Putting a value on ‘search’

In the latest in a series of reports investigating the impact of internet technologies, McKinsey sets out to assess ‘the far reaching value of search technologies’.

Focusing on Brazil, France, Germany, India and the US, McKinsey analyses nine activities that create search value and then sets out to analyse the impact of search in 11 sectors/constituencies.

According to McKinsey, traditional analysis of the value of search tends to focus on three activities:

  • Time saved – search can help facilitate quicker decision making
  • Raised awareness – brand awareness, of paid and natural searches
  • Price transparency – benefit to consumers but also to reduce consumer uncertainty

In their latest research, the McKinsey team also analyses the impact of:

  • Better matching – search helps guide ‘consumers’ to the most relevant information, products and services and helps providers find the right audience/customers
  • Long-tail offerings – search facilitates the sale of ‘niche’ items of interest to relatively few people
  • People matching – both business and ‘personal’
  • Problem solving – challenging to place a value on but likely to big one of the biggest source of value
  • New business models
  • Entertainment – (30% of total web searches relate to entertainment)

The report also analyses how 11 sectors/constituencies (including content creators, entrepreneurs, health, government, consumers and education) derive value from search.

Focusing on 2009, the research ‘conservatively’ estimates that search was worth $780 billion globally, the equivalent of $.50 for each search.

You can register to download the report on the McKinsey website.

Doing a digital detox

Susan Maushart withdrew digital media from her home (and her three teenagers) for six months and wrote a book about it.  The gloriously entitled Winter of our Disconnect was published at the beginning of 2011 – and received much media coverage.  It was featured on BBC Radio 4 and the author was interviewed and featured in many broadsheet papers in the UK and around the world.  Meanwhile, an experiment was featured on a BBC TV programme.  A family of six were taken back to the 1970s to experience the changes that technological developments made on family life.

News now from the US.  The Marriott Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel is offering a weekend break from the ‘always-on’ lifestyle.  Guests checking in must hand over their digital devices.  The rooms have no televisions, telephones or docking stations, but they do have a supply of literary classics.

Sounds fantastic.

‘Serious gamification’

Game designers, business executives and academics were brought together for a conference hosted by Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) to discuss the opportunities of applying gaming techniques to a number of sectors.

The website captures some of the outputs of the conference and also features transcripts of conversations between some of the key speakers as they discuss their own experiences and consider the implication of gamification to all types of organisations.

Although gamification is not the same as gaming, it does take some key elements from it.  Organisations are looking to enhance online experiences and to encourage certain types of behaviour, whether this be making a purchase, taking out or renewing a subscription, clicking on a link or simply returning to the site more frequently.

According to one of the speakers Rajat Paharia (founder of Bunchball), gamification is not particularly generational and should not be thought of as something of interest only to ‘generations X/Y’.  Other speakers agreed.  Gamification can address a number of human needs including the desire for self expression, or competition, or status or even altruism.  The key for organisations is to understand the complexities of motivation.

Gamification can also be used to motivate people inside an organisation just as much as it can be used to engage customers and potential customers.  One of the speakers was Daniel Debow from Rypple which uses social gaming techniques in its performance management system.

The non-profit organisation HopeLab is using gamification to tackle teen obesity in the US and there are other examples of gamification being used to educate and involve children.

You can read more about the conference, including the key themes of individual sessions here.



Top management articles 2011

Emerald’s Management Review is 50 years old this year.  This database contains over 280,000 abstracts of articles published in the world’s top 300 management publications.  For the last 15 years, Emerald has run its Citation of Excellence Awards, announcing the most cited and influential articles of this enormous mass of content.

This year’s list has been compiled using Professor Anne-Wil Harzing’s ‘Publish or perish’ software program which maps citation data from the last three years.   The 2011 top 50 articles feature articles originally published in 2007.  This longlist of articles was sifted by an Editorial judging panel – their final choices are listed in full here.

The list includes an article written by KM guru Dave Snowden and originally published in HBR.  Also featuring are this article about a KM success model and this about knowledge governance models.  Also of interest is this article about ‘social sources of information’ for entrepreneurs.

By far the most intriguing title is this one ‘It’s all about me: narcissistic chief executive officers and their effects on company strategy and performance’. Emerald comments that this article adds to the ‘limited research’ in this area.

‘The promise – and peril – of personalisation’

One day, Eli Pariser (an online organiser) logged onto Facebook to find out what people with less liberal opinions than his own were talking about.  He couldn’t find them.  Based on his past search and click behaviour, Facebook had simply edited them out.

Since then, Pariser has gone on to write The Filter Bubble: what the internet is hiding from you.  Speaking recently at the RSA in London, he spoke about his concerns about the filters and algorithms that shape the way the internet is presented to us.  The internet, it seems, is not as ‘connective’ as he once thought it could be.

Companies recognised that there was money to be made in helping people sort through enormous data torrents.  This led to a focus on ‘relevance’ as manifested in, for example, Amazon’s ‘if you liked this, you might like that’ concept.  And these filter algorithms do more than that.  They can make inferences from seemingly unrelated data and are responsible for creating a ‘web of one’ in which results are no longer ‘universal’ but rather based on our own search history.  This ‘filter bubble’ feeds our human confirmation bias by presenting to us the world as we already see it.

The problem is that in our personal bubble views, we don’t know what we are missing. It is relatively easy to know the editorial or political slant of a newspaper but not the unseen filters of social media.  And this matters when social media is driving approximately 50% of the traffic to online news sites.  It’s easy for challenging stories to be lost from view amongst the stream of ‘likes’.

We need to move on from narrow relevance and be challenged in our world view.  It’s not easy to achieve this but the first stage is to be aware – and to make others aware – that this filter bubble exists.

Social media and rioters

The “free flow of information can be used for good, but it can also be used for ill”.  This is what British Prime Minister David Cameron said in the aftermath of the riots that spread across England last week.  He went on to state that “we are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”

In the aftermath of the riots and the debate about causes and solutions, it is the use of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) that has featured highly in the debate about the use of social media by rioters to communicate.  BBM offers free texting, via the internet, for its users and is growing in popularity especially among young people while SMS usage is declining. The network is not ‘public’ and is therefore more difficult to monitor in real time.  The messages are also encrypted, and unintelligible to casual observers.

As can be imagined, the statement by the Prime Minister has been received with some consternation by observers from across the political spectrum.  Who would decide what consititues ‘criminal’ usage of social media?

Knee-jerk politicians would do well to read Phil Bradley’s post in which he likens the banning of social media to the banning of roads.  And let’s not forget that communities have used social media to regroup after the riots.  The ‘broom armies’, for example, were mobilised to action by a simple Twitter campaign @riotcleanup.

Travelling on the technology curve

The theory of how new ideas, innovations and technology are spread is something we should be well aware of.  In our own organisations, we know it pays to identify those who are ‘early adopters’ or members of the ‘early majority’ – and who are influential.   And we also know that sometimes it’s as unhelpful to be too far ahead of the curve as it is to be behind it.

This week, ReadWriteWeb reports on the latest changes to Gartner’s HypeCycle.  HypeCycle seeks to map technological innovations along a timeline from ‘technology trigger’ and through key stages including the ‘peak of inflated expectations’(!) to the ‘plateau of productivity’, when innovation can be seen to be truly impactful and has been adopted by 20-30% of the potential audience.  The latest additions to the service include ‘big data’ and ‘gamification’.

Technologies may follow the curve, but each travels at a different speed.  HypeCycle places eBook readers beyond any disillusionment and at the beginning of the ‘slope of enlightenment’ and big data climbing up towards the ‘peak’ (and likely to do so quite rapidly).

You can view images and read the reseach summary here.


Information professionals – unsung ‘good fairies’?

This week’s Sue Hill breakfast meeting provided a compelling snapshot of what is exercising information professionals across a wide range of sectors (health, law, property and more were represented).

Several delegates reported that their organisations are working to develop new strategies and models to reflect the changing business landscape.  Collaboration, both internally, but increasingly externally, is seen as a strategy for success – or at least survival.  Organisational websites are no longer static ‘repositories’ but are being opened up to collaborative content creation – with all the challenges that this might generate.  Colleagues must learn to work more openly and in new matrix structures.  There are opportunities for knowledge and information people to act as role models when it comes to collaborative working.  It may not come as easily to others as it does to our profession.

But it’s not just our customers with whom we need to collaborate.  There is also work to be done educating, informing, and exerting influence on those who seek to regulate and measure our business.  We can assist in raising the profile, not just of our profession, but of our organisations and the sectors in which we work.  We can help share success stories, internally and externally and have a role to play in helping our colleagues interpret, and maximise, internally generated knowledge.  We can help our organisations mitigate information risk and maximise information value.

Even against the backdrop of a challenging business landscape, the conversation was positive and energised.  In hard times, we are the ‘good fairies’ of our organisations – our good deeds bring business benefits!

Suzanne from Sue Hill Recruitment has also blogged about this event.  Click here for her review.

The cultured traveller in Europe

Thanks to Library Stuff for highlighting this article in the New York Times written with the ‘cultured traveller’ in mind.  Readers are recommended to visit European city libraries because they offer ‘respite’ from the crowds.  Hopefully this is not a euphemistic way of saying they are underused.

Libraries recommended include the Austrian National Library in Vienna and the Strahov Monastery and Library in Prague.  If you feel your European library could benefit from cultured visitors from overseas, why not add in your own recommendations in the comments field on the New York Times website?  And share your suggestions here too!

How to maximise the impact of a conference

Have you have ever attended – or even organised – an event and felt concerned that the energy and learnings are quickly lost as delegates are dispersed and return to their ‘day jobs’?

The Library and Information Science Research Coalition has just published a post on the DREaM project launch event that was held at the British Library in July.  The post pulls together all the blog posts written (fourteen so far!); photographs of the event; video interviews with delegates; and links to the archived social media coverage including a summary of the Twitter activity.  Presentations from the event are also available.

The post shows the highly participative and interactive nature of the event and captures the energy of the day.  It’s a great example of how to extend the impact of conference, beyond its time frame and its attending delegates.