Lessons from a Virtual Bagel

The BBC’s Technology Correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones set up a Facebook page for his small business to test how people would interact with his ‘meaningless brand’. He then ran a targeted Facebook advert in a number of countries (Egypt, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Russia, UK, USA).

His Facebook page described no products and was designed to have ‘no interesting content’ yet Virtual Bagel had been ‘liked’ 1600 times in the first day.  Within four days this number had increased to 3,000, many of which were from clearly fake profiles.  Despite being ‘liked’ his Facebook page had a ‘close to zero’ engagement level.

The story, covered in detail by Cellan-Jones here, has been hotly debated.  Social media marketing experts have complained Virtual Bagel’s campaign was poorly targeted and that ‘chasing likes’ is no longer best practice.  As information professionals know only too well, it is the value of conversation and engagement – and any positive actions/activity that follow it – that are important.

Since publishing the story, Virtual Bagel has added just a few hundred additional likes, but the levels of engagement and activity have increased significantly.

Key messages

  • Likes alone are losing their value
  • Social spammers are a potential problem for Facebook’s advertisement driven revenue forecasts
  • Click-through rates were lower for the US and UK – the Facebook advert drove interest from other countries

And if this is not simply a story of social media spamming and the value of social media advertising, perhaps it’s also a story about information literacy.  How many people clicked ‘like’ either because they did not read past the brand name or they did not understand that what they read was utterly meaningless.

(Thanks @marydeeo)

Teens don’t tweet – so what do they do?

Three years ago, the 15-year old Matthew Robson joined Morgan Stanley in London to gain some work experience. While there, he wrote a much publicised, (anecdotal) report on how teenagers were using social media.  His report highlighted the reluctance of teenagers to pay for content and the fact that they were not that interested in Twitter.

Twitter, it seemed, was for ‘old people’.

Now, new research seems to confirm what Matthew was saying.  Business Insider has published a report, The Secret Life of Teenagers Online, which explores gadget ownership, preferred communication methods and relationship building via social media.  It’s a fascinating report, well worth reading.

Key findings and messages:

  • 68% of teenagers text on a daily basis
  • Only 11% of teenagers use Twitter every day
  • 51% check a social website every day
  • They are mainly using social sites to check profiles, and write comments
  • Texting is their favoured way of communicating with each other
  • Only 30% of them are using email every day
  • Teenagers are undertaking activities their parents have no idea about, including:
    • Posting their phone numbers online
    • Visiting pornographic websites

[Teens search differently too.  If you are planning to attend Internet Librarian International this year, one of our presentations explores how teenagers’ searches are much more ‘image’ focused – and how this impacts us all as information professionals.]

The social, gamified workplace

Employers of all sizes are looking for new ways to engage, motivate and reward their employees.  Employees are looking to receive regular feedback and to be recognised for their achievements.  And younger, ‘Gen Y’ staff in particular, want their workplaces to reflect their lifestyles.  They want work to be social and fun.

In 2011, Gartner highlighted the increased importance of gamification to innovative organisations, helping with the product/service development process and driving higher levels of engagement both internally and externally.  This week, Springwise described a new social network, MyCornerOffice, which gives employees a ‘virtual office’ in which they can display awards, share news updates, and collect points via a customised employee recognition programme.

In her recent guest blog post for Forbes.com Gen Y-er Katherine Heisler explains why gamification, when built into corporate culture and processes, can be so powerful.  The combination of technology with game mechanics encourages employees to ‘engage in desired behaviours’ – and in return they receive feedback, recognition and increased social activity.

Gamification will only increase in popularity and importance.  It benefits not only employee engagement and morale, but can deliver a true competitive edge to organisations as they seek to innovate, collaborate and build stronger connections with their customers and communities.

Measuring the value of e-books in academic libraries

How should academic libraries determine the value of e-books?  A Springer White Paper (Scholarly eBooks: Understanding the Return on Investment for Libraries) explores why libraries should measure value – and how they should go about it.

RoI is a complex issue and different institutions are using a range of measures.  Factors that may be considered include:

  • Effect on research output
  • Time saved by library staff and researchers
  • Space saving
  • Cost saved on content acquisition
  • Usage figures per e-book (vs usage figures per print copy)
  • Use of e-resources can lead to increased number of citations – which can influence grant applications

Key lessons for librarians

  • Stay current with relevant RoI research – and be ready to refer to it in discussions with University administrators
  • Partnering with publishers to promote e-resources encourages efficient searching and usage
  • Enhanced discoverability of e-books encourages multi-disciplinary work
  • Usage statistics vary between publishers
  • Additionally, e-book users tend to read chapters not whole books, but most usage statistics do not reflect this
  • Libraries will continue to have to prove value for money – librarians need to focus on having comprehensive RoI data available.
  • Learn from the lessons of e-journals – consensus about usage figures will emerge, just as they did for e-journals
  • There is much work to be done in collaboration with publishers – including developing usage measures and deepening understanding of user needs

The White Paper is available (free of charge) at www.springer.com/eBooks

TV and video viewing trends

Viewing TV and other video content on tablets has doubled according to research by NPD DisplaySearch.  And it’s not just tablets that consumers are using.  The findings indicate that over 70% of consumers are using tablets, notebooks, smartphones, desktop computers or MP3 players to view TV/video content.

14 regional markets were surveyed, including the BRIC countries and France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the UK.

There was particularly strong growth in using tablet devices in Turkey, Germany, France and the US.

Meanwhile, a report by the video publishing platform Ooyala has analysed viewing data from over 200 million video views per month.  It too highlights the increase in tablet viewing figures.  The report also highlights the following key trends:

Growth in mobile video sharing – mobile video gained a huge share of overall time spent watching videos in the first quarter. Smartphones gained 41 percent, while tablets grew 32 percent.

Longer videos – viewers are watching longer videos on all devices, but especially mobile devices.  Users are also spending more time per video play on both smartphones and tablets.

High engagement on tablets – 30% of tablet viewers view at least 75% of the videos.  The use of tablets spikes after 6pm, as people get home from work.

The Ooyala report is updated quarterly and it will be interesting to keep an eye on how these viewing trends develop.

(For more analysis on the Ooyala figures, see the go-Digital blog.

The first ‘open access’ debate

In 19th-century Britain the cost of books – and even newspapers – put them beyond the reach of the working classes.  The 1850 Public Library Act gave local boroughs the right to use money from public rates for the establishment of free public libraries.   However, take-up was slow, particularly in London. It was only after the Queen’s Jubilee that Library Committees were set up across London to establish libraries in their areas. In 1890s London there was an explosion in public library building.

Public libraries were very often dismissed by others in the library profession as ‘dolls house’ institutions.  In the late-Victorian period, they were inadequately funded and chief librarians might be instructed to write begging letters to local aristocrats asking them to donate their unwanted books to stock half-empty shelves.  In 1877 the Library Association was established for a growing community of librarians, booksellers, publishers and authors. The so called ‘rate-assisted’ librarian was seen as the least important in this community: only one public librarian sat on a management committee of 22 people.

The standard practice in the first London public libraries was to keep books on ‘closed access’ meaning that the stock was not displayed on open shelves.  Instead staff would bring publications to the users on demand.  To help readers discover if the titles they wanted were available, libraries used ‘indicator systems’, mechanical devices which visually displayed the status of any title.  Seen as more modern and efficient, ‘closed access’ was favoured by the vast majority of public librarians.

However, in 1895 James Duff Brown, the librarian at Clerkenwell Library made a dramatic decision.  He decided to introduce open shelves at his library.  The majority of public librarians opposed Duff Brown’s actions.  Charles Goss, the Librarian at the Bishopsgate Institute, was especially vocal in his opposition.   Together with John Frowde of Bermondsey and Edward Foskett of Camberwell, Goss established the Society of Public Librarians in 1895. This trade union for librarians sought to protect the interests of public librarians in the wider library world and to campaign for the maintenance of the indicator or closed access system.

‘The Battle of the Books’

The members of the Society of Public Librarians believed Duff Brown had only introduced open shelves to raise his own profile.  They also believed he was being manipulated by others, including Thomas Greenwood (a wealthy publisher) and J.Y.W. MacAlister (a private librarian and one-time Chairman of the Library Association).  The open access debates became so intense that they were reported in the Sun newspaper in 1897 under the headline: ‘The Battle of the Books: the Bitter War in the Library World’.  Eventually, all municipal libraries did convert to open access but the revolution Duff Brown and his supporters had predicted took around twenty years to achieve.

This story was related at the Bishopsgate Institute open day by Michelle Johansen.  Her discovery of correspondence about ‘the battle of the books’ led her to believe that the writing of library history in the UK has been skewed against the librarians who were opposed to ‘open shelves’, because so much of it was written and published by Duff Brown and his open access allies.

Her findings have been published in Library History journal (see Michelle Johansen, ‘A Fault-Line in Library History: Charles Goss, the Society of Public Librarians and ‘The Battle of the Books’ in the Late Nineteenth Century,’ Library History, 19 (2) (July 2003), pp. 75-91).  Michelle’s thesis ‘The Public Librarian in Modern London (1890-1914): the Case of Charles Goss at the Bishopsgate Institute,’ (unpublished thesis), University of East London, 2006, further explores the career and influence of the long-serving librarian at the Bishopsgate Institute.

 

Portrait of the tablet user

A new study of over 2,500 tablet users in the US (produced by the Online Publishers Association (OPA) and Frank N Magid Associates) makes interesting reading.

Tablet ownership explosion

  • 74 million US users have a tablet device – this constitutes a 31% adoption rate (up from 12% in 2011)
  • Adoption rate is expected to hit 47% by Q2 in 2013
  • 58% of tablet users are ‘very satisfied’ with their device

Embedded use

  • 74% of table owners use them every day
  • On average users are spending 13.9 hours with their tablets.
  • 32% are using two screens for 3.1 hours per day.

Main tablet activities

  • 94% cite accessing content/information is their main tablet activity
  • Other key activities include accessing email, news, weather and entertainment content

Paid content and advertising

  • 61% of tablet users have purchased content in the past year.
  • The tablet app market is estimated at $2.6 billion for 2012 (almost doubled figures for 2011)
  • 38% of tablet users have made purchases after seeing tablet advertising

You can access the full report here.

Read more analysis of the report on TheNextWeb

Supermarkets sweep into digital content

Supermarkets are already key players when it comes to selling ‘physical’ books, movies and music.  Now they are increasingly moving into the online entertainment space.  Two news stories this week highlight the digital content strategies of the big supermarkets as they jockey for position in what is a growing market for ‘non-physical’ content.

As part of its strategy to become ‘a key player in the digital entertainment market’, the supermarket Sainsbury has announced it has bought HMV’s stake in the digital book retailer and social network Anobii, meaning it now owns 64% of the business.

Anobii enables its 600,000 users to research and read ebooks on a range of devices.   It is the social media element of the service which Sainsbury believes differentiates Anobii from other ebook retailers such as Amazon and Apple.

Meanwhile, Tesco has announced it is buying the music streaming service We7 which offers personalised online radio services to subscribers.  Tesco already has a stake in the movie/TV streaming service Blinkbox.  It offers streaming services to its Clubcard members, part of a growing trend of offering ‘merged’ physical and digital’ content to customers.

European businesses and information risk

Although intellectual property can represent a high percentage of a company’s value, a significant proportion of organisations are failing to protect their information assets.

According to research undertaken by Iron Mountain and PwC, European businesses are not taking the protection of corporate secrets and intellectual property (IP) as seriously as other information risk issues.

The research shows that only 41% of mid-sized European businesses have plans to protect intellectual property and that 54% of companies believe that safeguarding this type of information is less important than protecting financial, customer and employee information.

Four industry sectors (financial services; insurance; manufacturing; pharmaceuticals) in six European countries (France, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Spain, UK) were analysed.  The pharmaceutical industry, despite being IP intensive, performed the worst – only 30% of the companies include IP in their information risk management and data protection plans.

Companies should focus beyond the direct cost of data loss or theft and take into account other, less direct costs, such as the potential impact on brand reputation and public trust.  According to the research, the best companies:

  • Treat information as a board room issue
  • Have a balanced information strategy – which is regularly monitored
  • Have a multi-disciplinary team in charge of information risk

A summary of the report (Information Risk Maturity Index) is available here.

Students – leading the way or falling behind?

Two interesting pieces of research look at how students are interacting with digital information and e-resources.

A recent CourseSmart survey finds that more students are bringing laptops to class than a print textbook.  Only 5% said that a print textbook was the most important item in their bag.  90% of respondents said that the use of digital devices, e-readers etc helps them to save study time.  68% estimate they are saving at least two hours a day by using technology.

On average, students are using three devices per day – and 40% of them claim they can’t go for more than ten minutes without using some form of digital technology.

Easybib, a service which creates citations, has analysed the websites that students use most frequently – and discovered that four of the top ten are user generated sites including YouTube, Answers.com and Wikipedia.

Easybib has created an infographic (available here) which shows the key role of librarians in helping develop students information literacy skills.  The company will also work with the American Library Association to spread awareness of the importance of digital/information literacy.