Jennifer Levin

Jennifer Levin

There is no doubt that the internet and smatphones have changed everything from the way people shop to how they communicate.

As internet penetration levels keep rising, steady streams of buzz words related to the industries were created and went viral in the country.

Here we excerpt some representative topics that were most discussed across the internet this year.

Young man's death causes an uproar for online search giant

In April, Chinese internet giant Baidu Inc was criticized for influencing the treatment choice of a cancer patient, Wei Zexi, by presenting misguided medical information.

Wei, 22, died after undergoing a controversial cancer treatment at a Beijing hospital, which the Wei family found through Baidu's online search platform.

The case was hotly discussed in the country's online community and the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the nation's internet regulator, later asked Baidu to improve its paid-for listings model and to rank the search results mainly according to credibility rather than price tags.

On June 25, the CAC publicized a regulation on search engines, ordering search providers to ensure objective, fair and authoritative search results.

All paid search results must be labeled clearly and checks on advertisers should be improved, according to the regulation. There also should be a limit on the number of paid results on a single page.

Moreover, the practice of blocking negative content concerning advertisers has been banned.

Year-ender: Most talked-about topics on the Chinese internet

Jia Yueting, co-founder and head of Le Holdings Co Ltd, also known as LeEco and, formerly, as LeTV, gestures as he unveils an all-electric battery "concept" car called LeSEE during a ceremony in Beijing. [Photo/Agencies]

A fund raiser struggles for being not insolvent but a game-changer

Chinese technology company LeEco founder Jia Yueting recently released an internal letter to his employees, indirectly admitting some of the rumors about supply chain and capital issues that caused the company's shares to plummet.

Jia talked for the first time about what he thought about the overly rapid growth of the company in the letter.

"There is a problem with LeEco's growth pace and organizational capacities," Jia said, adding that the company's global expansion had gone too far despite limited capital and resources.

Jia revealed that the company spent heavily (about 10 billion yuan) on the LeSEE all-electric concept car in its early stages. The company unveiled the vehicle, a rival to Tesla's Model S, in April.

On Nov 2, shares of Leshi Internet Information and Technology, which went public in 2010, fell nearly 7.5 percent on rumors that LeEco defaulted on payment for suppliers.

Jia said the company will address the capital issues in three to four months.

LeEco, founded in 2004, started as a video-streaming service provider akin to Netflix Inc, but it rapidly grew into a firm with a presence in smartphones, TVs, cloud computing, sports and electric cars.

Year-ender: Most talked-about topics on the Chinese internet

A woman looks at her mobile phone as she rides an escalator past an advertisement for Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 device at a Samsung store in the Gangnam district of Seoul. [Photo/Agencies]

An exploded phone put the manufacturer on a hot seat

In mid October, China's product quality watchdog said that Samsung Electronics Co Ltd's local unit would recall all 190,984 Galaxy Note 7 phones that it sold in China.

The latest recall in China includes the 1,858 early-release Galaxy Note 7 smartphones that the watchdog recalled on September 14.

Samsung said earlier Tuesday that it had decided to stop selling Note 7 phones in China and is now communicating with the Chinese authority to deal with this matter.

The tech giant decided to temporarily halt the global sales and exchange of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, while it investigates reports of fires in the devices.

On Sept 2, Samsung suspended sales of the Galaxy Note 7 and announced a "product exchange program", after it was found that a manufacturing defect in the phones' batteries had caused some of the handsets to generate excessive heat, resulting in fires and explosions.

However, in early October, reports emerged of incidents where these replacement phones also caught fire.

Year-ender: Most talked-about topics on the Chinese internet

The new Apple iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are displayed during an Apple media event in San Francisco, California, in this file photo from September 9, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

Consumers' query about smartphone's mystery power-off

US tech giant Apple Inc on Dec 2 announced the reason behind an abrupt shutdown problem that recently affected some users of the iPhone 6s.

"We found that a small number of iPhone 6s devices made in September and October 2015 contained a battery component that was exposed to controlled ambient air longer than it should have been before being assembled into battery packs. As a result, these batteries degrade faster than a normal battery and cause unexpected shutdowns to occur," a statement posted on Apple's official website said.

The company also explained in the note that this was not a safety issue.

The statement was released after China's consumer protection watchdog - China Consumer Association (CCA) - issued a query letter earlier to ask the company to explain and provide solutions to malfunctions reportedly found in iPhones.

According to the CCA, many consumers continued to complain after Apple announced a free battery replacement program for iPhone 6s users, claiming that the abrupt shutdown problem also exists in iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6s Plus models.

On Nov 21, Apple introduced a free replacement program, to resolve recent reports of the unexpected shutdown of the iPhone 6s.

Year-ender: Most talked-about topics on the Chinese internet

A woman uses Uber Technologies Inc's car-hailing service via an electronic screen in Tianjin.[Provided to China Daily]

Taxi-hailing app implements localized strategy

Uber China shut its old mobile app interface on the last weekend of November, to be replaced by a new one that integrates its functions and the drivers' pool with Didi Chuxing four months after the companies' merger.

Didi acquired Uber's China operations in August and became the No 1 ride-hailing service provider in China with 15 million drivers and over 400 million registered users.

All the Uber China platform's drivers and users were urged to move to a new interface introduced in early November.

Foreigners with Uber accounts are also required to download the new app if they would like to use Uber services in China.

Prior to the tie-up, Uber was one of very few foreign tech firms able to compete with domestic rivals head-on in China. Though Didi had bigger market share, Uber managed to gain a foothold in lower-tier cities. The two had been locked in fierce price wars to compete for market share.

Source : http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/bizchina/tech/2016-12/21/content_27727996_5.htm

Large platform companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung, and Microsoft want to provide the operating system for our lives, and they will fight hard in 2017 to establish their foothold in the emerging technologies we will likely come to rely on in the future.

Who will succeed? Those with the most complete product offerings have an advantage. Since people like to buy products that play well with the other products they already own, a platform company risks losing customers by not having a product in a hot category. These large companies already have an advantage over smaller companies due to their massive R&D budgets and their ability to hire the best people to build the stuff we want now and to anticipate the technology we’ll want in the future. And if a hot product is developed by some ambitious startup, these giants can easily swoop in and acquire both the product and the people who created it.

These categories, while not new, will be the front lines of the platform wars in 2017.

SMART BLUETOOTH SPEAKERS

Amazon brilliantly hit upon a whole new product category with its Echo home personal assistant device. While other platform companies like Google and Apple were limiting their respective personal assistants to smartphones, Amazon saw that people wanted a personal assistant that stood on the countertop, could hear and understand voices in the room very well, and contained a speaker that actually sounded good.

Google has since created a competing device called Google Home, and there is plenty of speculation that Apple and Microsoft have something in the works as well. Amazon wisely opened up its personal assistant (called Alexa) to third-party developers, and thousands of them are now creating new "skills" for the home assistant. This trend will continue to escalate throughout 2017, and we will soon begin to see a new wave of skills that are more useful and easier to call up at your command.

As more personal assistant devices find their way into homes in 2017, the platform companies that sell them will increasingly compete to get developers to create better and better skills for the devices. And the platform companies themselves will try to integrate more of their own services through the devices. For instance, Amazon might offer more useful shopping services through the Echo, while Google will try to offer new search and productivity services.

VIRTUAL PERSONAL ASSISTANTS

Home assistant devices are just one vehicle for the natural language assistants of the platform companies. Assistants like Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa will begin showing up in new places, and in more useful ways, in the coming year. (Samsung has something called S Voice, but it this year acquired the company that developed Siri, so we may be seeing a new assistant technology from the company in the next year).

The platform companies are already investing heavily in the research and development that will make these assistants better listeners and more suited to completing tasks. Natural language assistants must understand our words, but also the meaning and intent behind them. That first part is easier than the second: Microsoft said in October that its Cortana assistant can now understand language roughly as well as a human transcriptionist.

The problem of teaching assistants to learn more about the user (identity, preferences, habits) is harder, but assistants will show improvement in this area in the coming year. Some will begin learning about the emotion expressed in the user’s comments and commands, which is harder still. They'll begin to display what seems like "common sense," which will enable them to communicate and interpret commands and requests in a more natural (and accurate) way.

And assistants will become more knowledgable about more things. They’ll be harder to stump when asking random questions that you might normally use a search engine to answer. They’ll say "I can’t help you with that" less often.

But assistants are in general not ready to learn in an open-ended, autonomous way; rather, they're being taught to learn in a highly structured way within well-defined contexts. An assistant, for example, may be tasked with learning what it can about a user’s habits based on calendar usage.

Assistants are a prime example of a product that is increasingly linked to other products and services offered by the platform. They’re increasingly the thing we’ll use to call up all kinds of data and services, and they’ll show up in more and more contexts. If a consumer sees one assistant as clearly better than others, they might be very tempted to adopt the services the assistant is able to call up.

CAR BRAINS

Automakers have been building platform companies’ infotainment systems into new models for some time, but the integration will soon go much deeper, and it will heat up the competition once again.

Google and Apple each have a platforms (Android Auto and CarPlay, respectively) for extending the set of apps and services (messaging, music, navigation, phone calls, etc.) in Android and iOS to the car. They’re generally regarded as superior to the stock infotainment systems in cars.

But now the platform war for the car extends way beyond the dashboard. Google, for example (and very likely Apple, too) has built a software central nervous system for the car, an operating system that will control the semi-autonomous or autonomous operation of the vehicle. Google may have first intended to sell an autonomous vehicle, but the company refocused efforts on creating the software brains for the vehicles, which could be used in the vehicles of more traditional car companies. Apple has very likely taken the same path.

Google recently formed a new company called Waymo under the Alphabet parent company to market its auto software. Fiat Chrysler will be the first partner to use the system in its vehicles; it said in may it will first use it in 100 of its minivans.

Apple has never formally announced its "Project Titan," but Uber, Tesla, and various automakers are furiously developing self-driving systems. And other platform players like Samsung may eventually jump into the fray.

Microsoft HoloLens

VR/AR HEADSETS

Virtual reality and augmented reality products and experiences are new to many consumers, and it’s yet to be seen how popular the technology will be.

Virtual reality, at least in the consumer space, may be the more mature technology. VR headsets like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive cover close out the outside world and create a 360-degree 3D world for the user. Companies like Facebook’s Oculus, Google, and HTC are already well down the road with the development of VR headsets and will continue to refine the technology during 2017. A growing number of phone makers are readying their devices to power the VR experiences in headsets based in Google’s new Daydream platform.

Apple has so far stayed out of the virtual reality space. This may be because the company is more interested in augmented reality, as CEO Tim Cook has suggested in his comments. Augmented reality superimposes digital data and images over the real world as seen through the camera lens on a mobile device or headset.

Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset has been available to developers (and, technically, anyone else) for some time now, but augmented reality arguably had its coming out in 2016 with the Pokemon Go phenomenon in July. But that app requires viewing the overlaid content on the screen of a mobile device, which can be a clunky experience. The same type of experience is being used by toy makers to overlay digital imagery over dolls and action figures to make the play more interesting and to sell add-on products (accessories, media, etc.).

Perhaps the biggest name in the consumer AR space is Florida-based Magic Leap, which says it has a new kind of headset lens to create sharper digital imagery. The company’s investors have put more than a billion dollars behind the product, but a 2017 release looks less and less likely. Two sources in the AR space have told me that if Apple releases some kind of AR product, it won’t be until 2018. So 2017 may be more of a warmup year for AR. If the technology captures the imaginations of consumers, the platform war may ensue in 2018 and 2019.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND NATURAL LANGUAGE

I saved this one for last because AI is now finding its way into many of the products and services sold by the platforms. Personal assistants (like Siri or Alexa) may be the first context in which many people encounter a conversational AI, but the technology will begin showing up in lots of different contexts across the platform in the coming years.

Google and Apple already use AI in photo apps to automatically identify and tag images. Apple uses the same technology in the iPhone camera to recognize objects in the frame, and make adjustments accordingly. Microsoft, Google, and Apple are using AI in bots that can act as customer service reps on behalf of businesses.

Eventually, more advanced versions of the neural networks we see today will be used as the means of processing virtually all kinds of complex data. Where today’s AI needs lots of human training, the technology will become increasingly able to learn on its own. We’ll eventually stop thinking about computers as input/output if-this-then-that machines, and more like huge systems arranged like the neurons in the human brain. They'll process data more like the brain does.

We’re also in the early stages of a shift toward voice interactions with computers and applications. In the next year we may see some leaps forward in the machines’ ability not only to understand our words but also understand the real intent behind the words. We'll increasingly be able to speak commands to the devices in our lives. We'll tap screens less.

The good news in all this is that as these big, well-monied companies battle it out, specific products naturally get better, and whole platforms get more complete. Today, no one company can provide everything we need throughout the day. This may become less true as the major platforms increasingly extend new products and services into our work, home, entertainment, and personal lives.

Author:  MARK SULLIVAN

Source:  https://www.fastcompany.com/3066746/tech-forecast/these-are-the-five-key-battlegrounds-for-the-big-tech-platforms-in-2017

Remember the hit series Mad Men? The television drama focused on the personal foibles of marketing executives on Madison Avenue, but there was also plenty of insight into the marketing strategies used by companies in the mid-1900s.

While the types of marketing strategies we use to snag customer attention may have changed through the years, the goal has not. Marketing is still about finding the best way to get customers interested in our products. What has changed is how we go about doing this.

Thinking outside the box and other great talents

The successful marketer today is much like the polished professional of Madison Avenue in the 1960s in one way: creativity creates opportunity in marketing. Today’s marketers are encouraged to “think outside the box” and find new ways to engage consumers. The ability to do this is the hallmark of a great strategist and will result in successful ad campaigns.

What is different today is that marketers are no longer plugged into a single role. Today’s marketers now must possess a distinctive blend of coding and marketing skills as well as creativity. There is no single, isolated roles for the successful marketer in today’s world.

This brings us to growth hacking.

What is growth hacking?

Growth hacking is the process of experimenting across multiple marketing channels rapidly and simultaneously to identify the most successful ways to grow businesses.

Growth hackers must take on the roles of marketers as well as engineers who grow businesses, product managers who brand products and advertisers who engage customer bases and perform research to identify potential marketing areas.

It’s not Don Draper’s marketing.

Why is growth hacking important to my business?

If you are not considering the roles involved in growth hacking, it is likely that your marketing is falling behind the curve. Your competitors are certainly considering the ramifications of the various aspects of growth hacking, so it is important that you do so as well.

Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself when considering whether your business will benefit from a growth hacking stance in marketing:

  • Do I know the various marketing channels through which my business should be operating?
  • Do I have someone on my team who can successfully handle the technical aspects of my website?
  • Am I using every strategy available, including social media, on a regular basis?
  • Who is branding my products?
  • What is my plan for growth over the next six months, year and five years?

Let’s take these questions one at a time.

Do you know your marketing channels?

It is not uncommon for business owners to be unaware of the marketing channels through which they should be pushing their products. In fact, it is probably more common than not that business owners focus on one or two marketing channels through which they have had success in the past and ignore others.

According to a recent UMass study, “the value of a marketing channel, one of a firm’s market-based assets, is determined not only by the amount of value created during the distribution process, but also by the ultimate value appropriated by the firm.”

What this means in simple terms is that marketing channels have value far beyond the “bottom line” figure of profit that they generate for their users. Things like branding and good will development happen in marketing channels, so focusing only on the actions that bring in the most dollars can be a serious mistake. In the long run, developing multiple marketing channels gives you a way to reach your customers and keep them happy with your products.

Additionally, having multiple marketing channels is a safety net. It allows you to shore up weak areas or weather lean times when one channel does not bring in the profit you anticipated.

How is your tech looking?

Technical support is crucial for today’s marketing strategies. Find someone good and keep that person, whatever the cost. Treat him or her as one of the most valuable members of your team.

Too many people farm out technical work to the cheapest bidder. This is a recipe for eventual disaster with your customers. Not only are today’s customers better at using technology than they were a few years ago, but there has also been a significant paradigm shift in what constitutes “good” technical service. If your website doesn’t work, you will lose customers. It is that simple.

When you’ve hired a good developer have them use Google Search Console and Google Insights to learn what improvements Google suggests for your website.

how-is-your-tech-looking-for-tips-for-growth-hacking

Do you have a solid SEO plan?

Ranking in search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing for example can bring in a number of leads to your business. Getting started isn’t rocket science but it is highly recommend that you consult with a consultant to map out your strategy.

Joining groups on LinkedIn, Facebook groups, and Forums are another good resource where you can ask questions and network with like-minded individuals.

What about social media?

Social media is the elephant in the room for many companies. You need someone managing your social media on a consistent and regular basis. It is not optional; every successful company today has a strong social media presence.

You cannot buy better branding than a good social media campaign, particularly if your potential customers are young or congregate in a certain spot on the Internet.

On the other hand, a bad social media strategy can be the kiss of death. If you do not know what you are doing with social media, hire an expert. Companies have been taken down by the wrong person writing social media posts and interacting with customers; you are better off avoiding social media altogether than using it incorrectly.

Who is branding whom?

If you are not branding your products, your competitors are. It is that simple. We no longer live in a world where it is enough to run your own successful marketing; you must also secure your brand against attack by anyone who chooses to publish negative information about you.

How can you do this? The simplest way is to monitor your branding at all times and take pro-active steps to ensure that you are placing positive images in your customers’ minds. Be sure to focus on both current and future potential customers.

In addition to creating positive marketing around your brand name you will also want to monitor the internet to make sure that there isn’t anything negative said about your company. One of the tools you can use to do this is called Google Alerts. Google Alerts is a free tool offered by Google that will alert you anytime they find keywords, names, or phrases you enter on the internet.

To sign up you will need to have a Google account. After you sign in it’s as easy as entering your brand name into a text box then clicking a blue “Create Alert” button. After that Google will send you an email when they come across your brand name mention.

google-alerts-for-tips-for-growth-hacking

Do you have a plan?

Good marketing doesn’t happen by accident. It is the product of a six-month, year, five-year and beyond plan for growth. Be sure you have concrete, measurable goals to compare to your actual results.

The metrics you use to measure success can vary based on your goals. Below are a few measures I like to use.

  • Organic rankings in search engines like Google and Bing are good measures for anyone who is looking to increase website traffic. Moving from position 10 to position 1 or 2 can make a large increase in the number of visitors seeing your listing in search engine results and then clicking through to your website. According to findings from online ad network Chitika, the top result on Google gets about 33% of the traffic compared to 18% for the second position.

  • Number of visitors to your website and from where. When you see an increase in traffic you’ll want to know where it came from. The same goes with sudden decreases in traffic. If you notice any dips in traffic you will want to find out if there is a particular source that is no longer performing and investigate.

  • Bounce rate is an important metric to keep an eye on. If you have a high bounce rate you will want to make sure that (A) you are driving traffic to your page or site that is relevant and (B) your pages address what your visitors are looking for. The best way to do this is to head over to Qualaroo and set up a survey on your site asking people why they are leaving.

bounce-rate-for-tips-for-growth-hacking

  • Conversion rate is an important element that many websites overlook. There are many types of conversion rates, which include landing page conversions, email conversions, etc. To help improve conversion rates it is a good idea to always be testing elements on your website. If you are currently using Google Analytics, testing is free using the experiments link. Setup is rather easy. Simply click on the “Create Experiment” button and follow a few simple steps to get up and running.

conversion-rate-for-tips-for-growth-hacking

  • Goal progress is an important part of any campaign. Each goal set should be SMART and prioritized. SMART goals are specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

Growth hacking is a powerful tool if used correctly. Harness the power of growth hacking, and your company can grow beyond your wildest dreams!

Author : Christopher Foerster

Source : http://www.business2community.com/strategy/7-tips-growth-hacking-way-top-industry-01736328#yKSgKFBM0wHfLWlX.97

Being an entrepreneur, it is imperative that you must be equipped with an in-depth knowledge of the major variables, in the both internal and external environments, that will help you enhance your business’s growth. In order to drive revenue and gain competitive edge over your rivals, you need to excel in different aspects of your business. These aspects include: enhancing team management & communication, harnessing social media to promote your business, keeping an eye on the financial health, focussing on building long-term partnership with your customers and task automation.

If you are a growing company and you have a growth-driven team, vision and dedication to achieve your business goals, all you need a powerful set of right and integrated tools to leverage your business. Fortunately, there are thousands of apps, services, software and tools available to simplify and enhance various business processes. These effective tools can help entrepreneurs to achieve their business goals, minimize distractions and give you more time to focus on building strategies that can grow your business.

Growing your business is indeed a daunting challenge, but thanks to advancements made in the info-tech industry, there are many free web-based tools at your disposal that can help you efficiently and effectively manage aforementioned aspects that affect your business 24/7. So, if you wish to give your brainchild the right direction and momentum it needs to succeed in 2017, then this is your seize-the-day moment.

For all the budding entrepreneurs reading this post, we have compiled a list of free web-based applications for you that will facilitate you in efficiently managing your daily operations and successfully accomplish long-term goals that you’ve set for your soon-to-be business empires.

1. HubSpot CRM

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Finding the right CRM software that can easily be implemented is difficult, especially for small and medium-sized businesses having limited resources and budget. If truth be told, it is impossible for every business to grow without a CRM (Customer Relationship Management tool).HubSpot CRM can serve as a solid foundation of growth where all your business operations are organized and can be easily gauged. This CRM tool tracks every interaction your sales team has with your customers, stores all your marketing leads and customer data and improves communication across the whole company.

2. Google Keyword Planner

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Search engine optimization plays a key role in increasing traffic to your website which is indeed a big driver of business growth in this competitive era. If you want more and more visitors to your website, you will need a keyword tool to help you prioritize which keywords to focus on. One of the best keyword tools

is Google Keyword Planner that helps entrepreneurs to narrow down the right keywords, determine competition around every keyword and find out how many people are searching for the particular keyword.

3. TaskQue

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TaskQue is a web-based task management software that helps entrepreneurs to simplify complex business processes. Marketing and sales team have a lot of projects and ideas going on at the same time. TaskQue is the best tool for tracking the progress of each task and resource, making it easier for project managers to accomplishing their business goals. With TaskQue, business owners can stay organized, focused and effective, while making a great impact on business growth.

4. GrowthBot

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Bots can make business process simpler, while intelligently answering questions to customers’ queries. GrowthBot is an effective chatbot that can give entrepreneurs more convenient access to information you already have. It gives you an easy access to information you didn’t know you already had. Best of all, you can integrateGrowthBot with different marketing systems such as Google Analytics and HubSpot.

5. Buffer

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Believe it or not, social media is a great amplifier. It takes time, but if you build a huge following, it is great to take that valued content you are producing and spreading it further. For social media marketing on all the major networks,Buffer is indeed a great option for entrepreneurs to opt for. It connects all your social media accounts in a single platform and allows you to share text, links, photos, videos while scheduling for later.

6. Canva

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Nobody can deny the real power of visuals. Tools that make creating visual content easier are vital for your business growth, especially with insufficient design resources. Canva is a great tool that can enable you to create images in a very short amount of time so that you can make your business website, emails, social media posts and different other marketing asset more engaging and attractive for your audience. Putting better visuals means more engagement that leads to more traffic and business growth.

7. Doodle

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Scheduling meeting is no doubt a hectic activity, especially for entrepreneurs and small-business owners who have to do so many things on their own.Doodle is a great tool that simplifies the scheduling process by allowing you to offer so many time slots to your meeting attendees so they can easily choose what time works best. You can then see what suits to everyone and plan accordingly. Best of all, Doodle is free with ads and you can easily pay to upgrade to a premium account.

8. Grasshopper

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Now businesses are opting for an online phone system that can easily be connected to both mobiles and office landlines.Grasshopper helps businesses to pick a number of their own choice for their business, record the custom greeting, add teams and get voicemails and faxes anywhere. This tool creates and customizes extensions to forward calls, plus you can get a toll free or landline number with multiple extensions for your business.

9. Slack

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Collaborating with multiple teams on different projects at the same time can be a great challenge for many businesses. Entrepreneurs need to access so many platforms and send a multitude of messages with a number of priorities. Slack, a great tool for tech startups has a great potential to transform the way your teams collaborates. You can create a private channel for different teams, subjects and strategies. Moreover, you can index communication with hashtags so that your team can easily search content. It has become an effective way for businesses to keep their teams inspired and great ideas flowing.

10. Evernote

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Evernote is an amazing app that allows entrepreneurs to jot down all their important ideas on their phone so that they can easily find them whenever they want. Moreover, business owners can take advantage of Evernote add-ons like Web Clipper that allows you capture articles, photos and different other type of content from the web and store it in a variety of formats. In addition, you can connect Evernote with your Slack account.

11. Wave

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Managing your business financial matters is the most important part especially when it comes to startups and keeping everything transparent is important. Maintaining your expense record on excel sheets is quite daunting and most of the time hectic too. Therefore, opting for Wave is a worthwhile choice that helps small businesses to link your bank accounts and automate your invoicing, transactions and more. Moreover, it gives you an option to manually add your income or monetary record. Most importantly, the billing and reporting features are very intuitive, ensuring your small business runs smoothly without any hassle of managing hectic finances.

12. Aha

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Road mapping your business is undoubtedly one of the critical tasks that most entrepreneurs usually overlook. Aha is an amazing tool that helps businesses to view a visual representation of their plans, goals, vision and direction. The tool helps entrepreneurs to store out all the important elements of your business, personas, competitors and vision, while getting everything done on time. Moreover, Aha has some great features such as strategy, ideas, releases and integrations that can help you check out once you sign up for it.

13. MailChimp

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It’s difficult for businesses to gain targeted audience, but there are some effective email marketing tools available such as MailChimp that helps you gain visitors. This tool can connect your business with current and potential readers by simply sending visually appealing emails. With personalized templates, your emails will depict a good picture of your brand, the best part is that this email marketing tool is very intuitive and easy to maintain. Moreover, the analytics reports show how well your email performed, what worked best and what did not.

14. Optimizely

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It is important for almost every business to keep check with the customers’ continuously changing behaviors. Optimizely is an A/B testing tool that helps entrepreneurs to drive more results from their current visitors and budget while reducing bounce rate. This tool lets you power your every experiment across the customer experience, on any device and application.

Wrapping it up

In today’s tech-driven world, there is an available solution to improve almost every aspect of your business process that is crucial for your business’s success. Thanks to the free and efficient tools that augment necessary day-to-day tasks, small business owners have the advantage of managing their operations more resourcefully than they used to do 10 years ago. These helpful tools and apps make it easier for businesses to organize workflow, boost productivity and generate qualified leads. Above all, they are all free, so go ahead and give them a whirl and witness the magic happening!

Author : Kathleen Maloney

Source : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathleen-maloney/14-free-business-tools-to_b_13718746.html

3D Systems Corp. (DDD), the additive manufacturing pioneer, believes the industry is on the verge of an inflection point in which it will generate volume and profits by “connecting prototyping to manufacturing.” Brean Capital’s Ananda Baruah, who has a hold rating on the tech company’s stock, highlights 3D Systems’ healthcare business as a market differentiator and driver of growth moving forward, reports Benziga.

Healthcare as a Successful Vertical

After a healthcare event hosted by the Rock Hill, S.C.-based company, the Brean analyst noted that 3D Systems’ healthcare business accounts for 27% of the firm’s overall sales, with an organic growth rate of 10% to 20% throughout 2015.Wrote Baruah in an analyst note: “We came away understanding 1) that the HC business itself could be in the process of growing into a legitimately material business on its own, and 2) more fully grasping DDD's strategy of leveraging the holistic platform capabilities of the HC vertical by applying it to the other target verticals of aerospace, automotive, and general industrial.”

Analyst: 3D 'Better Positioned Than Market Estimates'

After the 3D-printing industry boomed a few years back, 3D Systems and long-time rival Stratasys Ltd. (SSYS) experienced a significant slump and lack demand in the consumer segment. The current 3D-printing industry revival has been supercharged by the entrance of larger firms HP Inc. (HPQ) and General Electric Co. (GE) as the industry moves towards 3D printing for industrial manufacturing.

Baruah believes that 3D Systems is better positioned to gain amid this large-scale industry transition than the market estimates, as the firm works on developing “end-to-end solutions and ecosystems across verticals.” The analyst indicates that 3D Systems’ healthcare vertical is a prime example of how the firm can cultivate a vertical businesses and apply the platform to other key verticals moving forward, such as aerospace, automotive, defense and general industrial.

 

Author:  Shoshanna Delventhal

Source:  http://www.investopedia.com/news/brean-capital-sees-bright-future-3d-systems-healthcare

Cyber crime continues to dominate the headlines and significant numbers of individuals and businesses are still falling victim to the stealthy attacks by cyber criminals

In 2015, UK Christmas shoppers spent £24 billion shopping online, and as the popularity of online shopping increases, so does the likelihood of falling foul of cyber criminals, not necessarily because they are putting in extra effort during the festive season, but simply because more of us are doing more online shopping at this time of the year.

For cyber criminals, events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday provide a great opportunity to take advantage of consumers looking for a good deal or a gift for someone special, online.

In 2015, £3.3 billion was spent over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. Over a third of this was spent online, signalling the seismic social shift to shopping online during the busy Christmas season.

However, this opens the door for cybercriminals to prey on data, such as credit card details and passwords.

In their bid for your data, cybercriminals are becoming craftier than ever before.

You may have seen, for example, emails circulating recently claiming to be from Amazon, and asking for information about a recent order.

The email claims that there has been an issue processing an order, and asks the victim to click a link to confirm the account, which then takes them to a fraudulent website that very often is identical to the real thing.

This type of phishing scam dupes unwitting individuals into giving out sensitive information, such as bank details, credit card numbers or personally identifiable information, to cybercrooks.

Those that fall for it are unknowingly allowing cybercriminals to use their credit card details for future fraudulent purchases or to put them up for sale on the Dark Web, along with thousands of other people’s personal data.

However, it’s not just consumers who are at risk in the run up to Christmas – businesses are too.

When a small business, which may lack the resources for a dedicated security or IT team, receives an unknown email with an attachment that reads ‘invoice’ or ‘shipping confirmation’, they may be more inclined to open it – which could open up the company’s network to an attack if it turns out to be malicious.

If a business doesn’t have the proper security measures in place to provide a holistic picture of the organisation’s network, it may be too late once you’ve clicked ‘open’.

During this online shopping season, Sophos has put together some top tips to ensure you’re as safe as you can be – even when the post-Christmas sales begin:

If an online deal is too good to be true, it probably is.

This age-old saying still holds true online. Cyber criminals are using multiple methods to try and scam people out of their money, including phishing, DDoS, and malware, to name a few.

The possibility of a free iPhone, or a cheap TV may seem tempting, but don’t give in – it’s a total scam. With Hatchimals quickly becoming the impossible-to-get toy of the season, it’s becoming increasingly common for scammers to post on social media that they are selling one.

However, very quickly you’ll find after transferring the money, that you won’t hear from them again.

Cyber criminals know the lure of anything that may be discounted or ‘free’ will invite a click or two, which may take you to a phishing page, or an unintentional malware download. Regardless – it’s not worth the risk.

IoT products may make great gifts, but a cyber attack doesn’t

IoT products are set to be some of the hottest Christmas gifts this season – however, these kinds of devices are often vulnerable right out of the box.

The most recent hack on IoT devices demonstrated how connected devices like wearables can be just as vulnerable to attacks as your PC or laptop.

Unfortunately, the true vulnerabilities are in the devices themselves. Industry has rushed into launching these internet-enabled ‘things’ without considering the major security consequences of them.

Make sure you check the security of devices you’re purchasing and be sure to change the default password before using.

Spyware from Santa – make sure you have security software

Cyber criminals have more opportunity to intercept data with spyware during the Christmas period.

Protect against all malware, including spyware, which logs your financial data while you type it into your keyboard, with security software.

Of 1,250 consumers polled in the US, UK, Germany, Switzerland and Austria in a recent Sophos survey, 54% perceive spyware as an extremely large cyber security threat.

31% of those surveyed consider themselves unprotected, are not familiar with spyware or are unsure if they’re protected. The lesson here is to always make sure there is up-to-date security software running in the background.

Security isn’t only about keeping the bad stuff out. It’s also about keeping the good stuff in.

In the lead up to Christmas, remember one thing – be extra vigilant against cyber crimes. Nobody has malware or a phishing attack on their Christmas list this year, so make sure you don’t get it on yours.

And if you make it through the holiday shopping season unscathed, all of these tips will still be valid in 2017 so remember to keep your security guard up 24/7/365.
Sourced by John Shier, senior security expert at Sophos

Source : http://www.information-age.com/trust-set-become-latest-attack-victim-123463649/

Sunday, 11 December 2016 14:17

The 19 Habits of Successful Parent-Preneurs

Running a business with children running around can be chaotic at the best of times. Talented parent-preneurs know that discipline, focus, and drive is needed to advance a business towards success. Being self-employed means that a flexible working schedule can be developed, and priorities can be juggled at any time of the day or night.

The following successful parent-preneurs tell us the habits they practise to stay successful at work and at home.

Habit #1: Communicating Effectively

I had stresses in business going on and they were affecting me at home. I realized that I was difficult to be around for everyone, but especially my wife. I make it a point to let her know what’s going on in the business now, even if she finds it boring. The most important part isn’t what’s happening, but how I feel about what’s happening. So even though she might not understand what’s going on, she understands that it’s making me stressed (or excited) and she feels like she’s more connected with me and I feel the same with her.

Nurture your family as much as you nurture your business. Your business may take care of your family but your family will care about you.

Brian Gatti, Partner & Consultant, Inspire Business Concepts

Habit #2: Saying No

I tell my clients that the definition of balance is not trying to get to a perfect 10 in every area of their life. Rather, it’s figuring out how they want their life to look in each area and putting the plan in place to get there.

My #1 tip that always works for me is to pause and consciously choose what I want to say yes to and what I want to say no to. When I don’t do that, I can make choices without realizing that saying yes to this thing really means saying no to something else I may not want to say no to.

Elene Cafasso, President & Head Coach, Enerpace Executive Coaching

Habit #3: Scheduling Family Time

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 8.46.54 AM

Devote one entire day to family each weekend and put away all technology. What I find that my kids want the most from me is quality time. It’s much better to set aside large chunks of time to play, talk, and explore the world and everything else can wait for a few hours (or a day).

The easiest way to do this is by setting expectations with your clients. In the digital marketing world, it’s tough not to be always on, but communicating when and how you’re available to clients can mitigate any problems.

Aalap Shah, Co-Founder, SoMe Connect

Habit #4: Loving What You Do

You have to love what you do so it doesn’t feel like work but like a hobby or passion, because you will put your blood, sweat, and tears into your business.

Kelley Kitley LCSW, Owner, SERENDIPITOUS PSYCHOTHERAPY, LLC, Author of Autobiography, My Self

Habit #5: Focussing Attention, Not Time

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 8.48.20 AM

You may think you have five hours to work and then wake up to a sick child. So, learn to focus only on the task at hand when you have time. You’ll find yourself much more productive if you do so. If you want to focus on your business while raising kids, you have to become a high performer. That means developing the ability to focus on what is in front of you and be present in any moment. And it means developing clarity, persuasion and productivity skills, and a sense of purpose.

Nina Amir, Chief Inspiration Officer & Inspiration to Creation Coach, Pure Spirit Creations

Habit #6: Taking Care

Keep your energy up! You can’t help your children or your customers/clients if you have no energy. Take care of yourself first so you can care for your kids and your business. (This is just like the oxygen mask on a plane. Put it on yourself first!)

Nina Amir, Chief Inspiration Officer & Inspiration to Creation Coach, Pure Spirit Creations

Habit #7: Using The 20-3-20-10 Rule

I work for 20 minutes, then do 3 minutes of quick chores (loading laundry, making coffee, etc.), then 20 more minutes of work, followed by 10 minutes of movement (stretching, prepping dinner, etc.). I use a headset whenever on a call and walk around the house if possible, or load or empty the dishwasher. When my little girl is home, she has a schedule with rewards, extra time with mommy for cooking or reading together, if she doesn’t interrupt me on a call, etc.

I will say having a child in a kid-focused business is great! Her friends served as preliminary focus groups for my gaming app and she comes up with a lot of great ideas.

Melissa Halas-Liang, Founder, Super Kids Nutrition 

Habit #8: Writing a 5-Minute To-Do List

Make a list that you keep on your phone called “5-minute to-do list.” These will be things that take 5 minutes or less to do. Every time you get an extra few minutes, whether it be waiting at the dentist’s office or standing in line at the grocery store, look at the list and do one of them. They can be things like merge your multiple contacts in your phone or search for clients’ birthdays on facebook so you can start a list and make sure you wish them happy birthday next year.

Amber Dolle, Real Estate Agent

Habit #9: Practising Balance

Being a working mother is a true blessing. I’m showing my children, especially my daughter, that it is okay to work, be a wife, and a friend all at the same time. Aside all the busy trips, meetings, and calls, the moment I walk inside my home, I put down my phone and step away from the computer. Turning off notifications goes a long way and helps remind me that at that moment, nothing is as urgent and important as family time.

Sometimes it’s easier said than done. In that case, I explain and show my daughter what I’m up to and why I’m on the phone. It’s a great way to converse, bring her in, help her understand and appreciate the work I’m doing. I understand that there’s more than one way to be a good mom. Being confident and balanced in life, I’m showing my children that you can be whatever you want to be without sacrificing the people and things you love.

Harriet Mills, CEO & Founder, Wine & Design

Habit #10: Identifying What’s Important

misc

Do something every day to move your business forward. Growing a business takes time, it’s a marathon not a sprint. Doing little items everyday will add up to success.

Heather Christian, Stressed Mommy LLC

Habit #11: Including The Family

Being an entrepreneur is typically a 24/7 commitment and therefore, my habit for success is consistently educating and including our son in our business. I wanted him to have some understanding of why we work so hard and have him feel some ownership and pride as well.

As a parent-preneur, it’s difficult to separate work from home, so giving him an opportunity to participate and learn some business skills made it truly a family business. In the process, he has set up trade shows, packed boxes, worked on our database, met with clients and worn an eagle costume!

Mickey Swortzel, Owner/CFO, New Eagle Consulting, LLC

Habit #12: Scheduling Work Hours

jann

If you work from home, this is the time of day that you need to be up, dressed, and ready to go. The start time may flex depending on what else is going on in your life, but keeping to a schedule gets you in a regular work frame of mind. Conversely, be sure to schedule time with yourself, your partner, kids, and your friends in your calendar.

It might seem too rigid to schedule fun time, but often if we don’t schedule it, then the time gets away from us and it doesn’t happen.

Jann Fujimoto, Speech-language Pathologist, SpeechWorks

Habit #13: Remembering Happiness Brings Success

I try to be a generally happy person. Success does not bring happiness, it’s the other way around: happiness brings success. If you are generally an unhappy person and feel sorry for yourself, if you’re constantly engaged in negative self-talk, you won’t be successful. If you are generally happy, give yourself positive feedback, and believe in yourself, you are more likely to be successful.

Jesse Harrison, Owner, Zeus Legal Funding

Habit #14: Being Disciplined

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 8.53.30 AM

When I had an 8-5 job, I use to think I was so busy, but starting my business has really put things into perspective. I wake up around 4 am to get my training done by 6:30. At 6:30, I respond to emails and do client work until 7:30 (when my girls wake up). After taking them to school (they go for half days), I rush back to the house where I fully focus on work for 4 hours. Then off to get the girls, run errands, take them swimming, make dinner, bathe them, read them a story, and then get them to bed.

After that, I enjoy my glass of wine while doing some more work.

Olivia Jaras, Founder & CEO of Salary Coaching for Women

Habit #15: Learning To Switch Off

I have to consciously open the app and refresh the screen in order to download new emails. That means, on a Saturday morning, I stop and think before I hit refresh and I ask myself: how will I feel after I see my emails? If I believe an email could trigger a stress response, then I usually justify waiting till another time.

I have also moved the email app from my home screen to the last screen of my iPhone so that, again, I have to consciously seek it out to check it.

Katy Martin & Krista Smith, Web Designer Beauty School

Habit #16: Embracing a Flexible Schedule

joey4

When moving from full-time employment to self employed, I kept my working day the same, starting between 8 AM and 9 AM through to 6 PM. I kept the breaks to a minimum and did my best to focus and get as much done as possible. So, all I’d done in this change is heap a load more pressure on myself for the same routine. Gone was the security of an employer paying me and there seemed to be no upside of being self employed.

After a while, I decided to relax the schedule and give myself a break if I wanted one. Not just a 5-minute coffee, but an hour or two with my son or a breakfast out with my wife, knowing I could catch up those hours this evening or at the weekend and no one was there to tell me otherwise.

Ben Hitchens, Founder, Older Dating

Habit #17: Expecting Respect

Even though I look like a stay-at-home mom, I am not. I run a business from home. They must respect the fact that I work, so if I am on the phone, they must be quiet and respect my clients. In return, I respect their needs of me. When it is their time, I am devoted to them. Very little cheating is involved. No guilt.

They also need to know and buy into the fact that this work feeds, houses, and clothes all of us, so they are part of this enterprise. I ask them to play their parts, do their best, and show up professionally like I have to for my clients. They come and help out at my events, they see themselves as part of the message and the business.

To celebrate our accomplishments, we go on cool vacations. My daughter knows what I make, how my work helps other women, and feels the pride in that.

Mai Vu, Author, The Divorced Mom’s Guide to Dating

Habit #18: Taking Baby Steps

Don’t be disillusioned that your business will be an overnight success (unless you’re very, very lucky or well connected). It takes hard work, focus, dedication, blood, sweat, and tears. I set myself weekly goals and keep a huge to-do list and stick to it. I’m constantly re-prioritising my to-do list and I work on the quick wins first. These small steps will eventually get you to your end goals.

Lucy McShane, Owner, Real Wedding

Habit #19: Multitasking

Multitasking is a necessity. Multitasking is also a family event. Sometimes, my kids are right next to me at Panera or Starbucks while I am sending a few quick emails. I can listen to business podcasts while also cooking dinner. Any opportunity I have to get business done during family chores/tasks, I take advantage of that time.

Heather McCarthy, Owner, Someone Special Uniquely Personalized Books

Author:  Lucy Clark

Source:  http://www.lifehack.org

SHANGHAI: Several Chinese iPhone users have claimed that their handsets caught fire or exploded, according to a Shanghai consumer watchdog which called on tech giant Apple to address the complaints.

Fresh on the heels of Samsung’s worldwide Galaxy Note 7 safety fiasco, the state-run Shanghai Consumer Council said it had received eight reports in recent months of iPhones that spontaneously combusted while being used or charged.

The report, seen on the council’s website, was posted Friday.

It quoted one woman as saying her iPhone 6s Plus exploded in August, shattering the screen and leaving the battery and back of the phone blackened.

Apple provided the woman with a new iPhone but did not address the cause of the incident, the report said.

“Apple should be responsible for consumers” and deal with complaints in a timely manner, the council said.

“A large amount of consumer complaints are not solved effectively.”

The council said it has received a sixfold surge in total complaints against Apple in the past two months, including sudden shutdowns of the iPhone 6 and 6s even though batteries still have enough power.

The council did not make clear where the complaining iPhone users were located.

Apple last month offered to change iPhone 6s batteries for Chinese users who complained of what the company called “accidental shutdown”.

The offer was effective for handsets made between September-October, 2015.

At the time iPhone insisted the shutdowns did not constitute a safety problem.

AFP was unable to immediately obtain a response from Apple in China over the consumer watchdog report.

Samsung suffered a severe blow over its Galaxy Note 7’s woes. The huge South Korean electronics manufacturer was forced to recall some 2.5 million units.

Apple saw its revenue in the Greater China market plunge 30 per cent in the three months ended September 24, with analysts saying it faces rising competition from Chinese smartphone brands.

Source : http://arynews.tv/

It's like I am celebrating my bar mitzvah again, well, I kind of am because this site is now 13-years old! I personally have been covering the search marketing industry on this site for 13 years now. And I say this every year, but the core of this site has not changed - we still cover what the industry is talking about. From Google algorithmic flutters to breaking news - we cover it if the industry is talking about it.

I try so hard to be consistent here - writing every work day on average five stories a day. If I travel or I am off on a Jewish holiday and don't have internet access, I make sure to schedule stories. Consistency is a critical piece for this site and my work in general. In fact, I was once about 15 minutes late to posting the Search Pic of the Day and someone sent me a direct message asking if I was okay.

In any event, you can read about the 12th birthday story and from there catch up on our other stories.

Overall, this year over last year, our traffic is up over 20% with pageviews up about the same and our unique users are up over 25%. This is with adding the iOS and Android apps, which is tracked under a different profile. Our mobile traffic is now over 25% of our traffic, up from 15% the previous year - honestly, I am surprised it is not higher. Our search traffic is up about 30%, social is up over 10%, and direct is up over 25%.

There are over 23,000 stories on this site, of which I wrote over 20,000 of them. In the past year, we wrote about 1,800 stories alone and we had over 16,500 non-spam comments on this site in the past year (over 126,000 comments in 13 years). So there is a lot of content here, some better than others. I really do enjoy most of the comments here, I know many of you skip them, but they make me laugh some of the time.

The weekly search video recaps are fun too. My YouTube channel shows over 1,200,000 minutes of watch time in total and 5.7 million video views in total. The videos in total have 5,500+ likes and 1,200 dislikes and about 5,000 comments. But we only have 3,500 YouTube subscribers, so go subscribe - although we do have an iTunes podcast also - and I don't track those. But in total, I made $182 in YouTube revenue on these videos - clearly, not a money maker but this site in general doesn't make that much money.

Most Important Stories In Past 12 Months:

Here is how I would define what are the most important stories over the past 12 months. They are about Penguin 4.0, the mobile-first index, AMP growing in influence, machine learning and structured data and then some algorithm updates. We also had AdWords remove ads from the right, go green and remove the keyword planner from many SEOs. Google lost their head of search, Amit Singhal and Google brought back the Google Dance. Here is the list, but I do hope I didn’t miss anything critical.

Most Viewed Stories In Past 12 Months:

Here are the most viewed stories in the past 12 months of 2016 based on Google Analytics:

2017 Recommendations:

Last year I said mobile is still important, which it was. I said spend time on App Indexing, which I think was bad advice since Google is now focusing more on AMP and PWAs. I did say spend time on AMP, and I strongly recommend that for 2017 and I also talked about voice search and personal assistants - all true for 2017.

But with the mobile-first index, mobile will become even more important. But we are getting more into machine learning and artificially intelligence, so look into featured snippets more and how Google talks about machine learning.

More importantly, thank you all so much for reading every day, commenting (or ignoring the comments) and for sharing the stories here. Keep up the chatter and let's build an even better search community this coming year.

Author:  Barry Schwart

Source:  https://www.seroundtable.com

Education scholars say youth are duped by sponsored content and don't always recognize political bias of social messages.

When it comes to evaluating information that flows across social channels or pops up in a Google search, young and otherwise digital-savvy students can easily be duped, finds a new report from researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Education.

The report, released this week by the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), shows a dismaying inability by students to reason about information they see on the Internet, the authors said. Students, for example, had a hard time distinguishing advertisements from news articles or identifying where information came from.

"Many people assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally perceptive about what they find there," said Professor Sam Wineburg, the lead author of the report and founder of SHEG. "Our work shows the opposite to be true."

The researchers began their work in January 2015, well before the most recent debates over fake news and its influence on the presidential election.

The scholars tackled the question of “civic online reasoning” because there were few ways to assess how students evaluate online information and to identify approaches to teach the skills necessary to distinguish credible sources from unreliable ones.

The authors worry that democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish.

“Many of the materials on web credibility were state-of-the-art in 1999. So much has changed but many schools are stuck in the past,” said Joel Breakstone, the director of SHEG, which has designed social studies curriculum that teaches students how to evaluate primary sources. That curriculum has been downloaded 3.5 million times, and is used by several school districts.

The new report covered news literacy, as well as students' ability to judge Facebook and Twitter feeds, comments left in readers' forums on news sites, blog posts, photographs and other digital messages that shape public opinion.

The assessments reflected key understandings the students should possess such as being able to find out who wrote a story and whether that source is credible. The authors drew on the expertise of teachers, university researchers, librarians and news experts to come up with 15 age-appropriate tests -- five each for middle school, high school and college levels.

"In every case and at every level, we were taken aback by students' lack of preparation," the authors wrote.

In middle school they tested basic skills, such as the trustworthiness of different tweets or articles.

One assessment required middle schoolers to explain why they might not trust an article on financial planning that was written by a bank executive and sponsored by a bank. The researchers found that many students did not cite authorship or article sponsorship as key reasons for not believing the article.

Another assessment had middle school students look at the homepage of Slate. They were asked to identify certain bits of content as either news stories or advertisements. The students were able to identify a traditional ad -- one with a coupon code -- from a news story pretty easily. But of the 203 students surveyed, more than 80 percent believed a native ad, identified with the words "sponsored content," was a real news story.

At the high school level, one assessment tested whether students were familiar with key social media conventions, including the blue checkmark that indicates an account was verified as legitimate by Twitter and Facebook.

Students were asked to evaluate two Facebook posts announcing Donald Trump's candidacy for president. One was from the verified Fox News account and the other was from an account that looked like Fox News. Only a quarter of the students recognized and explained the significance of the blue checkmark. And over 30 percent of students argued that the fake account was more trustworthy because of some key graphic elements that it included.

"This finding indicates that students may focus more on the content of social media posts than on their sources," the authors wrote. "Despite their fluency with social media, many students are unaware of basic conventions for indicating verified digital information."

The assessments at the college level focused on more complex reasoning. Researchers required students to evaluate information they received from Google searches, contending that open Internet searches turn up contradictory results that routinely mix fact with falsehood.

For one task, students had to determine whether Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, believed in state-sponsored euthanasia. A typical Google search shows dozens of websites addressing the topic from opposite angles.

"Making sense of search results is even more challenging with politically charged topics," the researchers said. "A digitally literate student has the knowledge and skill to wade through mixed results to find reliable and accurate information."

In another assessment, college students had to evaluate website credibility. The researchers found that high production values, links to reputable news organizations and polished “About” pages had the ability to sway students into believing without very much skepticism the contents of the site.

The assessments were administered to students across 12 states. In total, the researchers collected and analyzed 7,804 student responses. Field-testing included under-resourced schools in Los Angeles and well-resourced schools in the Minneapolis suburbs. College assessments were administered at six different universities.

Wineburg says the next steps to this research include helping educators use these tasks to track student understanding and to adjust instruction. He also envisions developing curriculum for teachers, and the Stanford History Education Group has already begun to pilot lesson plans in local high schools. Finally, the researchers hope to produce videos showing the depth of the problem and demonstrating the link between digital literacy and informed citizenship.

“As recent headlines demonstrate, this work is more important now than ever,” Wineburg said. “In the coming months, we look forward to sharing our assessments and working with educators to create materials that will help young people navigate the sea of disinformation they encounter online.”

The research was funded by a grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. Besides Breakstone and Wineburg, co-authors included Stanford researchers Sarah McGrew and Teresa Ortega.

An executive summary of the report is available here.

Source : https://ed.stanford.edu

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