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Students – earning less, owing more

Two bad news stories for students have emerged this month.

A report (‘Payback Time’) published by the Sutton Trust in the UK, sets out to analyse the impact of recent changes to student loans and fees.  Under the new regime, under which tuition fees rose to a maximum of £9,000 a year, students will leave university with almost £20,000 more debt on average than under the previous system.

The report concludes that most students will still be paying back their loans into their 40s and 50s.  Many will never clear their debts.  The study uses the example of an ‘average teacher’, who would still be paying back the student loan into their early 50s.

Meanwhile, as the cost of an education increases, the value of a degree is declining.

According to research by The Complete University Guide, over the last five years, the value of a degree has declined by up to a third.  Researches analysed data based on graduate employment and earnings six months after leaving university.   They found that the average starting salary for graduates in professional employment dropped by 11 per cent in real terms between 2007 and 2012.

However, some degree courses, including librarianship and information management, have bucked the trend.

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Sharing, collaboration and getting it wrong

There’s nothing like a headline telling you you’ve got it wrong to make you read on. 

An article on written by a data analytics expert tells us ‘What [we] think [we] know about the Web is wrong’ – or at least when it comes to measuring ‘clicks’.  Actually most of us already know there is a massive difference between what people share and what they have actually read, or what people click and what they read.  For information professionals, who act as curators for many audiences, clicking and sharing appropriately (or “delving deep into multiple pots of data and information*” is a critical skill.

The article shares some interesting statistics:

  • 55% of those who click on a link spend 15 seconds or less reviewing the screen (lesson – grab your visitors quickly)
  • Content sharers are a small percentage of content visitors – one tweet per 100 visitors/readers

…and is worth reading for longer than 15 seconds.

On SocialMediaToday, another headline suggests we’ve got social media ‘all wrong’.  It’s a brief overview of how social media supports search engine optimisation and reminds us that customers don’t owe brands anything “They don’t have to share your content, they don’t have to interact with posts and they certainly don’t have to suggest your page to other people.”

Collaboration goes mainstream in the sharing economy

Regular readers of this blog may remember a New York Times Insight report about the ‘psychology of sharing’.  A new report has looked at ‘sharers’ in Canada, the UK and US and has organised those participating in the sharing economy into three types:

  • Neo-Sharers are those who have used sharing services such as Etsy**, Kickstarter or Airbnb at least once in the past year
  • Re-Sharers – are those who are already using well-established services (eBay etc) but are not yet ‘Neos’
  • Non-Sharers are those with intentions to use sharing services in the next year

Neo- and re-sharers constitute about 40% of the US and Canadian populations and about 50% of the UK population.

Sharers are more likely to be affluent, young and are much more likely to discover services via word of mouth, social networks or blogs than from ‘traditional’ marketing.

*Andy Tattersall writing about overload filters.

** We featured ‘the Etsy economy’ here.



Europe: competitiveness and innovation

Europe has a reputation as being unfriendly to innovators – but is this fact or perception?

International business school INSEAD set out to uncover the truth.  First, as part of INSEAD’s European Competitive Initiative, it surveyed 1300 business leaders around the world to find out what they felt about the current state of innovation and entrepreneurship in Europe.  Staggeringly, only 2% of the respondents disagreed with the statement “Europe’s innovation is hampered by a lack of culture of innovation and entrepreneurship”.

However, this was not because of a lack of quality people.  Most of those surveyed lay the blame firmly with European governments and institutions.  This negative view was held particularly strongly by non-Europeans.  When asked how they felt about the future of Europe, high percentages expressed concern or worry:

  • 83% of Latin American respondents
  • 74% of BRIC country respondents
  • 65% Asian country respondents
  • 60% of African respondents

That survey deals with perceptions of innovation in Europe.  But what does the data say?  In fact surveys and data from INSEAD and other institutions including the World Economic Forum paint a different picture.

The Global Innovation Index places six European countries in the top ten (in descending order Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Netherlands and the UK).  In fact, when the 2011 scores are aggregated across regions, Europe scores equally with North America.

Europe scores well in The World Economic Forum Global Information Technology Report 2013 – particularly the Nordic countries and the UK.

Europe certainly has some work to do to change the perception of it as being unfriendly to innovators and entrepreneurs.

INSEAD’s European Competitiveness Initiative hopes to help business leaders in Europe by disseminating research, best practice and lessons learned.


‘Convergence is King’ in the new information industry

In the new information industry, neither content nor technology is king.  It is the unique combination of both which is driving the sector.

With the start of a new year comes a flurry of reports and posts predicting emerging trends for the year ahead.

One of the most interesting to emerge so far is Outsell’s Information Industry Outlook 2014 report.  Last year, Outsell explored the theme ‘the new normal’ (which was the key theme for Internet Librarian International in 2011).  This year’s report, ‘Convergence Now!’ explores new partnerships and the creation of new information products that bring together community and commerce.

The report explores an information industry that includes both the ‘traditional’ (e.g. news and yellow pages, both of which are declining) and new players.  Growth information sectors include educational technology, health IT and marketing services.

Convergence – key trends

  • New partners, new competition – industry leaders such as Thomson Reuters and Reed Elsevier are partnering and competing with for example IBM, Deloitte, Oracle
  • No more ‘mobile’ or ‘digital’ - a new focus on cross-media approaches mean these words will gradually disappear and we will be offering simply ‘services’ or ‘strategy’
  • New solutions – combining content, software, community and commerce to create platforms that support workflow
  • Face-to-face – at the same time in-person events which offer ‘extended engagement’ are a strong market
  • EdTech – the move to digital will not be rapid but will continue.  A hybrid model market will continue for years
  •  STM – Open Science is ‘here to stay’ – bringing threats and opportunities to the industry

As usual, the report concludes with a list of companies to watch over the next year.  These include big established players, such as Amazon and Elsevier, but a number of new players working in the content market.  Examples include, a non-profit offering ‘open annotation’.

The report is free to download from Outsell.

Selfie is the word of the year

“Is this a selfie which I see before me,
The angle toward my hand? Come, let me tweet thee*”

Oxford Dictionaries have announced that their word of the year for 2013 is ‘selfie’.

Over the course of the year, the frequency of the usage of the word selfie (the act of taking a self-portrait) has increased by 17,000%. Several spin-off terms have also emerged, including ‘drelfe’ (a drunken selfie) and ‘welfie’ (a workout selfie).

Once again the word of the year showcases technological and social trends that impact the general consciousness.  (Last year’s words of the year included ‘omnishambles’ and ‘hashtag’.)

Other words shortlisted in 2013 include bitcoin, showrooming and <shudder> twerk.

In the Netherlands Participatiesamenleving – ‘participation society’ – has been named as the word of the year.  One of the runner-up words was socialbesitas – ‘addiction to social media’ – a word which some of us would find useful – and apt!

The German slang word of the year is ‘babo’. It derives from a Turkish word meaning boss or chief.

Selfies – selfish or ‘another way to connect’?

According to mobileYouth, 48% of the photographs posted by UK teenagers to Instragram are selfies.  Graham Brown’s slideshare presentation challenges us to look beyond the surface ‘narcissism’ of the selfie and encourages us to think of it – like Blipfoto – as ‘ordinary people doing ordinary things’.

The Oxford University Press blog explores the history of the self portrait – from early daguerrotypes onwards and *Alice Northover has rewritten Shakespeare for the selfie generation.

Finally, here’s a wonderful selfie image, taken by Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the last Czar of Russia.  One hundred years ago.

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Public access to ICT: Another reason why libraries matter!

The Technology and Social Change Group of the University of Washington’s Library School published its report of the five-year project exploring the impact of public access to ICT around the world.

The results show the impact that public libraries and cybercafés have when it comes to promoting digital inclusion and the development of ICT skills, particularly for marginalised populations.

Public access facilities bridge a number of digital divides.  They broaden access to both ICT infrastructure and to information resources.  For over half the users surveyed, libraries and cybercafés provided their very first contact with computers or the internet.  For over a third, they continued to be the only source of access to the internet.

The importance of empathy

The researchers explored in depth the role of ‘infomediaries’ to users in Bangladesh, Chile and Lithuania.  The findings showed that the ability of infomediaries to empathise with users is just as important as their technical skills.  This included giving them confidence to learn and to understand often unexpressed or unformed needs.

In-depth research amongst teenagers in Cape Town, South Africa showed that mobile phone internet access and public access computers were no substitutes for each other.  Indeed, interviewees had very often developed elaborate practices which combined the use of public access and personal devices.  The evidence shows that public access is not obsolete, even as mobile device ownership is growing.  They continued to use public access for help from staff and simply to ‘be alone together’ – a trend which is also emerging in newly designed academic libraries.


At a policy level the report calls for continuing support for public access to ICT, maximising the use of existing infrastructure.

Librarians should:

  • adopt a flexible approach to rules such as limiting time spent on machines or noise levels
  • be flexible to emerging needs.
  • embrace the mobile revolution
  • pay attention to venue design
  • focus on content awareness and market their resources

The full report is available for download here.

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MOOCs and librarians – fulfilling the potential

Recent OECD research measured the literacy, numeracy and information skills of adults in 24 countries.  The results show how the divide between those who have skills and those who do not can be perpetuated.  Those with lower skills can be excluded from the job market altogether, or stuck in low paid work.  They can also be excluded from other aspects of society.  However, those who have already achieved high levels of education are much more likely to continue to develop their skills throughout their lives.

Statistics also show that the vast majority of those engaging with MOOCs already have some form of degree.  There is no evidence that education is ‘opening up’ – as yet.

MOOCs and universities

MOOCs have the potential to transform the ways in which people participate in higher education or develop their skills.  For universities they offer new ways for people to engage with the institution (whether virtually, or in real life).  A MOOC can be a shop window for the institution, enhancing its reputation and reaching out to new audiences.   MOOCs have the potential to transform the way that people learn – and teach.   At a lively pre-conference workshop at Internet Librarian International delegates heard from those who had created, taught or been a learner – and considered the potential for librarians to contribute to the success of MOOCs.

Learners and MOOCs

The current statistics show that the announcement of a MOOC generates a great deal of interest but that engagement begins to tail off by week two.  Average completion rates are approximately 7-10%.  However, these rates should not been seen as a failure.  Participants do not need to have completed the entire course to have benefited from the process.

Jo Alcock, an academic librarian, gave an interesting account of her experiences as a MOOC learner on two courses.   With one course she chose a basic track which involved 2-3 hours of work per week for ten weeks with a final multiple choice exam.  She declined the option to pay a sum for more advanced material.  For the other course she was much more engaged – participating for 8-10 hours per week for six weeks.  Reading was released for the course and she undertook weekly assignments which were graded using a peer review process.  The peer review process was incredibly rich and valuable – both as a reviewer and being reviewed.

Lessons learned so far

  • MOOCs represent a new model for education – one which is lifelong rather than something we intersect with periodically
  • It is possible to be a student, a mentor and a teacher simultaneously
  • Creating a MOOC involves so much more than simply making learning materials available online
  • Libraries and librarians should ‘knock on doors’ and get involved asap
  • Invite yourself to every meeting you hear about!
  • MOOCs are a great opportunity for librarians – they are truly ‘public’ schools!

Opportunities for librarians

  • Helping learners develop their digital skills – with a view to widening participation
  • Facilitating and moderating peer support processes
  • Helping to make connections with OA resources and repositories
  • Copyright and data protection

Speakers at the workshop: Ben Showers, David Lankes; Gavin Beattie; Claire Beecroft; Andy Tattersall; Jo Alcock.

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Tablets and TV – media consumption in the home

The average UK household now owns more than three types of internet-enabled devices and tablet ownership has more than doubled in the last year.  Over 50% of adults in the UK now own a smartphone.  These trends are impacting how the population consumes and interacts with digital media.

Ofcom, the UK’s communications industries regulator, has released its latest Communications Market Report, providing a snapshot of changing media behaviour in UK households.

Tablet devices

  • 24% of households now own a tablet computer.
  • 95% use it at least once a week; two thirds use it every day
  • 9% of households own more than one tablet device
  • Half of tablet owners say “they couldn’t live without them”
  • A third of them use their tablets as their main way of connecting to the internet
  • Half of tablet users have downloaded one or more TV apps

Changes in TV viewing

The growth of tablet ownership is driving the trend of ‘second screening’:

  • 22% of households with a tablet use it to watch different content in the same room all or most of the time
  • More adults are watching TV on their main set than a decade ago (91% up from 88% in 2002)
  • 53% of UK adults are ‘media multi-tasking’ while watching TV
  • 25% are ‘media meshing’ while watching TV – this includes texting about what they are watching; tweeting or using apps to communicate directly with programmes
  • 49% are using devices to undertake unrelated tasks while watching TV – anything from online shopping to social networking
  • The number of TVs per household is in decline – but the screens are getting bigger

Teens texting less

  • 84% of 16-24 year olds use at least one form of web-based communication (email; instant messaging; social media) every week
  • 80% of them are texting at least every week
  • Social networking is now the most popular form of web-based communication

The report also covers growth rates in superfast broadband; household spend on media and communications; radio and TV industry revenues and online shopping.

You can download the report here.


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Twitter: from communication to content

In 2010, Twitter positioned itself as “a network powered by people … around the world… that lets you share and discover what’s happening now”.  By 2012 this had shifted to “a real-time information network that connects you to the latest stories, ideas, opinions…” and advises users to “follow the conversations” and states you don’t have to tweet to gain value from Twitter.

A study of 2500 non-commercial Twitter users sets out to discover how they are using Twitter and what motivates them to share content in an attempt to predict how Twitter will continue to evolve.  The authors (Olivier Toubia, Columbia Business School and Andrew T. Stephen, University of Pittsburgh) selected users at random and increased the number of their followers by using synthetic accounts.  They noticed that as the number of followers increased, account holders would increase the number of times they posted.  However this activity would slow down once a certain number of followers was reached.  They conclude that the profile of Twitter itself will continue to evolve from a communications vehicle to a content delivery vehicle.


  • Fewer ‘everyday’ people – the authors predict a slowdown of activity from ‘normal’ users and a continued increase in commercial and celebrity activity.
  • Twitter will shift from a communications vehicle to a content delivery vehicle
  • The value non-commercial users get from Twitter will shift away from the production of content to the consumption of [commercial] content
  • First are likely to derive more value from Twitter by using it as a media channel to broadcast content to consumers rather than as a viral marketing platform

Originally published in Marketing Science, Intrinsic versus Image-Related Motivations in Social Media: Why do People Contribute to Twitter? was written by Olivier Toubia, Columbia Business School and Andrew T. Stephen, University of Pittsburgh. Download the full report.

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Measuring the digital economy

Research suggests the government is seriously underestimating the size of the UK’s digital economy.

A report by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) commissioned by Google sets out to establish the true size of the UK’s digital economy.  The UK government has been using industry classification codes (SICs) to estimate that there are approximately 120,000 digital economy companies in the UK.  However, the NIESR research suggests that this figure is far too conservative.  Its own lowest estimate is 270,000.making digital businesses 14.4% of the total number of businesses in the UK (the government estimates 10%).

The report calls for improved measurement of the UK’s digital economy.  By switching from SIC-based models to measures derived from big data, the country could gain a richer picture of the digital economy.  Using this type of data for example would show that the digital economy’s share of jobs in the UK is 11%, not the 5% currently stated by government measures.  Other interesting findings derived from this type of rich analysis include the fact that the digital economy is not made up mostly of start-ups but that companies in this area have roughly the same average age as other companies.  Digital economy companies employ more people on average than other companies and are reporting faster growth rates.


The challenge of measuring aspects of the digital economy is being addressed by the EU, which in May 2013 announced it is launching a project to measure the size of Europe’s ‘app economy’.  According to David Dean of The Boston Consulting Group (speaking at a European Internet Forum dinner) Europe is already a winner in the digital economy.  He estimates that Europe’s internet economy will be worth 1 trillion Euros by 2016.

However some European countries are lagging behind and there are several countries catching up on Europe as digital economies, including Mexico, South Africa and Indonesia.