MSN-Harris Interactive Survey Asks: What Is America Searching For?

REDMOND, Wash., Aug. 2, 2004 — It used to be that we’d travel to far-flung corners of the globe or take up meditation if we wanted to “find” ourselves. But a new survey* from the MSN
network of services and Harris Interactive Inc. reveals that these days, Internet users in the United States are quite likely to turn to a search engine in their search for themselves. Of Americans who responded to the survey, 39 percent said they have looked for themselves when searching on the Internet, compared with 29 percent who said they have looked for a family member and 36 percent who have searched for friends they have lost touch with. Seventeen percent have searched for an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend.

The What Is America Searching For? survey was conducted to discover what Internet users across the country are using search engines for. MSN commissioned the poll to mark the July 1 launch of its new MSN Search home page, which features faster loading times and quicker access to the information that people care about most.

Over 2,200 adult respondents were interviewed, representing every region in the country as well as six major cities. The online interviews took place during late June and early July, and the results provide a snapshot of users’ search engine habits, as well as revealing the interests of the nation’s countrymen and women.

Many of the findings revealed that users often revert to type when they search online, and their search engine habits reflect their age, gender or geography:

  • New Yorkers were most likely among respondents to search for news on investments.

  • Searchers in Los Angeles were more likely to focus on entertainment.

  • Generation Xers, perhaps the first generation to embrace the Internet revolution, were more likely to search for blind dates and pursue romantic interests when online.

  • Baby Boomers, on the other hand, were more likely to search for health and weather information and recipes.

  • Mature adults (age 59 and older) were more likely to search on ancestry or family history topics as well as research their investments.

  • Young adults were more likely to use search engines to research education and careers as well as to look up a friend.

  • Men, somewhat predictably, were more likely than women to look up automobiles and technology and science topics.

  • Women were more likely than men to search for information on health and fashion as well as celebrity news and scandals.

Although anecdotal evidence reveals that most Americans are familiar with and use search engines regularly, the MSN-Harris Interactive survey revealed the extent to which users now rely on the technology. Almost half (48 percent) of respondents confirmed they use search engines at least once a day, and over two-thirds (69 percent) said that search engines are the fastest way to get the information they are looking for. The results established that users turn to search engines to get all kinds of news and information, on topics ranging from the war and the presidential race to celebrity gossip, and even to search for long-lost friends.

Justin Osmer, MSN product manager for Search at Microsoft Corp., said, “Most people are satisfied with their search engines, but according to the survey, there is a significant minority — 29 percent — who only sometimes or rarely find what they want, which is why we have more improvements rolling out. Our vision is to go beyond today’s basic search services and deliver faster, more relevant results. For example, MSN plans to offer direct answers to people’s questions in plain English. In order to do that, it’s important for us to understand how people use search engines and what they’re searching for when they’re online.”

Osmer said, “Search engines may be taken for granted these days, but MSN believes that it can continue to make significant improvements and give quicker access to more relevant information. For instance, even when people do find the exact information they’re looking for, an internal MSN study found that it takes an average of 11 minutes per search for people to go through the long lists of links offered by today’s search services.”

To address Internet users’ search engine needs, MSN Search has been revamped — with a new home page and immediate access to in-depth information sources such as the Microsoft® Encarta®
encyclopedia and dictionary, and services that provide news, shopping, stock quotes and more.

More information can be found on the MSN Search home page ( ). The What Is America Searching For? survey results are available upon request.

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive ( ) is a worldwide market research and consulting firm best known for The Harris Poll®
, and for pioneering the Internet method to conduct scientifically accurate market research. Headquartered in Rochester, N.Y., Harris Interactive combines proprietary methodologies and technology with expertise in predictive, custom and strategic research. The Company conducts international research from its U.S. offices and through wholly owned subsidiaries — London-based HI Europe ( ), Paris-based Novatris and Tokyo-based Harris Interactive Japan — as well as through the Harris Interactive Global Network of independent market- and opinion-research firms.

About MSN

MSN attracts more than 350 million unique users worldwide per month. With localized versions available globally in 38 markets and 18 languages, MSN is a world leader in deliveringWeb services to consumers and online advertising opportunities to businesses worldwide. The most useful and innovative online service today, MSN brings consumers everything they need from the Web to make the most of their time online. MSN is located on the Web at . MSN worldwide sites are located at .

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

* The survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive from June 25–July 6, 2004, using a nationwide sample of 2,231 adults who have used an Internet search engine. In addition to the nationwide sample, we conducted targeted interviews in the following cities: Seattle (n=287), New York (n=280), Los Angeles (n=285), Atlanta (n=259), Chicago (n=288) and Denver (n=286). Figures for gender, region, age, education, household income and race/ethnicity were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with actual population proportions. In theory with population proportions of this size, one can say with 95 percent certainty that the national results have a sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points, and the city results have a sampling error of plus or minus 6 percentage points of what they would be if the entire U.S. adult population of search engine users or the entire adult city population of search engine users had been polled with accuracy. This online sample is not a probability sample.

Microsoft, MSN and Encarta are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

Note to editors: If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft Web page at on Microsoft’s corporate information pages. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may since have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at .

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