SXSW notes: What People Are Really Doing On The Web

This session at SXSW Interactive on Monday 13th March 2006 attracted an audience of over 200 to the main auditorium.

The big hitters of web stats and consumer / user analysis were there on stage, and there were a few nuggets amongst the factoids pumped out, but overall the session felt a little tame and the insights sparse. Guess that’s what happens when you parachute your stats and trend mavens into a conference of innovators  😉

PANEL:
Holland Hofma Brown (Harris International)
Dr Michelle Madansky (Yahoo! Inc)
Max Kalehoff (Nielsen Buzz Metrics – also own Blogpulse)
CHAIR: Joel Greenberg (GSD&M)

Establishing the types of market research deployed, Holland Hofma Brown of Harris International cited asking people, and “lead user theory” (Professor Eric Von Hippel, MIT ‘Democratizing Innovation’) as the primary methodologies (eg. power bars; Camelback; RSS usage). The lead users are solving the problems so look at them.

Hofma Brown of Harris International polled over 2,300 respondents between 16/2/06 and 23/2/06. Over a third would rather email a friend than call them on the phone he revealed; 55% won’t buy a product without first checking prices and researching online. Still, we’re not sure we trust the internet.

Catching the blog bug

How do we use the internet to connect to others? 10% of respondents had posted to blogs (contrast with 60% of SXSW attendees who were posting to blogs). Who is reading blogs? 54%/46% men to women. Young males dominate blog readership.

How many blogs are they reading? 61% have cited 1-4 blogs in the last year. Why do people read blogs? For most part it’s a passive activity.

What kinds of blogs are people reading? Personal diaries top the charts with 45% (compared to the SXSW audience, 70% of whom read tech blogs). What makes for a good blog? The way a blog looks is less important than what the writer has to say. Who is writing? Men and women bloggers are now equal in that respect.

The connected populace: US vs UK

We’re using the internet to connect and stay in touch with others. So what aren’t consumers doing online, asked Michel Madansky. Yahoo! Get 2 terrabytes of data a day, she explained, citing the ‘Truly, Madly Deeply Engaged Global Youth, Media & Technologies‘ report (summitseries.yahoo.com – all studies are posted there).

Computer – US 86% UK – 92%

Mobile – US 72% – UK – 97 %

MP3 – US 28% – UK – 63%

Email – US 68 % – UK – 86% (at least once a day)

IM – US – 49% UK – 63%

Search – US – 45% UK – 66%

Blogging – US – 17% UK– 20%

Texting – US – 49% UK – 95%

Games – US – 49% UK – 68%

Photos – US – ?? – UK– 75%

Search, peer recommendation and beyond…

Music, sex, shopping, others are the top searches in order of user preference. Search terms are consistent over time, Madansky explained, with MySpace (number 2 term), Limewire and Facebook being the big new entries. Music is the biggest search area for teenagers. Madansky also noted upcoming new arrivals podcast (podcast.yahoo.com) and Yahoo Answers (social search).

Max Kalehoff explained that Nielsen Buzz Metrics help marketers by analysing consumer generated media. Underlying factors he highlighted – media fragmentation, the erosion of trust in traditional institutional information sources, and the rise of interactive media, democratized publishing and social networks.

Consumer generated media upends marketing’s worldview

We’re moving into a phase of consumer generated multimedia – blogs, vlogs, podcasts, etc. Peer recommendation and consumer generated multimedia are by far the biggest referral source. Consumers (92%) now say they prefer or rely on word of mouth, they trust fellow buyers before they do other marketers.

The culture of information seekers and speakers, for example IAMs on Google two days ago – the third and fourth results were serious consumer critiques of IAMs. A new washing machine manufacturer looked at consumer evangelists. Surprisingly, 49% were men when 99% of their marketing had been aimed at women. Marketing programs that amplify word of mouth buzz can also be incorporated into sponsorships and event demos, he added.

Mistrust of UGC in the educational sphere

Kalehoff said we could look up his blog at maxkalehoff.com and the Nielsen SXSW 2006 surveys at (http://go.hpolsurveys.com/sxsw). He also noted the issue of lack of trust in consumer generated media (CGM) as regards to academia and how to counteract it. Edelman PR did a trust barometer study [PDF].

Michelle Madansky was asked how Yahoo use their research in the innovation process. She replied that they have a piece of software called ‘The Idea Factory’ that anyone in the company can input to – new ideas to improve current products. They have also used research to develop the Yahoo Podcast beta.

Kalehoff observed that the food industry is currently being more impacted than any other by consumer power and CGM.

Trends to look out for

What’s the difference between a snapshot and a trend another audience member asked. Brown of Harris International responded that we should watch what the 12-21 year olds are doing.

What’s coming next trend-wise as indicated by the panel’s data another delegate asked. Buzz Metrics said we’re reaching a tipping point from an era where most content was produced by corporates to a point where the majority is produced by ourselves. As search spreads and becomes more advanced this will only increase, so it’s more of a discovery process. Proliferation of multimedia is another trend.

Madansky replied that “my media” is the next big thing as consumers are in control with TIVO etc. Cellphones are becoming more important she continued, with media moving across every device. The social web was an important trend, as the sterility of being served up with yet more questions becomes more acute, and Yahoo Answers was one of the answers to this, she reckoned.

Kalehoff noted that one of the emerging trends in the Web 2.0 space was that there are so many companies doing each thing that a lot of them won’t be around in 5 years.

All SXSW Interactive 2006 panels:
http://2006.sxsw.com/interactive/programming/panels/

My other SXSW Interactive 2006 session write ups:

SXSW notes: What’s In A Title?

SXSW notes:  Beyond Folksonomies – Knitting Tag Clouds For Grandma

SXSW notes: Book Digitisation & The Revenge Of The Librarians

SXSW notes: James Surowiecki on The Wisdom Of Crowds

SXSW notes: Running Your New Media Business

SXSW notes: The Perfect Pitch

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