Interviews, Issue 6 October 2010

Springer Up Close: Market Intelligence and Web Analytics

Looking behind the scenes of Springer’s Market Intelligence and Web Analytics Department: An interview with Harald Wirsching, Director.

What does Springer’s Market Intelligence and Web Analytics department do?

We monitor trends in the STM market, survey our target groups, and analyze user behavior on our websites, e.g. Springer.com and SpringerLink. We also manage the Springer Journal Author Satisfaction Program as well as the COUNTER usage reporting to our institutional customers.
In addition, we get lots of questions about market, customer and citation data.
I sometimes hear that we are called the ‘data people’ within the company …

Can you give more information on the Journal Author Satisfaction Program?

Yes, of course. With this survey we aim to further improve the authors’ publishing experience with Springer. Every journal author gets an invitation to an online survey as soon as his or her article is published. So far we are very pleased with how the survey goes, the response rate has exceeded our expectations. Although the overall satisfaction is very high - almost 90% of the authors said that they are satisfied or very satisfied - the results will be very helpful in identifying where we can improve. Actually, we are currently thinking about extending this program to our book authors as well.

Can you name a clear example of a new product that was created because of proper Market Intelligence and Web Analytics?

I wouldn’t say that a product was created because of our activities, but we are involved in the development process of new products and help to optimize them. For example, we managed several usability studies among researchers when the new SpringerLink interface was developed. We are also quite often asked to collect market feedback on concepts for new journals or Springer References.

We talked in September 2008 about the Trends of Online Usage Behavior (see link below). What more have we learned in the meantime?

I think the main trends remain almost unchanged. In the case of the eBooks, we see more and more students and scientists shifting towards an almost entirely electronic research and learning environment, while a visit to the ‘physical’ library is continuing to lose its importance. Increasingly, usage comes from a ‘search environment’, e.g. from search engines such as Google or Google Scholar. The CIBER research group from the UK coined the phrase ‘power browsing’, which I think describes the current usage behavior quite well. They say that today’s users demand immediate access to digital content, but are ‘just’ scanning and flicking their way through the massive amount of digital content available to them. What I also think is quite interesting is that we see more differences in usage behavior by discipline than by age. Several studies found out that the usage behavior of the ‘Digital Natives’ generation does not differ that much from earlier generations as one would have assumed.

What are the key conclusions regarding the market’s online usage behavior?

That’s quite simple. Content has to be online and easily findable to get used. This requires new initiatives on the publisher side, such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the enhancement of metadata, or cooperation with indexing services and search tools. But this is not everything. The good news is that ‘content is king’ still counts, also in the online environment. For example, we see that our most frequently cited journals are also the ones with the highest download numbers.

Journal article download on SpringerLink (Jan-May 2010) by externally referring sites (how did users get to the article on SpringerLink).

Following market trends as you do, what piece of advice would you like to give journal and book authors in this day and age?

I think for scientific authors these times are quite exciting. Through online availability, journal articles and books are now ‘visible’ to the whole world, and read many times more often than the print equivalents. Therefore, I would not only chose a publisher with a good reputation but also one with strong electronic publishing and distribution capabilities. In addition, I think there are some opportunities on the authors’ side, too, to promote and optimize content in the digital age. Just a few thoughts: get familiar on what you can do on Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia etc. to communicate about your article or book, or consider basic SEO rules when preparing your next manuscript.

And what are those basic SEO rules?

Basic SEO rules include choosing a clear, descriptive title – it should include search terms users are likely to use when searching for the topic of the article - as well as reiterating key phrases of the article in the abstract and full-text.

We thank Harald for his time with this interview and for keeping us alert and well informed at Springer!

The Springer Marketing department will be working on a “Tips & Tricks” overview for authors on how to make better use of the basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) rules and Social Media. Look forward to reading more about this in the next AuthorZone.