search engines to conduct online research cost businesses $31 billion last year."

So, what's most important for the commercial web engine?
+ Getting people to search more/spend more time searching (more ads viewed)? or
+ Saving the searcher time, effort, and aggravation? Reducing the number of searches and the time spent searching.

08-11-2004, 01:52 PM
It is estimated that the loss of productive time using search engines to conduct online research cost businesses $31 billion last year."

This seems awefully strange. Is this oppossed to all those hours saved by going into a research room and hunting for something by hand?

08-11-2004, 02:06 PM
While the number ($31 billion) is just an guesstimate I can say that as a librarian and someone who teaches searching to end users, the concept of people wasting time and effort searching is a BIG issue. I think it will become a bigger issue as general commercial engines grow larger.

+ The searcher enters non-specific queries (with just a couple of search terms)

+ Only look at the first few results when good answers exist elsewhere int eh result set. Danny and Chris have written about this. Clustering can often get you to these results without experiencing info overload. Vivisimo calls it "selective ignorance."

+ Don't use the speciality databases that large engines offer. In other words, they don't click on the tabs.

+ Don't realize that some information and quick and easy access to it still costs money. Even if the data is on the open web, speciality tools often allow you to do more with it (sort, customize, etc.)

+ Don't use any advanced search techniques (this includes simply placing a phrase in quote marks)

+ Don't question the currency and authority of the information they find on the web.

+ Don't realize that speciality (verticals) and fee-based databases can get them a higher quality answer in a shorter amount of time. Very often these tools are available FOR free via a local or university library. The material in these databases is often NOT available on the open web.
See: http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/2161631

+ Don't realize that the results from one engine are likely different elsewhere
++Chris has an excellent article on this topic.

+ Don't realize that just a small amount of material is on the open web vs. fee-based tools and books. Let's also not forget that the telephone and email remain vital reference resources.

08-12-2004, 05:01 PM
even with all that waste of time searching, it would seem that it would still be cheaper than performing research via the off-line means.