Special Report: The State of Analyst Weblogs, Part 1

Barbaraanalysts, Industry analysts, social media

The high tech industry analysts have been slow to adopt blogs. That’s about to change. In this two-part special report, Tekrati takes the pulse of the industry analyst bloggers. The report supplements the launch of our newest online resource, a directory of industry analyst blogs.

At first glance, the slow spread of analyst blogs seems illogical. We expect the analysts to embrace new technologies. We expect the analysts to embrace tools that can increase their visibility and effectiveness as thought leaders. Where the two intersect — new technologies and new communications channels — we expect to find analyst nirvana. So, why the slow uptake?

It’s not a Blog, It’s an Adventure
Blogs present a fundamental cultural change for the analyst business. Analyst business processes assume analysts have control of interactions with clients and research subjects. These processes also ensure that findings and opinions are subjected to scrutiny and polish before public release. Blogs fly in the face of those processes.

“The nature of an edge-based communications medium is a big change of mindset,” said Stowe Boyd, president, COO, head of research, and a resident blogger at Corante. Earlier in his career, he worked at Giga Information Group (now Forrester Research) and Cutter Consortium.

Boyd noted that while some analysts are jumping into blogging, many more are struggling with the implications of blogs as a participatory and dialogue-based medium. “This is another wave of upset. It means they need to rethink parts of how they do what they do — how they deliver value, how they define their value chain.”

James Governor of RedMonk agrees that analyst business models are broken. He and partner Stephen O’Grady have begun using their blogs to develop a new business strategy for their firm. They started the effort, which they’ve dubbed an “open source analysis” strategy, thinking only of their own firm. They are encouraging candid, constructive dialogue. In return, some bloggers are encouraging them to create a precedent that could begin transforming the industry analyst community at large.

Blog challenges do not stop there. Amy Wohl, one of the first analysts to publish a blog, points to an aspect of blogging that requires special attention: balancing blog posts with client and industry expectations.

“I think you have to decide that public people are public people and everything you do is in the public eye. That means you can’t be one thing on a blog and something else when you’re in front of a client,” said Wohl in an email interview. “It’s easy to forget that and get carried away with what a free-lance press writer might do with his blog — an analyst can’t do that.”

No Pain, All Gain
Charlene Li at Forrester Research is one who is achieving the balance. “My blog is more informal, almost like a conversation, and hence, has what I call a very personal ‘voice’ as opposed to the Forrester voice in our syndicated research,” said Li. “I think it’s more reminiscent of a conversation I might have with a client or journalist.”

Many analysts see neither challenge nor conflict in incorporating blogs into their businesses. JupiterResearch dove into blogs in 2003 and never looked back. Their blogs developed a loyal and growing community, transcended analyst blogger departures and absorbed changes in research agendas.

Rob Enderle embraces the change that blogging brings to his analyst business: “It is forcing a process where generic research is provided more freely but where focused recommendations are provided more frequently. It is changing the very nature of what I do, and honestly, I’m getting a big kick out of it.”

Forrester’s Li sees blogs and syndicated research co-existing in harmony. “Our syndicated research is thoroughly researched, analyzed, and edited through several drafts. My blog, on the other hand, represents a very personal, individual endeavor and is usually not reviewed by any editor,” said Li. “This is not to say that my blog posts are not deliberate or carefully researched — it simply serves a different purpose from our syndicated research.”

Likewise, independent analyst David Isen said his newsletter and weblog have always attracted two separate but overlapping groups. “Blog readers are more likely to read the e-letter than vice versa,” said Isen via email. Going forward, he can’t see living without blogs, wikis, RSS and similar venues.

Pilgrim’s Progress
Today, approximately 10 percent of the 350 analyst firms Tekrati tracks have well-established blogs:

  • Public blogs rule — for now. Exceptions include a Shore Communications subscription blog and Gartner blogs restricted to their EXP members. Both firms offer public blogs as well.
  • Individual analyst blogs are the norm, although several firms are experimenting with group blogs, where multiple analysts post. Redmonk shifted from shared to separate blogs, as its principals wanted to express and debate differing perspectives and interests more fully.
  • JupiterResearch publishes the most blogs — almost 20, updated constantly — and has integrated them with its individual and collective analyst value. Of the firm’s 70+ staff, 16 blog.
  • Gartner takes the most eclectic approach. With its public blogs, it tightly controls topics and “archives” weblogs. Perhaps this is a moot point; none of Gartner’s 500 analysts have made a post to the “active” public blogs since mid-2004. (Did we miss something?)
  • Analysts are increasingly appearing as regular blog contributors at third party sites. Examples include David Scott Lewis at AlwaysOn, Joe McKendrick at WebServices.org and ZDNet, John Yunker at Corante, and Bill Zoellick at The Gilbane Report. Rob Enderle, Tim Bajarin and Richard Doherty opted for the best of both worlds: they co-locate their individual blogs at their own third party site, Technology Pundits. Meanwhile, Ralph Lombreglia contributes to M2M Blog, a thought leadership blog published by nPhase CEO and founder Steve Pazol.
  • On the down side, several analyst blogs have poorly formed code, bar reader posts, or lack trackback. Some do not attribute posts to specific analysts.
  • The up side is significant. Very few analyst blogs are blatant marketing vehicles. Initial adopters generally report that weblogs, wikis and forums are invigorating their practices by offering more IT user perspectives, greater industry visibility, and more opportunities to engage with users and vendors.

Editor’s Note
Next week, analysts talk about their blogs in Part 2. Meanwhile, sample the blogs firsthand via the Tekrati directory of analyst blogs* at the link below.

The Complete Special Report:

* Effective 11 February 2011, the Tekrati Directory of Analyst Blogs and OPML are no longer available.

Reprinted from Tekrati