How Users Print Pages On The Web

I remember about a year ago I was desperately searching for data on how people printed pages on the web. The reason I was curious, is because I noticed flash ads would often mess up pages printed straight from the browser, often not printing the content of the pages. This is a bad user experience which could cause visitors to start using a competitor’s site instead.

Unfortunately, I was unable to locate any studies. I thought with the millions of sites that have “printer friendly pages” that someone would have published the results. I decided to do the research myself and slip it into a survey during some pre-redesign research for a top 150 website. I surveyed over 2,000 users, asking them how they printed pages on the web. The results may surprise you.

Here are the results:
When printing articles or pages on the Web:

  • 19% of users use File > Print in their browser
  • 63.1% of users use the printer-friendly links on the page
  • 2.5% of users use the Control-P command on their keyboard
  • 12.3% of users copy and paste the text into Word
  • 3.1% of users copy and paste the text into an email or other application

A couple notes about the survey participants. The site this was conducted on would be considered a sampling of the average Internet user. A site catering to web-savvy users would have different results. The site has also long had “printer-friendly” links, so long-time users would be more likely to use them. To remove some of the long-term user bias, here are the same results but filtered by only users who have used the site for less than 3 months (over 375 users).

Here are the results for newer users:
When printing articles or pages on the Web:

  • 25.3% of users use File > Print in their browser
  • 49% of users use the printer-friendly links on the page
  • 3.1% of users use the Control-P command on their keyboard
  • 17.5% of users copy and paste the text into Word
  • 5% of users copy and paste the text into an email or other application

I realize a survey isn’t the most accurate method to get at this data, but this data is difficult to collect any other way because it is impossible to track anything other then the printer-friendly pages of a site without conducting an expensive in-person behavioral study (preferably on the users own computer).

If you know of any other research on this topic, please share it in the comments.

Future of Local News Video Distribution

I believe there is an untapped opportunity in video disbtribution for local news stations. When it comes to unexpected events, news station camera crews can not possibly be in the right place at the right time. If someone were to build a video upload service aimed towards local news syndication, I think many stations would be willing be interested in buying rights to the videos.

There are plenty of sites that facilitate the sale of video clips, but I have yet to see one target distribution to television stations. For example, take a look at this video from Oregon after yesterday’s storm hit:

Oregon Drivers Crashing on Slick Streets Video

I imagine the person who captured this video had to go out of their way to get the video to the news station (hopefully they didn’t drive down that street). The local news station may have paid them a small amount of money, then distributed it to their sister stations. Imagine if the user could have uploaded the video to a site, set their own price and let anyone pick up rights to use it or pay extra for exclusive rights.

News stations desperate for video could simply visit the site, preview the video in a flash player, download the video and edit it as they please. Far too often news stations lack video so they pull out old videos or play the same exact video throughout the day, over and over and over. My wife has been filmed working in the lab and I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen the same video clip used for every DNA-related piece of news for the past four years. The video distribution service I’m imagining would not only connect traditional media with user-generated videos via the web, but it would be in a good position when the lines between the web and T.V. continue to blur.

It’s About Time

Time Magazine‘s “Person of the Year” just came out. In 2004, George Bush took the honors. In 2005, it featured Bill & Melinda Gates, plus Bono. This year, Time Magazine decided to feature me! Or you. Depending on who’s holding up the cover featuring a mylar mirror.  Time person of the year

As I read through the feature (on their site of course–I would never pay for the magazine), I noticed it really shouldn’t say you. It should say “Web Junkies” because when they describe “you,” they talk about video bloggers, Wikipedia editors, Flickr posters, Firefox creators and YouTube founders. Hardly an example of your typical American or Time Magazine subscriber.

Regardless, my first thoughts were: Cool. Someone finally gives recognition to those who have contributed to the growth of the Web. But after reading through all their features, I realized this really was just about recent Web hype.

The cover might as well said “YouTube” instead of “You” as YouTube must have been mentioned a hundred times. YouTube is great, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see YouTube decline in popularity in favor of the next wave of Web 2.0 newcommers. It would almost be the online communities’ way of slapping traditional media back in the face. I can almost hear the public now: “You Don’t Determine Who Is the Person of the Year – We Do!” Because let’s face it, should Time editors really get to determine who the person of the year is? Let’s face it, when Time picks the person of the year, it is all really about Time and not the person they pick.

Okay enough dissing Time. I do appreciate them pickin “us” over political figures or CEOs. Ironically, I’m signing off to go cast my nominations for Webby Person of the Year

PubCon Here I Come

I’ll be attending my first PubCon, starting today! Being trapped in-house doing SEO work, I always look forward to these conferences because they are my only chance to speak SEO with others. I find it valuable to speak to the wide range of people, from Google engineers to out-of-country black-hat search-spammers. Knowing what each is doing can help you build a strategy that will ensure the long-term success of your search placements because many of the algorithms are built in an effort to weed out spam, even at the cost of well-intentioned sites.

Work at Home Options Still Limited

I experienced my 3rd 2.5 hour one-way commute in the last week. Two of the commutes from hell can be attributed to the worst flooding in my area in the last 50 years. One thing is for sure, wasting time just trying to get to work is a not-so-gentle reminder that I should be working from home.

A few years ago I thought most people with web-related jobs would work from home. But when I was looking for a job a year-and-a-half ago, I turned down two job offers because they wanted me in office 5 days a week. I took the job that allowed me to skip one commute day each week. The funny thing is that all three companies said “we want you in the office so you can participate in hallway discussions and hear what is going on around you.” Fast-forward a year-and-a-half, most communication (even with the person in the cube next to me) is via email and most employees have headphones on.

I’m surprised more companies haven’t taken advantage of brilliant people who want to work from home. People have different reasons for working from home (mine would save me 12 hours of commuting each week) and as long as they are productive, I don’t see any problems with it. My p/t job at About has a virtual workforce, but it is rare that I hear of a person who has a job (other than their own company) that lets them work out of their own home.

When will more companies start adopting a decentralized online workforce? When will more companies hire people they’ve never even met? I’m positive it will happen… I’m just surprised how long it is taking.