NFAIS: What Information Users Really Value

Roger Strouse from Outsell followed Clay Shirky with his talk titled: “What Information Users Really Value.” Throughout the talk, Roger gave us insights into what users are thinking based on studies and surveys that Outsell has performed.

Roger started with what he called a ‘provocative statement’ – ‘In a challenging environment, meeting users’ value expectations is necessary for survival’ — why are we talking about this 2010 – when we’ve been thinking about this for 20 years now. The problem is that advertising budgets are shrinking, “free” is a competitor, users are sophisticated and know what’s possible, and good enough is good enough. The economy isn’t all that has changed for users though.

Users are rethinking about what’s valuable. There are rising expectations for online experiences. Providing information is not enough anymore, you need to provide a well-rounded experience (tagging, commenting, interaction in general). There is also a morphing definition of authority – there is a dislike for peer-reviewed content. Users expect to be able to get academic and professional data on their mobile devices more than ever before. This all adds up to users have very different value filters than they used to have.

Users now value things like usability, fun and sophistication. I can (and you know you can to) think of plenty of these research products that I’d rather stay very very far away from simply because of the usability and/or interface design. Another key value we’re used to hearing about is the desire to aggregate content – mix free and fee content together because users don’t want to be searchers – they want all their content in one place. That said, users still value quality control and authoritative/trusted sources – however users do not want to hear that someone or some product is a trusted source – they want to figure that out for themselves. They don’t want to see any editorial control being applied – that makes them think about what might have been edited out – what might be out there that they’re not seeing.

Along the same lines as having fun and sophisticated sites, users are expecting research sites to work the same way that other consumer products work. A great quote Roger shared was “Facebook can do it… why can’t you?” another site he said users wanted us to emulate was Amazon. They don’t know why if it’s on the open web why can’t it be in the products our libraries are paying for? As a developer I know what it takes to implement things like comments, tags and rss feeds – some of it requires more work than others – but that said, they’re all pretty easy to implement in the grand scheme of things.

Roger next showed us some data to back up these comments. One of the most interesting charts he showed was the one that focused on what handheld devices people are using – iPod is the top product on the list and there are more Blackberry users out there than iPhone users – at first that seemed surprising to me, but then I thought about it and Blackberry has been around longer and seems to be the standard in businesses.

When asking where users where they want content 51% say Facebook and 28% LinkedIn — only 7% say Twitter. Then when asked which they use for personal versus professional uses, LinkedIn and Ning are at the top of the list for professional use, which is interesting to me because I use Twitter and Facebook more for those uses – in that they are where I get much of my information from colleagues.

When asked about the value of free versus purchased content and 39% said that free content is higher quality than purchased – and this was not limited to the millenials, in fact the millenials put the value of purchased content as higher.


So this means that publishers have to know their users and that means asking them what tools they’re using and what features would make them use your tools more. It’s important to know what expectations they have coming in to your product (i.e. Amazon or Google-like interfaces and features). Most important on Roger’s list of suggestions (most important to me that is) was to focus on the overall user experience!! Also important in my eyes was to integrate popular consumer features into workplace solutions.

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