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HP and Yahoo! team up to print ads in your home

'@!%&*?!' screams the intertubes

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There's been some knicker-twisting hubbub coursing the intertubes about ads being served up by HP's email-enabled ePrint printers, announced last week at Internet World New York.

Each HP ePrint-enabled printer will have its own email address that will enable users to print by sending an email message to it. The idea is to enable users of mobile devices to email their print jobs to their printers at home, in the offices, or at public print services that could be set up in, for example, hotels and FedEx Office stores.

And, no, the intertubian brouhaha is not about the printers being spam targets — US law prohibits unsolicited ads being sent by fax, so presumably it would also ban spam from being sent to ePrint-enabled printers. The Reg would also suggest that HP should allow incoming email to be filtered by an opt-in whitelist address-management system, and not an opt-out blacklist.

At issue is instead HP's Scheduled Delivery service, which will enable ePrint users to opt into such pre-scheduled deliveries as Yahoo! and MSNBC news feeds to which users can sign up through HP's ePrint Center.

And these services will be able to add advertisements to their pages. In its announcement of the ePrint scheme, HP said:

The Scheduled Delivery service also opens up a new era of digital print advertising for HP and content partners. HP and Yahoo! plan to launch the service as a pilot program to help marketers consider ways to provide added value to their audiences by populating select print content from partners with customized messages, promotions and information like coupons or local services.

Due to the fact that each printer will have its own IP address, the content/ad delivery system will be able to sniff it out and target both content and promotional materials based upon the printer's general location.

Computerworld quotes HP's imaging and printing group headman Vyomesh Joshi as saying that the Scheduled Delivery service has to keep its eye on privacy: "That's where we need to be very clear business rules in terms of privacy."

In HP's limited pilot programs, said HP printing exec Stephen Nigro, "What we discovered is that people were not bothered by [an advertisement]. Part of it I think our belief is you're used to it. You're used to seeing things with ads."

And the opportunity here, according to HP, is huge. Speaking at the Conversational Marketing Summit in New York last week, HP inkjet-printing exec Tuan Tran that HP expects to sell "tens of millions of [ePrint-enabled printers] over the next three years." That number is not unreasonable, considering that HP will ePrintify all of its printers costing $99 or more. According to Tran, HP ships about 30 million printers per year, and about 50 per cent of the households in the US have an HP printer.

Tran described the HP-Yahoo! partnership in terms of ad-placement goals. "Yahoo! has a broad ad portfolio," Tran told the internet marketers at the CM Summit. When working with content providers such as PC Magazine and The New York Times, he said, "What we want to do there is actually get a subscription to those magazines delivered to your local printer, insert local Yahoo! ads and coupons, and build that out as an ecosystem."

And so if you subscribe to a Scheduled Delivery magazine or newspaper, it will come with ads — just like 99.9 per cent of all hard-copy magazines and newspapers. So what are people complaining about? Ink. "I won't touch one of those things unless HP plans on sending me an ink allowance," wrote one commenter about the CW article.

A Bit-Tech writer asks: "Do you think that HP has a right to put advertising in the content it automatically generates for you, or is it wrong of it to cost you real money in ink used just to try and make a quick quid off your reading habits?" Commenters' answers to that question included: "Are we getting the printer for free or something? What's in for the customer in this deal?" and "If they give me free ink to print this **** out than I am all ears."

At TFTS, a columnist notes: "Some may balk at this, saying, why should I allow a company to use my printer ink to hawk products at me while I’m trying to get the paper? And they have a good point."

Over at Tech Whack, you'll find the opinion: "User pays for the ink that is inside the printer. For every ad that is printed, some ink would be used. HP charges a bounty for their printer inks. This program might become useful in case HP is providing the cartridges for free."

You don't even need to read the commentary from BitterWallet and DailyTech. Their commentaries' titles are sufficient: "HP and Yahoo team up to make printing even more expensive" and "HP's Web Connected Printers May Print Out Ads on the User's Dime".

But at The Reg, you'll find your humble reporter saying, instead: "People, people, people... Do you think that when you buy a newspaper or magazine you're not paying for ink? It's just that the publisher pays for it, and you pay the publisher."

Let's wait until we see what the price differential might be between content delivered by the Scheduled Delivery service versus content delivered to your home by the postal service. Let's not cavil until we see the terms of agreement.

At this point in time, this "to the barricades!" hue and cry is merely a tempest in an ink cartridge. ®

Bootnote

You'd think HP would have learned something from Apple's repeated product-name transgressions. The name "ePrint" is already in use by a printing utility for the iPhone/Pod/Pad from Microtech, a suite of document-conversion utilities from LEAD Technologies, and a print shop in Portland, Oregon, among others.

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