‘Hashtag omnishambles’ – 2012 words of the year

Newly minted or newly popular words and phrases showcase the key social, economic, technological and cultural trends that have impacted the general consciousness.  Twelve months ago the words of the year included ‘Arab spring’, ‘Occupy’ and ‘The 99 per cent’.  A number of analysts and commentators have now chosen their words of 2012.

In the UK ‘omnishambles’ was coined by the writers of the political satire TV show ‘The Thick of It’.  Used by the foul-mouthed protagonist, it summed up a shambolic political situation and – in an example of life imitating art – was taken up in 2012 by ‘real’ politicians in the UK.  It was also briefly amended in the UK to ‘Romneyshambles’ after US-Presidential candidate Mitt Romney expressed doubt as to London’s capability to host the Olympic Games.

Omnishambles was chosen as word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries, which chose the verb ‘gif’ as the US word of the year.

Continue Reading →

Publishing trends and predictions for 2013

The dust has settled on the Christmas sales of books, e-readers and tablets and some interesting figures have emerged.

In the UK, over £75m was spent on printed books in the week leading up to Christmas. This was an increase of 19.3% on the previous week and up 1% on the same week in 2011. The figures represent a three-year high for hard copy book sales in the UK.

In the US, the latest Pew Internet figures show another increase in the numbers of people reading digital books – an increase from 16% of the US adult population a year ago to 23% by the end of 2012. 33% of Americans now own a tablet or e-reader device.

Borrowing of e-books from libraries in the US is also continuing to increase as is the public’s awareness of e-book offerings available in public libraries.

“It’s becoming harder to define what ‘publishing’ really is”

Meanwhile three specialist industry sites (The Bookseller, AuthorMedia and Digital Book World) have interviewed a number of thought leaders (including CILIP President Phil Bradley) and published their predictions for the publishing industries in 2013. These include:
• Migration from print to digital will continue to slow
• More mergers and consolidation between publishers and agencies
• Continued growth in self-publishing and the companies that support it
• A growth of ‘author collectives’
• New partnerships for independent booksellers
• Major authors to keep their digital rights
• E-book sales will ‘level off’ in 2013 and prices may start to decrease
• Digital publishing means increased global audiences for digital works
• New, dynamic marketing models for publishers

 

 

Gender pay gaps around the world

Researchers from Cambridge and Warwick universities in the UK and Lakehead Univrsity in Canada have undertaken a large scale survey of pay gaps between men and women in 20 industrialised countries – with interesting results.

The researchers analysed statistics for the proportion of men and women in different occupations and average pay gaps to highlight the relationship between gender ‘workplace segregation’ and pay gaps.

Women earn less money the more men and women share the same occupations

  • The more the sexes keep to different professions and trades, the more equal average pay between the genders
  • If there are fewer men in an occupation, there are more opportunities for women to move into top, high-paying jobs
  • If there are more balanced numbers of men and women in an occupation, men will dominate the high paying roles
  • The less women are ‘in competition’ with men, the more likely they are to attain high level roles

National variations

  • In only one country – Slovenia -  do women on average earn [slightly] more than men
  • Other ‘top scoring’ countries were Mexico, Brazil and Hungary.  On average, women earn almost as much as men in these countries
  • What links these countries is that men and women work in different occupations to a greater extent than in many of the other countries researched
  • In countries such as Japan, the Czech Republic, Austria and Netherlands, women are more likely to work in the same occupations as men, and the gap between their pay and men’s is higher than average.

The researchers conclude that the segregation of occupations should not necessarily be interpreted as ‘inequality’.  The picture is much more complicated than that, and reflects the continuing changes in the wider workplace, in women’s education and training levels and in people’s attitudes to the ‘nature’ of work and work/life balance.

The research has just been published in the latest issue of Sociology.

How millennials connect with brands

The generation born between the years 1980 and 1995 (often known as Generation Y or Millennials) has been the subject of an ongoing global benchmarking survey by Edelsman Insights.  The survey, called 8095, explores the shifting priorities and requirements of Gen Y and seeks to understand their attitudes to, and relationships with, brands.

Millennials are the largest generation alive today and will form 75% of the working population by the year 2025.   They are a diverse and educated generation, carrying student debt burdens and not automatically destined to be more prosperous than their parents. They are also suffering at the hands of the global economic downturn, experiencing poor job prospects.  They do however have aspirations – 48% of them hope to own their own businesses.  They are also engaging with brands and products in new and immersive ways.

In the latest report, the researchers have surveyed 4000 millennials in 11 countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Turkey, UAE, UK, US) and have some interesting insights.

  • Millennials are delaying purchases and demanding new levels of value from the products they purchase
  • Brand preference is the number one ‘personal identifier’ they are willing to share online
  • They see brands as a partnership and a form of self expression
  • When making purchasing decisions:
    • 94% seek guidance from at least one external source
    • 51%  consult four or more sources
    • After an internet search, millennials are most likely to refer to friends and family for advice and recommendations
  • 74% of them say they influence the purchasing decisions of other generations – including their parents
  • 70% of them feel it is their responsibility to share feedback – positive and negative – with companies
  • 80% want brands to entertain them
    • They are also open to brands becoming involved in other aspects of their lives and helping them with life goals e.g. offering ‘life experiences’ (trips/lessons) or mentorship
  • 40% want to participate in co-creation with brands
  • 33% want real time social media interaction

Above all, millennials want authenticity from the brands with which they engage.

The report says that brands need to become more agile and collaborative.  They can capture the imagination of millennials through humour, a highly visible social media presence, by having a reputation as a great employer and having ‘a good purpose’.  Most importantly, millennials feel a sense of co-ownership towards brands and products and companies will do well to remember that the brand no longer ‘belongs to them’ but to its customers, potential customers, employees and other stakeholders.

 

 

Antivirus software – an ‘illusion of security’?

The detection rate of new viruses by antivirus software is currently lower than 5%.

In a Hacker Intelligence Initiative study of 40 antivirus (AV) products (conducted by business security firm Imperva) the results suggest that it can take up to a month for 75% of the products to add viruses to their lists and begin protecting their customers against them.  On average it took three weeks between information about threats being made available and AVs addressing them.

The challenge is that new viruses and malicious programs are being created and distributed on an industrial scale every day and that AV software needs to be updated continuously.  Hackers and attackers understand AV products in depth and are able to design around their strengths and weaknesses.

The researchers ‘hunted down’ 82 viruses using a mixture of search, hacker forums and ‘honey pots’ and then tested them against 40 AV products.  They conclude that AVs are fast to respond to malware that spreads rapidly but that blind spots exist when it comes to viruses with limited distribution.

The anti-virus products tested include paid-for and freeware (e.g. Avast), with little significant difference in performance between the two groups.

Imperva concludes that IT security should continue to use AVs but that they should also focus on what they call ‘aberrant’ behaviour.  They give an example of a breach of information security in a US state.  Once the initial breach had been successful, systems failed to notice that data was being accessed and moved around several times before eventually being moved out of the network by the hackers.

According to Gartner (2011) the global annual spend on antivirus software is $7.4 billion.

You can read the research findings (including some thoughts on the methodology) here.

Original source: ITProPortal

Using social media tools to disseminate academic research

There are many reasons for taking the measurement of academic impact seriously, particularly in the current economic climate. Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK and speaking at The Future of Academic Impact conference, reminded the audience that the public perception of academia tends to focus on the most visible aspect – namely undergraduate teaching and fees.  How can we increase the public perception of the value of academic research and its contribution to the economic and social wellbeing of the nation and beyond?

One aspect of improving the visibility of academic research was covered in a breakout session exploring the value of the ‘top five’ social media tools in supporting academic communication.

Know your audience

Each tool can bring your tool to different audiences.  It is therefore important to understand both the demographic of your chosen tools and the potential audiences of your work.

Twitter

With a global audience of over 100 million, Twitter is a realtime information network which encourages sharing of links and posts and facilitates conversation and feedback.  By using metric tools or the statistics of URL shortening services (e.g. Bitly), it is easy to measure the increased traffic to your blog generated by tweeting.

By mentioning your collaborators and using retweets and hashtags appropriately you can significantly increase your own visibility.  You can also use the ‘favourite’ button as a simple bookmarking tool.

Facebook

By far the most popular social network, Facebook offers an alternative tool to help drive traffic to your blog and other outputs.  It also has the potential to ‘go viral’.  50% of all Europeans use Facebook regularly.  The drive to monetisation by Facebook does mean that to appear in the newsfeeds of all of your ‘likers’ you may have to pay a small fee.

Pinterest

An image driven tool, Pinterest enables content creation and social sharing.  Although not particularly well-used by academics at the moment, use is increasing e.g. as a ‘visual ideas board’ for research interests.  It’s also a great way to disseminate visual outputs of your research.

Google+

Although not particularly well-used, a particularly valuable feature of Google+ for academics is the Google Hangouts option, which enables group collaboration and chats and the ability to record these sessions.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is evolving into a business focused social media site that enables sharing and discussion as well as another platform to showcase achievements.

Social media tools can help open us research and reach new, interested audiences.  “It’s not about where you publish, but who you reach.”

The breakout session was led by Amy Mollett  (@amymollett) and Joel Suss (@joelsuss).

“Remember – there is always a customer”

When David Lankes presented his vision of new librarianship at Internet Librarian International, he spoke about changing the conceptual mindsets of librarians.  This involves moving away from ‘lending’ models and embracing sharing models where librarians help their communities grow and learn by providing connections as much as collections.

David also expressed his dislike of the word ‘users’, with its emphasis on an almost passive consumption of resources.  His expressed his preference for the word ‘members’ – a statement which created much discussion, debate (and some dissent) at the conference.

Similar themes emerged at the latest Sue Hill Recruitment (SHR) networking breakfast meeting.   Information professionals in a range of sectors discussed some major shifts and trends which will continue to impact information services in 2013 – from ‘the information chain fallout’ of Open Access to funding shortfalls.

Another topic was a perceived backlash against big IT projects, brought about by a mixture of overhype, poor specification and/or management processes and poor value for money.  There was a genuine feeling that the ‘new’ landscape, in which budgets were tight or even non-existent, would provide exciting opportunities to do things differently and that information teams would have more freedom to create solutions, rather than waiting for IT-driven projects to take the lead.

What really matters is how we help others manage and succeed in 2013 and beyond.  And – no matter what we call them, as one fellow breakfaster said – “Remember – there is always a customer”

(Read SHR’s Suzanne Wheatley’s thoughts on the breakfast meeting.)

Parents and teenagers online

The latest Pew Internet Research report explores online privacy and parental concerns about what their teenagers are doing online.

Key concerns for parents include:

Online interaction with strangers

  • 72% of parents are concerned about how their teenagers are interacting online with strangers
  • 53% are ‘very concerned’

Reputation management and impact on future opportunities

  • 69% of parents are concerned about how online activity might impact their teenagers reputation and future employment or education opportunities

Information available to advertisers

  • 81% of parents of online teenagers express concern about the amount of information advertisers can learn from children’s online presence.
  • 46% of them are ‘very concerned’.

The survey also records growing numbers of parents using social media themselves.  66% of parents of children between 12 and 17 are using social networking (up from 58% in 2011) and half of them are engaging directly with their children online. (The number of children blocking their parents is not discussed!)

Media Mums in the UK – social super heroes

Research conducted by marketing experts Baby Centre Solutions looks at ‘Media Mum’ and explores how her online behaviours are changing.  Amongst the most interesting findings are:

  • Becoming a mum is the most important catalyst for using the internet (94% said that pregnancy triggered them to search for information online)
  • While over 50% of those questioned reported they were reading fewer magazines and newspapers, 45% reported they were using the internet more since becoming a mum
  • Mums are early adopters – 72% own a smartphone
  • With less time 67% of mums say their ‘media time’ is more focused
  • Mums spend 46 hours a month online – compared to 34 hours for the general population
  • Mums are 47% more likely to use social media than the general population
    • 64% are using social media while they are watching TV

What is a retweet worth?

A significant number of people retweet without actually clicking on the link themselves, let alone reading the content they are retweeting.

Research undertaken by marketing experts Hubspot suggests that retweeting may not be an effective measure of reader engagement.  Over 16% of the tweets analysed generated more retweets than actual clicks.  In other words more people are retweeting than are actually reading or quality checking the content.

The research analysed 2.7 million tweets that contained links and discovered that:

  • There is no significant link between the number of retweets and the number of clickthroughs
  • 14.6% of retweeted tweets had 0 clicks
  • Tweets that contained the word ‘retweet’ were retweeted more frequently but clicked on less often
  • Tweets containing the @ symbol were retweeted less frequently but clicked more often
  • Tweets including the words ‘please retweet’ are likely to be retweeted four times more than those that do not include that phrase

Ask for the retweet

Retweeting and clickthroughs can perform different functions.  Being retweeted can help you establish yourself as a thought leader and can generate more followers – and simply asking for retweets can be effective in achieving this.

Generating clickthroughs

Clickthroughs can drive more traffic to your website/blog and generate new customers.  Hubspot recommends placing your link 25% into your tweet  and keeping to 120—130 characters in length in order to generate the most clickthroughs.

Improving employee engagement

The quality and level of employee engagement can have a direct impact on the financial and operational performance of organisations.  In an open letter (reported in the Financial Times) leaders of some of the UK’s largest companies are calling on business leaders to ‘engage for success’.

Meanwhile, in an extensive global survey of 32,000 people working in 29 countries around the world, Towers Watson sets out to uncover the current status of employee engagement and to give organisational leaders important insights into the key elements of the work environment that can help shape employee behaviour and performance in positive ways.  The report calls for a revised definition of employee engagement – sustainable engagement – which answers the complexities facing 21st century organisations.

Sustainable employee engagement

Employee engagement matters.  Highly engaged employees have lower levels of absenteeism, are more productive at work and are less likely to leave their employers.

The report recommends that leaders focus on developing their own competencies, particularly ones which will help strengthen the connections between themselves and their employees.  Leadership competencies to develop include: global and cultural acumen; rapid decision making; risk leveraging and technological competence and high level, agile interpersonal skills.

A shared view of goals

Stress levels and a sense of alienation are inevitable if employees feel confused about what they should be doing.  Leaders should attempt to identify the cause of this gap in understanding.  Remedies include:

  • Ensuring managers can understand the link between business strategy and individual/departmental objectives – and are able to communicate these
  • Ensuring information is cascaded appropriately
  • Ensuring goals and performance are communicated clearly
  • Ensuring performance management processes are robust

Organisational policies must enable employees to live more balanced lives, manage their own workload and benefit from increased autonomy about how, where and when they work.

The report, Global Workforce Study 2012 – Engagement at Risk: driving strong performance in a volatile global environment is available free of charge here.