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The second digital revolution

New information seeking behaviours mean libraries and publishers have to change.

People are increasingly creating and consuming information on the move.  This, combined with the growth of cloud-based products and services, is challenging the traditional workplace environment and opening up new opportunities for agile working, personal development and how we spend our leisure time.  The first digital revolution took place in fixed space – in the office, the home and the library.  But the second digital revolution is taking place on the move – and this has enormous implications for the continued existence of libraries and for publishers of information.

These are the conclusions of David Nicholas of the pan-Europe research organisation CIBER.  He explained how he had come to these conclusions at the latest NetIKX meeting held in London.  He described how he and his colleagues use technology to record millions of digital footprints and how this provides high-value insights into how people really interact with information.

He describes a world in which ‘horizontal’ information seeking (shallow and skimming) has become much more important than ‘vertical/deep’ activity. Users are bouncing around, clicking on hyperlinks that discourage deep engagement.  They are hyperactive (looking at one page before moving on); unsophisticated searchers and generally ‘promiscuous’ – 40% will never return to the webpage.

CIBER has conducted research on the Europeana website. As far back as 2010, their research outputs described the critical importance of the visual and the moving image to users.  The latest Europeana figures show that mobile access to the site is growing five times as fast as from fixed devices.  Mobile users are ‘information-lite’ users – they use abbreviated search and spend less time on the site.  They are seeking immediate answers.  Peak mobile access is happening at the weekends and evenings.

For the younger generation in particular, mobile devices are trusted ‘complete’ sources of information – in contrast to libraries which they view as ‘incomplete’. Conditioned by texting they have a ‘fast food’ attitude to information.  Mobiles provide access to everyone anywhere and OA models are simply increasing the information haul.

Libraries need to articulate the value and rationale for their collections in the borderless information landscape.  They need to emphasise their capacity for quality control and assurance in a ‘fast food’ world.

David Nicholas was speaking at NetIKX. The second speaker was Max Whitby of the innovative app publisher Touch Press.  His presentation, showcasing the innovative content of best-selling apps, highlighted that clever publishers can create content that meets the needs of both vertical and horizontal searchers.  Rob Rosset has written about his presentation on the NetIKX blog here.

NetiKX has also written about David Nicholas’ presentation here.  You can find out more about NetIKX here.


Grumpy Cat and twerking – popular search terms of 2013

Winners this year include Prince George (the new royal baby), the iPhone 5  and twerking.

US searches

The US top ten of Yahoo search terms is the usual reassuring mix of celebrities (Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber), technology (iPhone 5) and gaming (Minecraft).  For expert editorial analysis you can do no better than Ron Burgundy’s explanatory video available on the Yahoo website.

Bing has also released its analysis of the top US search terms, showing the top tens in a range of categories including most searched for musicians, sports teams and people.  Prince George was Bing’s most searched news story in 2013.

Bing figures also include searches for social media, apps and streaming websites.

US: Pinterest , Harlem Shake and Candy Crush

  • Bing’s figures show that Pinterest has entered its top ten of social media searches for the first time this year and has taken second place, with only Facebook ahead of it.
  • Harlem  Shake was the most popular meme in 2013, followed by Grumpy Cat
  • Candy Crush was the most searched for app, beating Angry Birds into second place

UK Bing searches

  • Twitter has replaced YouTube as the UK’s most searched for social media site
  • Facebook takes fourth place, behind LinkedIn and Skype

Meanwhile, YouTube has released its top trending videos for 2013.  Norway’s The Fox takes top spot, followed by the original Harlem Shake.

Twitter has also released its 2013 review, including this wonderful month-by-month breakdown of top news hashtags and photographs from people on the spot.

The Google top search terms are expected to be released later this year.

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]

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.

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]

Mobile search: creating moments that matter

The majority of people who use mobile search to find information on consumer items and services have every intention of making a purchase.  In a study (by Nielsen and Google) researchers found that three out of every four searches trigger some sort of follow up action, including further research or a purchasing decision.

Over 400 participants logged their mobile searches over a two week period in Q4 of 2012 and were asked follow up questions by the researchers.

Key findings

  • 73% of mobile searches trigger additional actions
  • 17% of mobile searches occur ‘on the move’; 2% occur in-store
  • 81% of mobile searches are driven by speed and convenience, even when people are at home with access to other devices

Next steps after mobile search

On average each mobile search triggers 1.89 additional actions.  Of the 73% of mobile searchers who carry out follow up activities:

  • 36% went on to perform additional research
  • 25% visited a retailers website
  • 18% shared the information
  • 17% made a purchase

The research also discovered that when people use mobile search they are:

  • 57% more likely to visit a store
  • 51% more likely to make a purchase
  • 39% more likely to call a business
  • 30% more likely to visit a website

Mobile search triggers rapid activity

One of the most striking findings in the research is the speed of follow up activity.

  • 55% of conversions occur within one hour of the original mobile search
  • 85% of all follow up actions occur within five hours of the original search

The report can be accessed here: Mobile search: creating moments that matter.

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]

Dealing with mission impossible – a publishing case study

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) disseminates scientific information in the interdisciplinary fields of geophysics.  With over 60,000 members worldwide, the AGU publishes books, research journals, newspapers and other scientific periodicals.

In 2012 the AGU announced a publishing partnership with Wiley.  And in September 2012 Freddie Quek, Director of Engineering for Wiley, was given four months to integrate the AGU content onto a single Wiley platform.  He shared his story of coping with this ‘mission impossible’ with delegates at the Association of Subscription Agents conference in London.


By 2nd January 2013

  • Start revenue earning
  • Ensure systems ready to support entire content chain
  • Ensure system works in a familiar way for all AGU customers
  • Give AGU customers access to all licensed content


  • 17 systems to check
  • Non-standard content formats (one publication had no page numbers; one journal had seven parts – three of which had sub-parts)
  • Over 700 special sections of content
  • What to do about unique identifiers; new ISSNs required
  • Unknown unknowns!
  • Ensuring discoverability
  • Development to start before all requirement were clear

What worked

  • Creation of a 60 day plan
  • Number one priority across the organisation – 52 people on the team
  • Sense of commitment, urgency and importance of the project
  • Rapid decision making at all levels
  • Team effort by everyone and a can-do attitude
  • Strong business lead and close cooperation

Lessons learned

  • Focus on people over process
  • Embrace the challenge
  • Break some rules
  • Be brave
  • Use your best people

Many of us will be asked to take on ‘impossible missions’ at work.  Freddie’s best advice?  Deal with it!

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.]

Multi-lingual searching

Are you searching in more than one language?

According to Greenlight’s Search and Social Media Survey more than three-quarters of online searchers are using more than one language.

Spain, Italy and Belgium top the table of multi-lingual searchers – an astonishing 100% of respondents from these countries claim to search in multiple languages.  The findings underline the relative prevalence of English language web pages.  Unsurprisingly, the mainly English-speaking countries (Canada, UK and USA) appear at the bottom of the league table.

There are some differences according to occupation too.  Those working in marketing, communications, internet and technology roles are the most likely to search in more than one language.  Those working in the hospitality sectors are the least likely.

More information is available from Greenlight.

‘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.

Google and Yahoo announce 2010 top search terms

Yahoo’s Year in Review reveals that the top 2010 search was for the BP oil spill.  This is the only news event in the top ten, with the other places being taken by a mixture of media and pop icons (Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber) and technology (the iPhone is in sixth place).  There are some interesting top tens on Yahoo’s Year in Review blog.  In a top ten of US ‘obsessions’ the political movement the Tea Party appears in 8th place, one place behind bedbugs (with the iPhone taking the number one slot).  Rather depressingly the top UK search terms were ‘lottery’ followed by ‘job centre’ and, in third place, ‘weather’.

Meanwhile, Google’s microsite Zeitgeist show the fast risers and fallers of 2010 (chatroulette and iPad are fast risers; swine flu and Susan Boyle are fast fallers).  Google Zeitgeist also has regional results.  ` In the UK, the general election dominates the top ten news searches.  In France, Cheryl Cole is number seven in the fast rising people and Super Nanny is second.  Justin Bieber seems as popular in Europe as he is in the States – he is a top people search in Sweden, France and Norway.  The Google microsite has some interesting graphics.  Using the timeline function, you can watch interest in, for example, the football World Cup, build up before and during the event.

Google’s New Search Engine Results Page Examined

Google has rolled out a major set of changes to its search engine results pages. Left-hand navigational search facets are now turned on by default. Greg Notess examines the changes in detail in today’s Infotoday NewsBreak.