Monday, July 29, 2013

Shifting shores of digital music

Just some random thoughts sparked by seeing the 'Spotify is killing iTunes' story in the Australian Financial Review that got a mention on ABC24 this morning.

First it was underlining what you read in the tech press about the future all the time, i.e. things are changing quicker.

That the iTunes store has moved from being the snarky young punk the of music distribution business to an overlord in decline, in barely a decade,  is semi-startling.

The ultra-personalised digital world is here, well it's been here for a while but now it's slapping us in the face.

There are some pretty obvious parallels between the ebook and music publishing businesses. What significance for libraries does the apparent coming triumph of streaming/rental over download/own have for us?

Does our ingrained love of the book (the owned object containing fixed information) have as much cachet with Gen Z as it does with boomers? Will information be completely fluid, will all knowledge be a constantly moving mashup?  Maybe it is already. Maybe it always was.

Extrapolating on the moves:
  • from ownership, to rental, to instant access; 
  • from album to song;  
  • from labels dictating taste on large scale to an explosion of gatekeepers directing increasingly specialised taste groups; 
  • from music news from formal publishing and broadcast channels to social media-enhanced word-of-mouth
  • from the recording being the income generator to being merely a promotional tool for gig attendance
 I had a vision.

A vision where a cadre of multitalented individuals visit tiny online communities, opening their ears to great sounds from far off (out) places and moving to the next community.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the digital troubadour.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Random thought: The limits of Google Analytics - it's just data, not information

I'm still wading through Google Analytics to get an idea of how the web site is used so I can have some 'evidence-based' proposals for the site home page and persistent navigation.

One thing that I'm pondering after my last blog post is referrals from Search Engines. If a page is linked to much more often from a search engine results page (SERP) than from another page in your site does that indicate your site is failing the user, or that the user prefers to use a search engine?

If a page is a common exit point does that mean it satisfied the user need, or did it just frustrate them enough to give up?  Does an elongated 'time on page' mean the content engrossed the reader or that they glazed over into catatonia?

If your total page hits go up down after a redesign does that mean you lost popularity or your site is providing the required content with a lot less clicks?

I think I could argue two opposite sides to almost anything Analytics appears to hint at - each supposition on a facet of Analytics would probably make an ideal topic for a formal debate in the vein of 'can money by happiness' or 'is honesty the best policy'

The answer is site Analytics on their own are ambiguous guides to user behaviour - you really need to observe, consult and 'know' your users. 

Analytics' value is in aggregating data so you can visualise behaviours that prompts you to formulate questions like WHY IS IT DOING THAT? IS THAT A GOOD THING?

If only users could be consulted in large numbers at any time that was convenient to me.

PS GA has some tables of Google Queries mapped against how often a page from your site  appeared in a SERP and how often one of your pages was clicked on, referred to as CTR (Click Through Rate).  It makes for interesting perusing, maybe one approach would be to interpret user goal from the search, and then see how closely the target page matched or referred to the goal.  An iterative approach that would probably improve user experience over time, but it would be difficult evaluate the impact.

Analysis of that information is making me think about using Summon's Best Bets

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Google Analytics 101: tracking down causes of page hit anomalies

I'm no Google Analytics guru, by any stretch, but over time my understanding and GA's powers seem to be incrementally increasing.  This post is about how GA helped me understand why a particular page ranks high in page hits on our site. If you are not very familiar with GA it may help you a little.

I'm preparing to revamp our web site to work with new responsive web design templates - these will significantly change the access points to our information architecture, but not the architecture itself. Anyway, part of my prep is confirming what clients are accessing most often and greasing the path to it.

This page comes to my attention:
Types of Information Sources - Primary, Secondary, Tertiary & Refereed Journals
Pretty dry supplementary information for information literacy programs I thought. Might get a few clicks at the start of each semester, maybe.

According to GA it was the twelfth most popular page on our website in the first 6 months of 2013 (of currently 1106 pages). Over 12,000 unique page hits.

'Oh noes' I think. Do I have to put a link to it in a prominent place? Who is using this. Why?

So first I use GA  to get a sense of how people are getting to this page, using the content  and navigation summary features (see screencast below)

So what can I learn about why people are being referred to a particular page? What does GA tell us about Google search referrals? Using Traffic Sources, Landing Pages and Search/Organic and Keywords ('nother screencast)

Mystery solved, that particular page appears at the top the Google SERP for types of information.  I can with confidence not worry about whether it should be more prominent in our site structure and nav - the vast majority of use is from a Google search done by the wider public.

Lesson learned - don't accept page hits the concrete truth about how your primary clients are using your site.

Thank you Mister Google.