Women at the top – in sport and business

A key story at the London Olympics has been the representation of women in sport.  It’s the first Olympics in which every national Olympic committee has sent female competitors to the Games.

Meanwhile, the Credit Suisse Research Institute has published a report seeking to identify the links between gender diversity at board level and share price.

By measuring the share price performance of over 2,300 companies around the world the report finds that gender diverse boards show better than average growth and a better percentage return on equity.  The report states that “it would on average have been better to have invested in corporates with women on their management boards than in those without”.

The researchers sought for answers to four broad questions about the representation of women at board level:

  • Evidence to support the theory that stock-market performance is enhanced by having a greater number of women on the board?
  • Are there any differences in the financial characteristics of companies with a greater number of women on the board?
  • Reasons for difference in performance
  • Factors limiting female representation at senior level

The report also discusses reasons for the link between performance and gender diversity.  These include:

  • A better mix of skills
  • A better reflection of the consumer/decision maker
  • Improved corporate governance
  • A diverse board can lead to better average performance across all board members
  • Risk aversion

Some other interesting findings:

  • European companies have relatively higher ratios of women at board level and have experienced the fastest rate of change in female representation.
  • Companies in sectors ‘closer to final consumer demand’ have a higher proportion of women on the board

The report is available to download here.

The social London Olympics – to tweet or not to tweet

Can a social media strategy be too successful?  The plan was that the London Olympics (#London2012) were to be opened up and made more accessible via a number of social media channels.  The public was encouraged to interact and comment. On the first sporting Sunday of the games, the amount of Twitter traffic began to interfere with mobile networks – and even caused problems for the BBC’s coverage of the road cycling event.

Following concerns caused by highly visible empty seats, a new Twitter hashtag had emerged in the first 48 hours.  #filltheseats was used by Olympic attendees photographing empty seats at the venues as well as a way to collect creative ideas for how the seats could be filled.

Twitter was in the Olympic headlines again when the 18 year old Tom Daley received some hateful tweets (or, as a British tabloid alliteratively described the incident, ‘Tom twitter troll torment’) after he had failed to win a medal for Great Britain.  The offender was named, shamed and later arrested – an act which in itself caused some consternation on Twitter and elsewhere.

Of course, the appearance of Tim Berners-Lee, live tweeting from the Olympic opening ceremony, was a great (if apparently confusing for some) thumbs up for the great British inventor of the www and a whole segment of Danny Boyle’s eccentric vision was devoted to the power of social media to bring people together.  Hooray!

While there has been some debate of the US coverage of the Olympics (#NBCFail), the BBC has been busy, providing additional digital channels for each live event, and creating a website that uses semantic technologies to manage a huge amount of information, including a webpage for every single competing athlete.  Marydee Ojala describes their efforts here.

Tony Hirst, via his OUseful.info blog, lists some interesting Olympic data coverage.  The 10,000 words blog lists five interesting Olympic news projects from around the world including the rather wonderfully simple Guardian newspaper’s wasanolympicrecordsettoday.com.

For a much more informed response to the social Olympics than mine, Euan Semple has written this on his blog.

Meanwhile, for anyone looking for a ‘typically British’ online Olympic experience,  www.londonunderdogs.com celebrates the British love of the underdog by providing helpful tips for identifying and supporting those least likely to win a medal.  The website provides posters to print and carry to Olympic events, including the faint praise of ‘Well, at least you’re better than me’.  (Spotted by Sara Batts – thank you!).

Finally, if you are inspired by watching or listening to the Games, you might be interested in the BBC’s ‘athlete body match’ webpage.

Apparently I am body-matched with a (male) Jordanian marathon runner.

New ways to tell a story


Entertainment has been bringing us crossover products for a while.   There are (and have been for some time) novelisations of movies and television programmes. (Publisher Random House has just announced the launch of Random House TV which will develop TV shows based on its publishing output.) Then there are the genre mash-ups that bring together the regency heroines of Jane Austen with zombies or re-invent Abraham Lincoln as a vampire slayer.  And, born out of multi-channel, always on lifestyles, we have transmedia narrative.

Transmedia storytelling unfolds narrative across a range of media, for example film, video games, social media tools, television and websites, with each element contributing uniquely to ‘the whole.  (Think Pottermore.)  The key is reader/user engagement and choice as to how much they wish to immerse themselves into the story.

An interview on the Knowledge@Wharton website with Andrea Phillips outlines some interesting features and examples.  Transmedia storytelling:

  • Provides a broader picture of the same narrative
  • Can provide an in-depth story to those who are using all media – but doesn’t exclude those who don’t participate
  • Has both an ‘east coast’ and a ‘west coast’ style (!)
  • Is being used by TV shows to ‘spin-off’ elements of the story
  • Is NOT the same as gamification

The interview shows how some people are interacting with ‘content’ and story almost irrespective of its delivery medium.  It’s well worth reading.

Exiting employees helping themselves to information

It’s not just stationery that walks out of the office with exiting employees.  According to a survey conducted by the records and information management company Iron Mountain, a significant proportion of employees has removed confidential information from the office – in spite of data protection and other information governance guidelines.

2,000 office workers in France, Germany, Spain and the UK were surveyed.  32% of them admitted to taking or forwarding confidential information on more than one occasion.  Of those who are removing information:

  • 51% are taking information from confidential customer databases
  • 46% are taking presentations
  • 21% are taking company proposals
  • 18% are taking strategic plans
  • 18% are taking product or service roadmaps

The employees’ attitudes to their actions are interesting.  Many of those surveyed felt a sense of ‘ownership’ of the information, particularly if they had a role in creating it in the first place.  34% of respondents were completely unaware of any company guidelines regarding the removal of information from the office.

Information and data are – of course – key organisational assets.  Information professionals have the opportunity to influence organisational information governance policy and educate employees about their information responsibilities.

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.