e-content and e-reading

Is our long history with writing for and reading print on paper affecting the way we create and publish content on digital and connected devices?  Are many of us still struggling to ‘forget the paper paradigm’?

The increased ownership of mobile and smart devices means we are already adapting our content publishing processes and there will be even more change in the future - wearable devices; smart TVs; speech-based interfaces let alone new devices and channels we haven’t even begun to imagine!

Content breaks free!

In a fascinating post for Harvard Business Review, Karen McGrane explores the new models we should be using to help us move on from the print-focused content.  Her advice includes:

  • Stop thinking about ‘pages’  - focus on content ‘chunks’
  • Content ‘chunks’ can be  assembled in different ways for different channels
  • Don’t focus only on text - the new content is a mixture of graphics, video and interactivity
  • Because content presentation will change with each platform, content must be separated from ‘form’
  • Content creators need to understand how digital publishing is different from print

e-books vs. paper – a blending of the best

The growth in e-book adoption and innovation has been well recorded here and elsewhere.  Several initiatives are looking to take the best of these different reading experiences to enhance the user’s experience.  Springwise has noted the launch of the Booke app which sets out to combine the best of paper and digital reading.

The app allows readers of a physical book to upload a picture of the front cover (or the ISBN) and search for keywords (using typed or spoken commands); save comments, notes and sections of text and share their activity with others.

The app reflects several key trends in reading including social/shared reading.

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Wearable technology and apps

Google Glass may have been garnering many column inches recently but wearable technology and apps are still relatively niche products.  18% of the 4,000 adults in the US and UK who participated in research (conducted by Rackspace and the Centre for Creative and Social Technology at Goldsmiths, University of London), reported using a wearable app – mainly for fitness or sleep monitoring.  In other research, (this time by Forrester) only 6% of online adults in the US report using a wearable device to monitor their sports performance.

However, those that were using such wearable apps were happy with their performance.  According to the Rackspace research, 82% of US respondents and 71% of UK respondents felt that the apps had made a positive impact on their lives.

The same research also suggests privacy issues were a concern for roughly one half of the respondents, although a significant minority expressed no concerns about some data and information sharing.  This included wearing devices that linked directly with healthcare providers.  Privacy concerns arise mainly from the fact that wearable apps are directly linked to cloud services.

Another piece of research suggests that the potential global market for smart glasses could reach 10 million units by 2016.  Growth will depend on what developers are making available.  This will included augmented reality apps that can easily integrate into other tools.

The future of wearables

In the late 1990s I heard a technologies futurist speak about the future of consumer goods. He predicted ‘intelligent shampoo bottles’ which collected usage data to provide feedback to the manufacturer.  The bottles would also know how often we were shampooing our hair and would send you a message when you needed to buy more. The speaker was predicting the internet of things and the power of data, sharable via portable devices.

In the same way that apps helped grow the adoption of smartphones, apps are key to the successful future of wearable technology.  Third party developers will enhance the performance of the technology.  Big name developers such as Twitter, Facebook and the New York Times are working to develop apps for Google Glass. Apple too will be seeking to replicate the success of iPhone aps and will work with its community of developers to do so.

We can look forward to contact lenses with Google Glass features; smart watches; smart textiles and much more.  Cosnumers are already predicting uses for wearables which go beyond the existing fitness applications.  44% of those who participated in Forrester research said they’d be interested in devices whch would unlock their homes and cars.  30% said they’d like a device to make media recommendations based on mood.  29% said they’d be interested in devices that tracked their children!

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Multiscreen and mobile

A global study of 15,000 mobile web users in 14 countries* explored how consumers are interacting with visual content across a variety of devices.  The report outlines opportunities for businesses and marketers to connect with consumers in new ways.

Key findings:

  • 62% of mobile web users engage in multiscreen activities while viewing TV
  • 48% use social media
  • 46% use instant messaging
  • 30% play games or listen to music
  • 18% search for additional information about the products seen on TV
  • News, comedy, sports and reality programmes generated the most multiscreen time

Lessons from marketers

  • Incentivise engagement – reward viewers for viewing content
  • Gamify – engage with users across multiscreen platforms
  • Generate social conversation with hashtags
  • Create transmedia opportunities
  • Know your audience – understand on which channels/tools they are most active and encourage engagement
  • Simplicity – make calls to action uncomplicated
  • Relevance – increase engagement with appropriate messages at the appropriate time
  • Re-engage – social conversations should not be one-offs

* 15,000 mobile users from Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, Korea, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa, Singapore, UK, US were surveyed by InMobi.

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Enlightened enterprise – the Etsy economy

The CEO of Etsy believes business should be conducted as if people and place matter.

Etsy is an online global marketplace and community of 900,000 creative people around the world.  The focus is on handmade, artisan and vintage crafts and goods.  Etsy is now a $1billion company – 96.5% of the sales revenues are retained by the producers.  Etsy’s success is dependent on the success of its community.

It’s easy to see the harm that commercial activity can have on the world – environmental damage, the human tragedies of factory fires, child labour and poverty.  But Chad Dickerson, CEO of Etsy is an optimist.  He believes that people centred business can be profitable and create social good.  On an individual level, the success of microbusinesses on the Etsy platform means that hundreds of thousands of individuals are making a living doing something they love, working flexibly, and integrating family life with work.  They are making a life, not just a living.

The power of community

There are self-organised Etsy communities all around the globe.  Groups of people come together in cities, towns and across borders to trade tips, collaborate, support each other and join forces to buy supplies.  In Italy, a community decided they wanted Etsy’s site to be available in Italian.  Working with Etsy, the community co-created an Italian site in a couple of weeks and this process is being replicated in other countries.

In Rockford Illinois the Mayor tweeted about the potential value of an ‘Etsy economy’ for the economically challenged town.  Within 24 hours, Dickerson had replied to the Mayor and the local Etsy community had also made contact.  Working with other local community leaders, a curriculum has been created to help local people develop and run successful Etsy businesses.  Existing human capital and knowledge have been leveraged in a new way and an online community became a ‘real-world’ team.

Making human-centred business work

It’s easy to say you are a human-centred, values driven organisation but how do you measure it?  Etsy joined the growing B-Corporation movement which provides an independent assessment of how business measure up as forces for social good.  Businesses are measured on everything from their provisions for workers (Etsy has conducted a happiness audit of its employees) to their environmental impact.  Etsy barely made the grade – yet Dickerson celebrates this.  The process has identified deficiencies and has helped them set a challenging target – to move from the barely scraped pass-mark of 80% to 100% in two years.

Chad Dickerson was speaking at the RSA in London.

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BYOD – latest trends and predictions

Two new reports on the impact of BYOD on business and individuals have appeared this month.

BYOD strategies enable employees to use their own devices to access data and enterprise applications. Although security issues still cause concern for many organisations, BYOD can improve employee satisfaction, encourage innovation and reduce organisational costs.

Gartner’s latest report on the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon reveals continued growth in the trend.  Gartner surveyed global Chief Information Officers asking them about their attitudes to the provision of mobile devices for employees.

Key findings 

  • BYOD most prevalent in medium-sized organisations (2,500–5000 employees)
  • US companies are twice as likely as European companies to allow BYOD
  • By 2016 38% of companies will not provide mobile devices to employees
  • Full employee reimbursement for costs will decline

With the likely decrease of organisations subsidising the purchase of devices, Gartner says that organisations need to ensure employees are given guidelines on the best possible devices for work.  When it comes to phones, employers should not subsidise the purchase of the device but should contribute to the service plan.

Employee time savings

Meanwhile, Cisco has published a report on the value of BYOD to companies in six countries (Brazil, China, Germany, India, the UK and the US).  Of the companies surveyed, 89% are already allowing BYOD.  According to Cisco, employees estimate they are saving an average of 37 minutes of productive work a week, although the figures for different countries vary wildly (81 minutes per week for the US; 4 minutes per week in Germany).

Making it work

Organisations need to ensure their workforce has the right skills, backed up by mobile and BYOD company strategies and guidelines.

See original Gartner press release.  See the Cisco report.

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Measuring the value of the British Library

Measuring the value of the British Library

Oxford Economics has published a report evaluating the economic value of the British Library.  The researchers used a benefit cost analysis (or BCA) to determine the economic value of the Library to the UK and globally.

The British Library houses 150 million items, including treasures such as Da Vinci’s Notebook, and is visited by 1.5 million people every year.  The Library is a centre of learning and research and provides document supply services, events and exhibitions as well as a full range of educational services.  The report analyses each aspect of the Library’s services and products, including its web services.

Key findings

  • Value to UK society – a benefit cost ratio (BCR) of 4.9 = a value of £4.9 for every £1 spent (up from 4.4 in 2003)
  • The Library generates a net economic value of £419m to UK society
  • Value to global society – a BCR of 5.1
  • Valuation of the Library’s Reading Rooms = £70 million per annum, including over £20 million for the Business & IP Centre (BIPC).
  • The Library’s web services are valued at £19.5 million per annum.
  • Assessment of the value the Library contributes to the Higher Education sector thorough operation of the UK Research Reserve (£5.4 million per annum).

The full pdf report can be downloaded here.

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Cities of opportunity – what makes a city ‘great’?

What makes a city great?  How can cities thrive economically and yet remain liveable?

PwC and the Partnership for New York City have published the latest edition of Cities of Opportunity, a report which analyses the performance of 27 of the world’s cities against ten broad social, economic and technological indicators.  As well as analysing the current situation, the report also looks forward to 2025 to consider future scenarios and key success factors.

The cities analysed in the report currently account for 8% of world GDP but are home to only 2.5% of the world population.

Healthy growth in a city relies on a combination of ‘quality of life’ factors (good education opportunities; healthcare; safety and housing) combined with strong business and solid infrastructure.

The ten indicators used by PwC:

  • City gateway
  • Cost
  • Demographics and liveability
  • Economic clout
  • Ease of doing business
  • Health, safety and security
  • Intellectual capital and innovation
  • Sustainability and the natural environment
  • Technology readiness
  • Transportation and infrastructure

Intellectual capital and innovation

Innovation generates both social and economic growth.  In order to measure each city’s performance a number of factors are considered and scored to create a league table.  These factors include average class size, maths, science skills attainment, literacy rates and percentage of population who receive a higher education.

Also included are:

  • Intellectual property protection (Singapore scores top points)
  • Research performance at top universities (London rates highest – and three Asian cities appear in the top ten)
  • Libraries with public access (Stockholm scores highest)

The key measures of ‘Technology readiness’ include:

  • Internet access in schools and Digital economy score (Stockholm is top in both of these)
  • Broadband quality
  • Software development

The report features case studies on a number of cities and is available for download here.

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Is Higher Education value for money?

The UK’s Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and the consumer organisation Which? has published the 2013 survey of the student academic experience at English universities.

The first survey, in 2006, coincided with the introduction of HE fees and the surveys aim to discover whether students are getting a ‘better’ academic experience in the light of increased fees.  The report concludes that there is “no apparent relationship between the fees students are being charged and what they receive”.

Background

  • Although students are paying more, universities themselves are not receiving additional money – student fees are simply filling the gap left by reduced centralised government funding.
  • Student fees trebled in 2012.  The average fee charged is now £8500+
  • Contact with academic staff has hardly increased, despite higher fees
  • Diverse student experience in terms of teaching format and contact hours and the perceived gap in helpful upfront information to help students choose the appropriate course

Key findings – choosing the right university

  • 32% of students might have chosen a different course if they had known what they know now
  • 21% of students thought information provided by their institutions was ‘vague’; 9% thought it was ‘misleading’
  • 29% of first year students think their course is ‘poor value for money’

Student workload

  • The average weekly workload is 30 hours per week
  • Women and mature students study more than men
  • 14% of the 10,000 students who said their course was worse than they expected said the course had not been challenging enough

Contact time

  • No significant change in the amount of contact time or proportion of small group teaching
  • Students paying less than £8000 received same amount of contact time as those paying more
  • Other factors important to students include their satisfaction with the quality of teaching as well as they amount of face-to-face time
  • Significant differences in contact time between subject areas and institutions
  • Students recognise the importance of small group teaching and the amount they receive contributes to their satisfaction levels
  • Contact time has risen by just 20 minutes per week since 2006

The report is available for free download from the HEPI website.

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Children and apps

Apps for and used by children have been in the news recently.

In the UK a five year old managed to run up a bill of £1,710.43 in paid for add-ons for a game which he had downloaded free from Apple’s app store.  He was using his parent’s iPad (with permission) to download and play Zombie v Ninja.  The UK’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is to investigate the ‘free app/paid for features’ marketplace.

More than two thirds of children and teenagers in the UK own a smart device.  According to a survey conducted in the UK by OnePoll, 36% of children aged 11-16 download mobile apps without their parents’ permission.  40% of boys admitted to having done this, compared with 31% of girls.

The survey also found that youngsters can increase their families’ monthly charge by an average of £34.  The highest bills were generated by eight-year olds!  The researchers estimate that parents are incurring approximately £30 million in ‘unauthorised’ purchases.

In Australia the Cartoon Network researched the media habits of 1800 children and discovered that game playing and video watching  (rather than social media) are their main internet pastimes.  They research also found that:

  • 48% of Australian homes have a tablet device
  • 30% of children use tablets to access the internet
  • 69% of children aged 4-14 use apps , and use an average of 7 per month
  • 32% drop in game console usage since previous survey in 2011

(These findings are echoed by a recent report from the US showing how teenagers are leaving ‘traditional’ social media sites in favour of alternatives.)

Developing apps for children – “tappable apps”

At a recent conference for developers of educational apps for children, three key challenges were identified:

  • Working within appropriate privacy guidelines
  • The challenge of obtaining feedback from ‘non-verbal’ young children
  • The challenge of identifying compelling content for young people

The conclusion – make the apps as “tappable, responsive, and interruptive” as possible.

Best content for children in Europe

The EC has just launched the second European Award for Best Content for Kids,  looking for ‘positive content initiatives’ across the region.

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Tools for competitive intelligence

Miniera, the Spanish consulting company, has surveyed 149 competitive intelligence (CI) practitioners in Europe, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean to discover what software tools they use to support their work; how they are using open and paid for sources and what devices they are using to access this information.

The survey found that CI practitioners are using a variety of software tools including cloud-based software, content management, databases, office packages and visualisation tools.

Key findings

  • 67% are using free tools; 53% use commercial tools; 26% use a mixture
  • Searching dominates CI practice, with 48% saying they are searching ‘constantly’ as part of the information gathering process
  • 32% say they are ‘constantly’ using the tools to filter and receive alerts
  • PCs are the most used devices (78%);mobile and tablets lag behind (the report is unclear on the reasons for this but suggests this may be due to a lack of appropriate apps)

Commercial or free?

The most frequently used commercial tools named include: LexisNexis, SharePoint, Salesforce, Intelligence Suite, Excel, Bloomberg, Factiva and Yammer.  Those that are using commercial software tools are looking for features that can support several steps in the intelligence circle.  These people are much more likely to be senior level/CI Directors.  The report features a wordcloud showing the most popular commercial tools.

Of the 67% using only free tools, the most frequently used include Google, Google Alerts, Google Reader, RSS, LinkedIn, Twitter and Dropbox.  Europeans are much more likely to only use free tools (48%) than North Americans (25%). Analysts are much more likely to rely on free tools than senior level analysts.

The report is available in English and Spanish.

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