Libraries and the state of the Internet

Mary Meeker presented her 2016 Internet Trends report earlier this month. If you want a better understanding of how tech and the tech industry is evolving, you should watch her talk and read her slides.

This year’s talk was fairly time constrained, and she did not go into as much detail as she has in years past. That being said, there is still an enormous amount of value in the data she presents and the trends she identifies via that data.

Some interesting takeaways:

  • The growth in total number of internet users worldwide is slowing (the year-to-year growth rate is flat; overall growth is around 7% new years per year)
  • However, growth in India is still accelerating, and India is now the #2 global user market (behind China; USA is 3rd)
  • Similarly, there is a slowdown in the growth of the number of smartphone users and number of smartphones being shipped worldwide (still growing, but at a slower rate)
  • Android continues to demonstrate growth in marketshare; Android devices are continuing to be less costly by a significant margin than Apple devices.
  • Overall, there are opportunities for businesses that innovate / increase efficiency / lower prices / create jobs
  • Advertising continues to demonstrate┬ástrong growth; advertising efficacy still has a ways to go (internet advertising is effective and can be even more so)
  • Internet as distribution channel continues to grow in use and importance
  • ┬áBrand recognition is increasingly important
  • Visual communication channel usage is increasing – Generation Z relies more on communicating with images than with text
  • Messaging is becoming a core communication channel for business interactions in addition to social interactions
  • Voice on mobile rapidly rising as important user interface – lots of activity around this
  • Data as platform – important!

So, what kind of take-aways might be most useful to consider in the library context? Some top-of-head thoughts:

  • In the larger context of the Internet, Libraries need to be more aggressive in marketing their brand and brand value. We are, by nature, fairly passive, especially compared to our commercial competition, and a failure to better leverage the opportunity for brand exposure leaves the door open to commercial competitors.
  • Integration of library services and content through messaging channels will become more important, especially with younger users. (Integration may actually be too weak a term; understanding how to use messaging inherently within the digital lifestyles of our users is critical)
  • Voice – are any libraries doing anything with voice? Integration with Amazon’s Alexa voice search? How do we fit into the voice as platform paradigm?

One parting thought, that I’ll try to tease out in a follow-up post: Libraries need to look very seriously at the importance of personalized, customized curation of collections for users, something that might actually be antithetical to the way we currently approach collection development. Think Apple Music, but for books, articles, and other content provided by libraries. It feels like we are doing this in slices and pieces, but that we have not yet established a unifying platform that integrates with the larger Internet ecosystem.

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