The Pew folks are at it again. They just released a study called “Public Perceptions of Privacy and Security in the Post-Snowden Era” and it’s a doozy. Let’s not bury the lede:
Perhaps most striking is Americans’ lack of confidence that they have control over their personal information. That pervasive concern applies to everyday communications channels and to the collectors of their information—both in the government and in corporations.
Big Brother indeed, although Orwell probably didn’t think about it in terms of corporations doing much of the surveillance. The study makes clear that consumers are skeptical about some of the benefits of personal data sharing, but are willing to make tradeoffs in certain circumstances when their sharing of information provides access to free services. 55% “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement: “I am willing to share some information about myself with companies in order to use online services for free.” And we know they’re watching:
Across the board, there is a universal lack of confidence among adults in the security of everyday communications channels—particularly when it comes to the use of online tools. Across six different methods of mediated communication, there is not one mode through which a majority of the American public feels “very secure” when sharing private information with another trusted person or organization.
Sad, isn’t it? More importantly, there seems to be a growing sentiment among consumers to dial back the amount of information they’re making available. I’ve written before about ad and cookie blocking. How can the legitimate interests some businesses have for this information – to me that means to make the consumer’s experience better – be served while protecting the consumer’s privacy? Clearly all of us engaged in data-gathering need to begin to act more responsibly or risk being cut off from the source. As the report says:
At the same time that Americans express these broad sensitivities toward various kinds of information, they are actively engaged in negotiating the benefits and risks of sharing this data in their daily interactions with friends, family, co-workers, businesses and government.
This is a wake up call. Are you answering?
I like smart people and I really like when smart people get together and have a think about things which interest me.
(Photo credit: LarsZi)
That happened recently as the folks at the Pew Research Center, and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center set up an online survey to look at the future of the Internet, the Web, and other digital activities. This is the first of eight reports based on a canvassing of hundreds of experts about the future of such things as privacy, cybersecurity, the “Internet of things,” and net neutrality. In this case they asked experts to make their own predictions about the state of digital life by the year 2025. It’s an interesting document, an overview of which you can read here and which is available in its entirety at this link.
This is a summary of what they found:
To a notable extent, the experts agree on the technology change that lies ahead, even as they disagree about its ramifications. Most believe there will be:
- A global, immersive, invisible, ambient networked computing environment built through the continued proliferation of smart sensors, cameras, software, databases, and massive data centers in a world-spanning information fabric known as the Internet of Things.
- “Augmented reality” enhancements to the real-world input that people perceive through the use of portable/wearable/implantable technologies.
- Disruption of business models established in the 20th century (most notably impacting finance, entertainment, publishers of all sorts, and education).
- Tagging, databasing, and intelligent analytical mapping of the physical and social realms.
As one expert summed it up rather elegantly, information sharing over the Internet will be so effortlessly interwoven into daily life that it will become invisible, flowing like electricity, often through machine intermediaries. But is that a good thing?
I consider myself pretty “wired.” To the extent I’m not using a technology or am blocking data access, it’s by choice. I’m not entirely comfortable with the value proposition – my data/personal information/behavioral habits in exchange for whatever it is you’re selling. Of course I know that proposition is just an extension of the media value proposition – my attention in exchange for entertainment. But if you’ve read anything about the data collection business (never mind what governments are doing!) you know that there is way too much room for abuse and error, both of which will have a negative impact that negates any value received in my mind.
I recognize I might be of a generation that doesn’t “get it.” Or maybe we do, since “1984″ was required reading long before the year 1984. While one of the slogans of the Party is “Ignorance Is Strength” I don’t believe that for a second. It’s all a matter of what knowledge – data – is owned by whom. And that, dear readers, is something to ponder. Will you?
For people who live in the “Age of Information” we seem to have a real issue with getting that information into our hands. Oh sure, there’s plenty of rumor, unsubstantiated “facts” and plain old made up lies out there, but the importance of the press in this county – the commercial press, the professional press – is so tantamount that the Founders dealt with it in the very first amendment.
That’s why I find the new Pew State Of The Media report so disturbing. You see, even though there are more sources for news and information than ever before, the really professional sources – the ones supposedly held to a higher journalistic standard – are hurting:
Faced with shrinking revenue and dwindling audiences, news organizations in recent years have slashed staffs and reduced coverage. Most news consumers are little aware of the financial struggles that led to these cuts, a new Pew Research Center survey finds. Nevertheless, a significant percentage of them not only have noticed a difference in the quantity or quality of news, but have stopped reading, watching or listening to a news source because of it.
Nearly one-third—31%—of people say they have deserted a particular news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information they had grown accustomed to, according to the survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults in early 2013. And those most likely to have walked away are better educated, wealthier and older than those who did not—in other words, they are people who tend to be most prone to consume and pay for news.
In other words, it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. Fewer people are reading and so revenues are dwindling. Less revenue means staffs are cut so fewer people read. What’s disturbing is that during the presidential campaign, Pew found that reporters acted as megaphones instead of investigators. More stories are simply reporting verbatim what candidates or partisans were saying, rather than using those statements as a starting-off point to explore an issue.
This isn’t a recent phenomenon. Read Paul Krugman‘s column in yesterday’s Times about how the press went in the tank during the run up to the Iraq War. What’s different now is that there doesn’t seem to be a way out. The business model that’s in place isn’t working and there is huge resistance to paying for a lower quality product. In other words, as Pew said, the job of news organizations is to come to terms with the fact that, as they search for economic stability, their financial future may well hinge on their ability to provide high quality reporting.
Thoughts? And what does this research say about your business and maintaining high-quality?
There’s a relatively recent phenomenon called “Showrooming” that’s becoming a concern for retailers. In a nutshell, this is the practice of some consumers of going into a physical store to do research and then making the purchase elsewhere, generally online. Given today’s technology, those purchases can even happen in the store via a mobile device. A piece from eMarketer quoted a couple of studies that found this is not a hypothetical problem for retailers:
Several researchers have surveyed the number of US mobile phone users who have comparison-shopped via phone while in-store. Their research has found a comparison-shopping rate ranging from 59% of US smartphone owners (InsightExpress, 2011) to 25% of US mobile phone owners (Pew Internet and American Life Project, January 2012).
ForeSee Results findings from between 2009 and 2011 are consistent with this trend toward using mobile phones for in-store research; however, in 2011, the shoppers surveyed were more likely to access the website or app of the store they were actually in than a competitor’s website or app. This means that retailers need to not only be concerned about how their pricing stacks up against others’, but also about pricing consistency across their own channels.
This is sort of the same issue faced by music companies who are trying to sell physical media like CD‘s while enabling the purchase of the same product through digital channels. The retailers need to differentiate themselves in ways that make doing business with them valuable beyond price. Customer service, ease of returns, unique merchandise or unique offers are all areas that can be differentiators. Target has reached out to vendors to do just that, and others are as well.
So the question to you today is this: what are you doing to make sure that your business is different? We can go back to the old advertising saw of the Unique Selling Proposition – as we find in this space a lot, everything old really is new again or at least wrapped in new tools.