Monday, January 31, 2011

Consumers to Internet merchants: Follow me not

Personally, I don't really mind the general concept of ad-targeting: the idea that somehow I'll be fed information that actually matters to me personally rather than what someone thinks I should like based on my age and demographics.

But I don't like the fact that someone has to follow my online movements -- unbeknowst to me -- to figure out what to show me. There you go, the strange dichotomy of the American consumer. We want people to be personal, except when it gets too personal. Then again, I'm also the sort of person that absolutely hates being followed around by salespeople when you go into a retail story. So maybe I'm out of the norm here.

Anyway, a survey published in late December 2010 by Gallup and conducted by USA/Gallup among slightly more than 1,010 U.S. adults via telephone interviews found that 67 percent of us think that advertisers should not be allowed to match ads to your specific interests on Web sites that you have visited. Even the fact that these practices keep a Web site free didn't really make a difference, with 61 percent saying that online tracking or lurking is not justified even when a site is free.

Age did make a difference. Younger adults up to the age of 34 were more likely to agree to an invasion of privacy in order to have free access. They were also more likely to have noticed ads that were targeted toward them on Web sites they have visited: approximately 69 percent copped to noticing an ad, compared with 55 percent of those who were older than 55 years old.

This is relevant because the Federal Trade Commission has been thinking about requiring Internet sites to use an opt-out option kind of like the "Do Not Call" list that you can join for your telephone.

Another thing to mull when it comes to online privacy. Also another thing for advertisers to work around.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pew research underscores Internet's positive impact on volunteer groups

My husband and I often have arguments about the impact of computers and mobile phones on relationships. He contends that people are becoming less personal by texting and e-mailing and connecting via Facebook. My position is that while social networks are definitely distracting -- it is SO annoying to me when I'm out to dinner and my companions are texting their kids -- they let nurture long-distant relationships in particular more than would otherwise be possible. It also lets me stay better connected with people who share my somewhat unusual hobby, a cappella music.

As someone whose mother lives in Hawaii, father lives in Floriday and brothers live in California and Abu Dhabi (soon to be somewhere else), I sure as heck know this firsthand.

The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project recently published some statistics about the impact of the Internet on organizations and volunteer groups. Here are some of the high-level findings:

  • 68% of Pew survey respondents (both those who use the Internet and those who don't) say the Internet has had a major impact on the ability of their volunteer group or organization to communicate with each other
  • 60% say the Internet has had a major impact of their group's ability to communicate with other groups
  • 80% of Internet users participate in groups, compared with 56% of non-Internet users

There are actually quite a few other findings, but they really aren't focused on my main thesis, which is this: The Internet has had a positive impact on people using it to connect socially. I know my husband still prefers "in-person appearances." Then again, many of his best friends still live within 10 miles of our home. Mine live in places like Moscow.

Of course, as much as I love Facebook, I also know when to disconnect to give real facetime to whomever is sitting across the table.





Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Let the learning begin: Newfangled gadgets will dominate consumer tech in 2011

What sort of techie gadgets will your family be expecting you to buy NEXT Christmas season? A new survey from Accenture predicts that your average personal computer or mobile phone will be considered passe by the next time they are writing out their Santa lists.

So, for example, even though three-dimensional televisions didn't do as well as they were expected during December 2010, the firm reports that sales will increase by 500 percent this year as consumers become more comfortable with the category. Two big gating factors: price and whether or not you would have to wear those geeky glasses.

On the mobile end of the spectrum, Accenture reports that buying rates for tablet computers will increase by 160 percent, e-reader buying rates will increase by 133 percent and smartphone buying rates will grow by 26 percent. In contrast, only 17 percent of the respondents expected to buy a desktop or notebook computer in 2011.

The survey included more than 8,000 consumers in Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia and the United States. They were asked about 19 different technology categories during October and November 2010.

 What does this mean for you? Clearly, we all have some brushing up to do getting educated by our gadget options. I personally know nothing about 3-D televisions, and I'm actively boning up on the various tablet options. That category, in particular, has major implications for the way we work and learn. It is ironic that it took a consumer technology -- the Apple iPad -- to really blow this category open after years of failed attempts. Disclosure: I have been covering tablet computers since the mid-1990s. How crazy is that?