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New Print by Email HP Printers Introduces New Ad Opportunities

New HP Printers Introduces New Ad Opportunities

Hewlett-Packard Logo This week, Hewlett-Packard introduced a new line of smart, web-enabled printers. Among other newfangled features, the HP Photosmart Touchsmart Web printer eschews cables, cords and drivers for a slick new method for printing: via email. Each printer comes with its own email address. The printer connects to the Internet wirelessly via a home or office router and prints any documents emailed to it, whether it’s from a laptop, desktop or a smartphone.
But the Internet connectivity has another function other than convenient, wireless printing: HP collects user information in order to send more targeted ads via Yahoo’s advertising network. The printer also serves as a news delivery device (you can set it up for timed delivery of news items from outlets such as MSNBC and Yahoo) and this service is subsidized by advertisements that are printed along with your subscriptions. There’s a certain amount of tradeoff that has to be reconciled with a new ad delivery channel such as the new, web-enabled HP printer. For each new way users can receive ads, the door is concurrently opened for the bane of all things Internet-related: spam.
Spam, of course, is defined by any kind of missive that has no relevance to the reader’s interests. The data collection surreptitiously done by HP and Yahoo is beneficial to users in that it allows them to offer up advertisements that might actual pique the interest of readers. If they see that you enjoy reading articles from the travel section, they might be inclined to send you advertisements for plane tickets, hotels, cruises and other travel-oriented deals. This, instead of taking a dartboard approach to advertising—where spammers send out advertisements about feminine hygiene products or male enhancement herbal supplements to men and women alike with the hope that something sticks. By allowing HP to collect user information, owners of these web-enabled printers might not see less advertisements—but they will see less ads that they would consider spam.
But then there’s the other issue of allowing the Internet at large access to a device that sits in your home or office. While it’s convenient to be able to email a document from your phone to your printer, there is the potential for mischievous misprints that waste paper, ink and bandwidth. Such unsolicited transmissions were a problem back in the heyday of fax machines, where pranksters might send a 50 page document consisting of sold black pages, thereby depleting the toner of the recipient. When it comes to email spam and unwanted advertisements, it’s just a matter of being inconvenience and clutter. But when documents that you didn’t ask for start rolling out of your printer—say, a full page, color advertisement or a 10-page news article that Yahoo thought you might like—that’s money out of your pocket.
With the new HP Photosmart Touchsmart Web printers, Hewlett-Packard has solved one of the most bothersome issues with printers. They’ve removed the need to hunt down drivers, configure and install them on networked computers and crawl behind desks to plug them in. But in the process, they may have introduced a new set of challenges—how do you ensure that what comes out of your printer is relevant and how do you balance privacy issues with a better advertising experience?
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