Who Do You Trust? For Information Online, It’s a Growing Quandary

REDMOND, Wash., March 6, 2006 — Microsoft recently surveyed 1,000 parents of middle and high school students in the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany to answer some of the longstanding questions involving the struggle with homework. This study found 87 percent of children use the Internet to help with homework. However, national news attention surrounding the credibility and accuracy of information available online – particularly with the growing popularity of communal and open-source encyclopedias – has consumers questioning where they can turn for trusted information.

Gary Alt, Editorial Director, Microsoft Encarta

Gary Alt is a veteran in the encyclopedia industry and currently editorial director for Microsoft Encarta, the No. 1 best-selling encyclopedia brand (according to NPDTechworld, March 1993–2004, based on total U.S. retail sales). Encarta provides a trusted way for everyone in the family to easily find credible information on a variety of subjects with the digital encyclopedia’s over 64,000 articles, an Interactive World Atlas, informative and entertaining videos from the Discovery Channel and Encarta World English Dictionary and Thesaurus and Translation Dictionaries and more.

Alt has played a vital role in moving encyclopedic content from books to CD-ROM and beyond. Alt spoke with PressPass about the role Microsoft plays in the encyclopedia realm and how Microsoft enforces editorial standards to provide reference information that can be held accountable and trusted by customers.

PressPass: Why is Microsoft in the education publishing industry?

Alt: For more than 20 years, Microsoft has pursued its vision of anytime, anywhere access to information, producing rich CD and DVD-based software and enriching the online experience. As technology continues to evolve and change the way people learn and acquire information, the Education Products Group at Microsoft is committed to developing products that support lifelong learning and help people discover the world around them.

Microsoft has been heavily involved with the online reference category for 15 years, as technology has been a driving force in the way people learn and acquire information. While the Internet has transformed the process of research and made information more readily available, this information is not always appropriate, relevant and, most importantly, accurate.

PressPass: How is Microsoft participating in the growth of technology as a source for information?

Alt: Microsoft’s vision for access to information for the last 15 years has been “information at your fingertips.” People increasingly turn to the Internet to get quick answers anytime and anywhere. Microsoft has made it our goal to deliver trusted and complete content to their consumers through easy to use resources and programs, like Microsoft Encarta.

Much of the research and development is manifested in Encarta, which is more of an experience than simply textual articles. Customers can take virtual tours through the world’s historic monuments, watch Discovery Channel videos and flip through a variety of photos and sound clips. We are pleased to see Microsoft Encarta continuing to answer questions, provoke discovery and help kids grow and learn more about the world they live in. As the No. 1 best-selling encyclopedia brand, Microsoft Encarta contains a wealth of articles and multimedia for anyone seeking online information from a credible source.

PressPass: How does Microsoft provide trusted and credible information to consumers?

Alt: Microsoft has enlisted content experts — credentialed authorities in their fields — to author and authenticate the content of the encyclopedia. In addition, Microsoft has assembled a team of professional editors who ensure that Encarta’s content is kept up to date, objective and understandable. Together, our independent content experts and on our in-house editorial staff work to ensure that Encarta is accurate, current, balanced and readable.

Along with reliability, the abundance of information on the Internet can be overwhelming. Encarta also contains tools that filter through Internet entries to find the most relevant and trusted information among the search engine results. The best way to conduct research is to consult multiple sources, so Encarta provides Web links to other outlets for users to find information on their specific topic.

PressPass: How does Microsoft provide information that’s as up to date as the Web?

Alt: The Internet has transformed and simplified the process of conducting research by putting all the information you need at your fingertips. Microsoft ensures people receive the most current news and information by offering weekly downloads of updated content for Encarta. We understand the importance of having the most updated information and make sure it’s easy to access. Microsoft even provides users with alerts on their Encarta interface when it’s time to update their encyclopedia.

PressPass: What other trusted sources does Microsoft provide for students working on homework?

Alt: Last year, Microsoft released a homework resource for middle and high school students, called Microsoft Student. We wanted to provide students with a comprehensive software package that includes the tools and trusted information that middle- and high-school students need to achieve academic success. The software includes templates and tutorials that compliment Microsoft Office applications, graphing calculator software that creates 2-D and 3-D color charts and graphs, and a full version of Encarta that provides credible and easy-to-find information from relevant sources.

Microsoft also wants to promote the use of reliable reference information in school, so Encarta and Student are available for volume licensing by schools and libraries. Schools nationwide now have the opportunity to make the encyclopedia available on all their computers and offer students all of the tools, resources and quotable sources available within Student and Encarta.

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