Oxford insight on how social media anticipates analyst trends

Impact of social media is overestimated in the short-term and overestimated in the long-term: what was the message from the Oxford Social Media Conference last week. I was lucky to be invited to the event, held at its Said Business School. Thinking over the day, and especially comments by Richard Sambrook, I think the four key trends he outlined that have impacted the traditional news media will also start to impact the analysts.

  1. Experts don’t own the opinion any more. There’s a big power shift and cultural opportunity in the public media. It’s not been very helpful to talk about citizen journalism because is a catch-all term to describe a range of roles: eyewitness, submissions from views are more easily integrated and absorbed into the media process, as case studies and ‘vox pops’ can be integrated into analysts’ research. But that’s one aspect. The discussion on twitter and other social media is also starting to integrate into the research process of some analysts (especially those working on social media or in North America), and it can be an active way of working in the user perspective for analysts with few end-user clients – as phone-ins have been for radio stations without reporting resources. Social media are not integrated so well into the media [an exception is the BBC's ‘World have your say’]. But social media is where news is broken because there’s so little news about it other than fabricated stories pushed by PRs. Social media are also real story areas: few papers have a Twitter correspondent. In this respect, the analyst community is ahead of the media: little work is being done by the media to source news from the internet, let alone the other genres.  There’s a number of analysts that do work in this way (we have a controversial early insight into this, which we called ‘crowd surfing’), and Redmonk certainly springs to mind. In the media there is now the notion of ‘network journalism’ which uses the audiences’ insights to develop. Little work being done there by journalists. But there’s one aspect where analysts continue to struggle: The audience knows more than the writer: how can analysts tap that insight?
  2. Transparency is the new objectivity. The trust in higher-quality journalism comes from transparency. There’s little transparency about research methods at some firms, especially vendor-funded firms where the topics under investigation are largely determined by vendors. Accuracy and fairness means showing how analysts made their choices. There’s often issues about how analysts made the judgements, and how they work. Gartner is leading, I think, in reflecting the media trend towards editor’s blogs, readers’ editors, access blogs (like the NNC’s Newswatch): all these developments need to go further in the analyst community.
  3. Information is not insight. Evangelists increasingly get their news from Twitter: gossip, links, marketing, campaigning, discussion… but there’s neither analysis not journalism there because that needs verification, accuracy, explanation, judgement and context. There’s exponentially more information; good analysis and journalism does something with that base data. So that means that the growth of social media should lead to more need for analysis, not less. The value of analyst organisations is in that processing of information. It’s hard for to journalists monetize it, but analysts have an edge.
  4. If you find yourself in competition with the internet, find a way out. The basic culture – link culture and open borders – will probably continue. Perhaps commercial or government borders will be erected to hamper the flow of information. But if you value if being provided also by the Internet then that’s a business to either get out of, or use only as a way to sell something else.

The basis of how the media gather news is changing. Increasingly firms are build a network to share the work needed to source information and gather news. The same approach essential for analyst firms who want to provide a better customer experience by pooling the effort needed to gather information (something which PAC, Springboard, Datamonitor and Experton seem to be leading on).

2 Comments

  • Reply September 24, 2009

    Nancy Shapira-Aronovic

    Nice post. I think that Transparency is the main issue here and as social networks continue to grow–and they will–Analyst Groups will have to address this. I am actually betting on Forrester to take the lead on this among the larger analyst houses because of their strong background from Jupiter on the new media. They write about it more than anyone and understand the transformation we are all going through. This will eventually affect their business model and force even Gartner to become even more transparent while keeping their value to process the information and provide valuable insight.

  • Reply September 24, 2009

    Nancy Shapira-Aronovic

    by the way Duncan, you should allow us to retweet and share this more easily…

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