Multi-Screening It in the New Millenium

Back in the day (and I mean WAY back), most households limited their “screen” time to the traditional TV box. Around the time that Video Killed the Radio Star. Not so in the new Millenium. A recent study by Google reveals that our modern screen habits encompass a variety of screens, from smartphone, to tablet, to computer to television and daily consumption usually  involves all four. And this usage is not necessarily serial – for example, most TV watchers are also using their smartphone or tablet at the same time. Multi-screen, multi-task. Interestingly, the report shows that as the screen gets larger, the amount of time spent on average on that screen is greater, with smartphones averaging 17 minutes at a time and TVs averaging 43 minutes at a time. But smartphones tend to be where activity starts, if not ends – with many users starting a task on a smartphone and then finishing it on a larger-screen device. That task can be anything from searching, to shopping, to arranging travel, to social networking to watching a video.

Companies like Google will need to take heed of these trends – in order to capture the full attention of modern screen-gazers, online services will need to further integrate their services across these properties, encouraging seamless switching from mobile app to computer to television and back again. The easier it is to manage tasks across properties, the more likely users will stay within the ecosystem. It is fascinating, to say the least. What’s going to happen when we can also access the ‘net via Google Glass or other conduits? The mind boggles.

If you are interested in the full report, check out the Scribd embed below.

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Why Are Pinterest & Instagram So Popular?

And why should you care?

Niche social networks Pinterest and Instagram have captured and maintained the attention of the tech elite and the mainstream far past the honeymoon, probationary period. And the numbers are compelling. A recent report from Experian shows that in the past year, Pinterest’s share of the social media market rose more than 5,000 percent in North America. It is a top 20 social network in North America, the United Kingdom and Singapore. Instagram’s share of the social market increased more than 17,000 percent in North America during that same period.

Why? It would be easy to point to the fact that Pinterest is full of food, design and products, which appeal to the pleasure zone for sure, but that would discount Instagram’s broader subject matter. The common feature is the image-centric nature of the content. People  respond to gorgeous images and layout. Simple design that doesn’t get in the way of the eye-candy. This is what the online world wants to see  – something pretty.

Pictures, still or moving, are the best means of engagement in an otherwise still, online world. This explains why YouTube is so popular – we would prefer to “see” than “read.” Reading is work – it leaves much to the imagination. Seeing is a more immediately gratifying experience. The image conveys information that the written word cannot.

So, why should you the lawyer, or online professional, care? Do you want to attract attention? Do you want to hold someone’s interest? Are you trying to connect online? If you have and do, then you owe it to your content to bring it alive with design and color. Pay attention to your site layout, your blog theme and your presence on visual networks. Add images, and good ones, to your blog posts. Maybe use video to give your presence some animated personality. With some creativity, you can build a presence on sites like Pinterest and Instagram for your professional interests. Pinterest boards dedicated to law firm design or courtroom illustrations. Instagram accounts with portraits of coworkers or your “shot of the day.”

The nameplate sites like Zerply, About.me, Flavors.me, and others, also understand this. That is why their templated profiles look great – they spend time on that aspect of the design because it will encourage others to spend time on the profiles hosted on the site. Why are infographics so popular? They are far more fun to look at than an encyclopedia page full of text and tables.

I will readily admit that I tend to spend more time on a site that is easier to “see” – crowded, text-heavy pages tend to turn me off. There is a reason why people are spending time on this image-centric sites. It’s worth considering them and taking a cue from their design sense while setting up your content.

Check Your 2011 Email Habits With ToutApp

Interesting. ToutApp lets you pull a report on your 2011 email habits and insights from a scan of your inbox. Tout’s main biz is email management software that assists businesses in making the most of their email efforts, by offering Email shortcuts, View/Click tracking, Scheduling and Analytics for those emails. The app requires permissions to scan your emails, calculate a set of metrics and generate the report. It purports to only look at your email headers and not content or file attachments. Once the report is generated, the data is discarded. While the report is only accessible to you, you can choose to share it with others via a secured link. Tout does advise that, while your report is secure, it may use data to create its own reports on generalized geographic trends, albeit in a completely anonymous manner. Right now, the app only works with Gmail – and you need to make sure that IMAP is enabled and that the Language setting is set to “English.” Apparently, the app will extend to other providers soon, so stay tuned.

If this interests you, then check out the explanatory video below.

Digital Omnivores & How They Are Changing Consumption

Very interesting report from comScore, published this month, entitled Digital Omnivores: How Tablets, Smartphones and Connected Devices are Changing U.S. Digital Media Consumption Habits. If you hadn’t already figured out that mobile / tablet usage was driving the Internet, this report should fully inform of that fact. Digital omnivores is the term comScore uses to distinguish modern consumers of a vast variety of digital content across a number of different devices from traditional users who interact solely with their desktop or laptop computer. Contrary to the impression created by the title, the report discusses device usage in markets other than the U.S. Across the markets queried, web traffic from non-computer devices ranged from 5 to over 7%. Devices include mobile phones, tablets, gaming consoles and media players.

There are many interesting findings, and I encourage you to peruse the report. I found particularly interesting the fact that the iOS platform has the largest share of connected devices and smartphones in use in the U.S. and accounts for the largest share of Internet traffic in the U.S. Main uses include consuming news, communicating and engaging in real-time social networking. Mobile devices are being used to purchase goods and services, play games, listen to music, check the weather, and search the Internet.

I think the big message is for device manufacturers and content providers. The better these devices get, the more responsive and slick applications become, the more consumers will move from the traditional desktop / laptop experience to the mobile experience. Content providers will need to craft their presentation to meet the needs of many different devices and the casual, fairly constant engagement of consumers with those devices. Content will need to be fresh and easily accessible. This applies to content creation tools as well – the more familiar users become with these “unusual” interfaces, the more willing they will be to push the usage boundaries on these devices.

I regularly use desktops, laptops, Android & iOS based smartphones and tablets, and find I am very comfortable across all of these platforms. And I am by no means a digital native. It will be interesting to see how devices change to meet the changing usage patterns and user needs, particularly as the younger generation adapts and innovates. Digital omnivores? There is no question about it.

 

 

Search & Send: It's What We Do

In case you were wondering just what exactly adult Americans spend their time doing online, you can rest easy now. Just as in 2002, we almost universally spend some of our time online sending emails and searching for stuff. Pew Internet Research conducted its annual survey on Internet usage and has just issued its report based on its findings. The results were culled from data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from April 26 to May 22, 2011, across a sample of 2,277 adults, age 18 and older. The numbers have remained fairly consistent with respect to these activities over the years: this most recent survey shows that 92% of online adults use search engines to find information on the Web, with 59% doing so on a typical day, and 92% use email, with 61% using it on a typical day. The overall number of users of both email and search engines has also grown: in January 2002, 52% of all Americans used search engines and in May, 2011 72% of all Americans used search engines. In January 2002, 55% of all Americans used email and in May, 2011, 70% of all Americans used email. And these numbers are fairly uniform across the generations. The report further breaks down results by gender, race, education, and household income. Three other uses were measured, with getting news and buying products holding steady over the 2002 to 2011 time frame. Using social networking sites didn’t register in 2002, but from 2004 to 2011, usage jumped dramatically from 11% to 65%.

Interesting results, no doubt. It is interesting to me that social sites have not put a bigger dent in both email and search as means for communicating and finding relevant information. I anticipate that social net use will eventually have that effect as communication tools and relevance-based news tools within the sites improve. Guess we will have to wait and see.

Content Creators Wanted!

In the face of ovewhelming growth in web participation flies a recent statistic from Forrester Research showing a decline in the number of content creation / creators on the web. The report (link here), entitled Global Social Technographics (whatever that means), encapsulates two years of data collection on how consumers world wide are engaging with social technologies. Users were slotted into a “ladder” of use categories: inactives; spectators; joiners; collectors; critics; conversationalists; and, creators. The report confirms suspicions that the numbers of people joining the social media circus (via Facebook, primarily) is building at a rapid rate. However, the report also notes that the content creator group, in the U.S. and in many other countries, dropped a percentage point or more.

At a time when more people are online than ever before, the source of the content drawing this attention is dwindling. What to do?

My obvious answer, as a fairly prolific content creator, is of course to create more content. But the message is even more significant for on-line professionals who may have taken the first step as spectators, joiners or even collectors to jump up the ladder into content creation. The audience for your work is growing – the furnace of interest is looking for kindling to consume. If you thought your voice might not be heard amidst the roar, think again.

Some have posited that fewer content creators means fewer ideas. In front of a thirsty, expanding audience, your ideas and your content may shine even brighter.

At any rate, Forrester’s blog post on the subject of the report concludes with this valuable insight:

The story behind the data is pretty clear. The initial wave of consumers using social technologies in the US has halted. Companies will now need to devise strategies to extend social applications past the early adopters. This means that you need to understand how your consumers use social media. Do you know the Social Technographics Profiles of your customers? Is your company preparing for this next phase of social media strategy?

Granular Social Networking Stats

Maybe I should have said tabular, but still, this free report from Experian Simmons, entitled the 2010 Social Networking Report contains lots of data on recent increases in social media usage, confirming suspicions that social media networking is indeed on the steep rise. The entire report can be downloaded after filling out some basic information or you can view it online (link here). I thought it worthwhile to quote the follownig two paragraphs from the introduction to give a flavor for the findings:

The 2010 Social Networking Report provides the hard data behind this consumer revolution, including the fact that fully 66% of online Americans use social networking sites today, up from just 20% in 2007. Social networking is an increasingly addictive activity, with nearly half of those who access such sites (43%) reporting that they visit them multiple times per day. While users of social networking sites may have initially signed up to better keep in touch with friends, a growing number say they now use sites like Facebook to connect with family members. An astounding 70% of social networkers keep in touch with family via their various online networks, up from 61% a year ago.

Fully two-thirds of all online adults today have visited a social networking site in the last 30 days, up from 53% in 2008 and 20% in 2007. Social networks have most thoroughly penetrated the young adult market, as nearly 9-in-10 online 18-to 34-year-olds visit such sites today. But even older Americans are tapping into social networks, with 41% of online adults age 50 and older making monthly visits to sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

Writing Directly Benefits Reading

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Now there is the study to prove it. The Alliance for Excellent Education and the Carnegie Corporation of New York teamed up and prepared this report (link here) entitled Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading. The upshot is that writing improves both reading comprehension and context learning – the more you write about what you are reading and learning, the better your understanding and comprehension of what you are reading. From the Foreword of the report:

Ariel and Will Durant were right when they said, “Education is the transmission of civilization.” Putting our current challenges into historical context, it is obvious that if today’s youngsters cannot read with understanding, think about and analyze what they’ve read, and then write clearly and effectively about what they’ve learned and what they think, then they may never be able to do justice to their talents and their potential.(In that regard, the etymology of the word forth”—from oneself, for example—is certainly evocative.) Indeed, young people who do not have the ability to transform thoughts, experiences, and ideas into written words are in danger of losing touch with the joy of inquiry, the sense of intellectual curiosity, and the inestimable satisfaction of acquiring wisdom that are the touchstones of humanity. What that means for all of us is that the essential educative transmissions that have been passed along century after century, generation after generation, are in danger of fading away, or even falling silent.

The authors describes the acts of writing and reading for comprehension “survival skills” for the general population. Even moreso for lawyers who depend heavily on being able to not only read and understand fine points and minutae of statutes, case law and other legal material, but also to effectively write about what they have read in order to shape important outcomes. Writing begets reading, which begets writing.

While the report addresses student learning and recommends strategies for improving reading skills, the information is fascinating and has post-graduate and professional application. Want to better understand your subject matter? Take notes, write essays, create blog posts, memoranda and briefs, distilling what your have read into the written word. And be better prepared to argue your point.