Editor’s Note: Republishing this post I wrote today for Tekrati. It ties into several of my themes here, and to my July webinar with Jeremiah Owyang.

GigaOM today celebrates the first anniversary of its GigaOM Pro research division. GigaOM Pro is one of the more interesting of the recent entrants to high tech industry analyst business. Mike Wolf (@michaelwolf), vice president of research, sat down with Tekrati and spoke about the first year: the formative decisions early on, recent progress and a few immediate changes as the venture begins Year 2. Plus, a Cisco subscriber weighed in on her experience with this innovative industry research service.

First, let’s catch up with what’s new as announced yesterday by GigaOM founder Om Malik. GigaOM Pro officially emerges from beta today. The online retail price rises from $79 to $249 per year, with discounting down to $199. That’s a fraction of the cost of comparative services. Since its launch, the service has published more than 500 research items, including in-depth reports on the app economy, e-books and cloud computing and more than 100 company profiles. Plus, subscribers can contact analysts privately or discuss findings openly through the community features of the site.

Further sweetening the deal, the 6,000 beta subscribers can renew at the $99 beta price. According to Wolf, the 2010 renewal rate looks good. The subscriber base is large enough now to create its own momentum in new sales.

The company will now provide research buyers a corporate purchase option in addition to online sales. The new Corporate Edition makes it simple to buy a quantity of seats at a volume discount. Wolf said that the Corporate Edition builds on the innate appeal to GigaOM readership and is garnering interest from a broad base of small to large companies, market research buyers and intel centers. The first corporate clients to sign include Microsoft, Adobe, Rovi, Juniper Networks, Peer1, RRE Ventures, Norwest Ventures, Hill & Knowlton, LewisPR and Accenture.

The 1-year anniversary coincides with GigaOm’s third annual Structure conference, taking place today and tomorrow in San Francisco. Celebratory perks at the sold-out cloud computing event include:

  • Conference attendees receive a comp copy of the in-depth report, ”Defining Internal Cloud Options: From Appistry to VMware” by Derrick Harris
  • Attending GigaOM Pro subscribers (and those who buy a subscription onsite) can enter a drawing to win an iPad (Wi-Fi)
  • Wolf will lead a rapid-fire panel on where cloud computing is headed over the next 3 to 5 years. The questions were submitted by GigaOM Pro subscribers and Twitter fans. The panelists, selected from the virtual GigaOM Pro Analyst Network, are Derrick Harris with GigaOm PRO, Phil Hendrix with immr, and John du Pre Gauntt with Media Dojo.
  • Members of the GigaOM Pro Analyst Network are in attendance throughout the event.

In its first year, GigaOM Pro has proven that it can stand apart from the majority of industry research firms on price, coverage, quality, speed and customer experience. The affordable price is certainly an important part of the equation. However, that would mean nothing without the rest.

Early on, Malik, Wolf and CEO Paul Walborsky made several decisions that set GigaOM Pro on this unique path. “We knew we had to do something different,” said Wolf. “We didn’t want to do a Gartner or a Heavy Reading. We didn’t want to be consultants. We focused on innovating the research business model with price, community and a virtual network of domain expertise.”

Thus, they sidestepped the trappings of traditional research firms: high overhead, exclusionary pricing, long lead times and a finite pool of analyst experts on any given topic.

The GigaOM media network is able to subsidize its research start-up and provide immediate brand recognition. Further, GigaOM editorial standards and cradle-to-grave project support ensure that research coverage leads or closely tracks hot trending topics while adhering to quality standards. The strength of the brand — combined with the management team and editorial support — has enabled the research start-up to recruit close to 40 high caliber experts to its virtual Analyst Network and produce an impressive body of written and rich media research deliverables on 5 emerging tech domains, from green tech to Google and Apple to cloud:

  • Mobile
  • Infrastructure
  • Connected Consumer
  • NewNet
  • Green IT

GigaOM’s grounding in Web 2.0 also translates into differentiation in the customer experience: subscribers can network with each other and the experts, and discuss every piece of research published, no holds barred.

“Our subscribers like the style of service,” said Wolf. “They like the model — access to any research at any time.” He said the rapid turn-around on hot topics and ability to bring in deep-dive contributing experts from the industry at large make GigaOM Pro a great add-on to advisory services from the established analyst houses. “We’re not displacing other services. We’re complementary to traditional firms.”

Lisa Soto, an analyst relations manager with Cisco based in Irvine, Calif., who’s been using the service for about a year, concurs. She works in one of Cisco’s consumer divisions and said, “The PRO service is how we keep our ear to the ground about what is happening in the industry. We can always count on GigaOM PRO to give us an in-depth evaluation and realistic perspective of the impact many new technologies, key announcements have on the industry. As soon as we hear about a trend or a new movement, we know GigaOM PRO will provide a deep and rich perspective of what is happening and the value to the industry and most importantly the consumer.”

Two things she likes most about the service are its responsiveness to the market, and the social aspects of the research delivery. She finds GigaOM Pro is one of the first research resources to provide information on a new trend. “The timing is unbelievably fast.” She also likes the ability to interact with the experts and content — it’s designed from the ground up with community features of a full-fledged social network — and likes the option of being alerted to new research via “the most current social media tools.”

The GigaOM Pro social experience goes beyond written word. A series of “Bunker” events brings together select subscribers by invitation only at a physical location. The rest of the community shares the event via streaming. Looking ahead, these types of events will likely play a larger part in the corporate edition.

Finally, there is one more aspect to the GigaOM Pro social design: an Analyst Relations network within the Pro community. This professional network is open to any analyst relations practitioner actively working with clients — not just those affiliated with Pro subscribers. Members can network with each other and with the virtual GigaOM Pro Analyst Network. Soto said she has taken advantage of the network to expand her division’s relationships with influencers in adjacent markets.

In a busy year of beta — during one of the worst recessions in tech market history — GigaOM Pro succeeded in putting a fresh face on the high tech research business. Prospects for Year 2 look good. Research buyers, analysts and analyst relations teams should take note.

Popularity: 10%

Barbara on March 22nd, 2010

If you’ve been following my blogs or are a client, you’re familiar with my position on alternatives to the tech industry analysts for research and advisory. With this post, I’m bringing these conversations about alternatives to the industry analysts online. This post introduces some basic ideas and examples.

My position is simple: well-respected alternatives are out there; more sources are popping up all the time; only a fool ignores the good ones. Likewise, only a fool rushes in. The supply of ersatz research is bountiful as ever. Caveat emptor.

Today, I see very few cases where the alternatives completely displace the industry analysts. Typically, they coexist as vital resources. Often, they’re served up side-by-side in an integrated information portal available to employees. The alternatives tend to be most useful in 3 scenarios:

  • Supporting specific decisions in real time
  • Delving into topics that don’t attract dedicated industry analyst coverage
  • Helping professionals develop broader, deeper or more inclusive perspectives

So where’s the good stuff? That depends on whether you want data-driven intelligence to help you buy and implement tech, or build and sell it. To start, here’s a short list of examples.

Associations: Long a sales and marketing channel for the tech industry analysts, many associations now offer their own research services to members and the public.  Some groups permit members to conduct custom research and encourage well documented case studies and best practices. Others leverage member-supported research for advocacy and thought leadership. Classic examples include the Consumer Electronics Association, IEEE, NASCIO and Socitm.

Academics: The ongoing disconnect between business and academia, at least here in the U.S., baffles many including me. The mutual disrespect might have been appropriate in years past. It is not today. Here’s the bite: some of the most successful companies in the world know this and fund research.  Classic examples in this category include MIT Sloan School of Management, Stanford University and Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Consultants: Management consultants have produced insightful research for decades. This group has the greatest overlap with the industry analysts who advise tech buyers. Classic examples include Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte and  PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Smaller associations, universities, and consultancies can produce equally valuable data-driven insight. Plus, there are several other categories. Media and government agencies jump to mind.

Data-driven insight is available from many reputable sources. IT professionals look to them for information, validation and advice. As a result, tech providers need to see them for what they are: influencers.

Popularity: 6%

Barbara on February 18th, 2009

HBR List 2009Influence made The Harvard Business Review 2009 List of breakthrough business ideas.

As you know, I’m a fan of the idea that social media may expand traditional spheres of influence by eroding reliance on physical “nearness” (propinquity), to decision-makers.

The HBR study by James Fowler and Nicholas A. Christakis tightens the noose the other way:

“New research shows that personal influence is a short-range phenomenon, dissipating entirely at three degrees of remove from the person who exercises it. This has implications for business, where the success of campaigns to foster, say, creativity or worker safety may hinge on enlisting employees to influence colleagues’ behavior.”

That means we influence only a very small sphere of people in our personal lives.

On the up side, it does support our Influencer50 ethos: conduct quality research into bona fide influencers, understand their networks, and work with them directly.

Hat tip to Leili McKinley.

Popularity: 4%

Barbara on October 15th, 2008

Today I saw 2 more threads in the ongoing debate over whether social media popularity is a good way to measure influence.

First, my colleague Duncan Brown writes that Google is launching an AdWords-style SEM program across big social networks.

As an online publisher, I can see how this Google program makes perfect sense for media buyers. It will play from Madison Avenue to Main Street. After all, the big advertisers say they plan to shift their remaining 2008 and 2009 spending, cutting traditional ad spending while increasing spending on word of mouth and other forms of social media. (For the latest CMO study visit Epsilon; hat tip to Ken Rutowski for flagging it in his newsletter.) Google is offering just the right media product to pick up those extra dollars and euros. I’ve got no issue there.

However, I do see a potential downside. Call it collateral damage. Google is portraying the program as a measure of influence. Duncan describes the confusion this could cause:

“If Google’s plans get more firms to talk about influence, then fine. But I fear that it will dumb influence down to a few ‘magic’ numbers that have tenuous relevance to real influence.”

Meanwhile, Graham Hill and I compared notes this morning on Peter Kim’s post, “Influencer Lists as Ego Traps“. We came up agreeing, in Graham’s words:

“Popular people are not necessarily good influencers. And influencers are not necessarily popular. There is much more to it than that.”

We’ve got some very bright people on both sides of the debate — those advocating that we equate influence with popularity/connectedness, those advising against it. Neither side is ready to blink.

In the end, the media buyers may have the final vote on whether online popularity is the path to the influentials.

Popularity: 2%

Barbara on October 14th, 2008

Tom Smith’s guest post at Mashable makes the point that we now trust the opinions of strangers as much as we trust our close friends, thanks to social media. He’s highlighting findings from the Universal McCann study, “When did we start trusting strangers”. Don’t let yourself get lulled into thinking this phenomenon is taking place only in consumer markets. Social media is also changing the way that businesses source trusted opinions on products and services.

Social media is transforming B2B decision-maker ecosystems in two fundamental ways. The most notable, according to Influencer50 research, is that more categories of advisors are exerting more influence during B2B purchase decisions. Social media is helping make many types of “hidden” advisors more visible, more accessible, more informed.

Another change is the appearance of new types of influencers. Examples include niche consultants, procurement groups, and expert communities.

The bottomline is that social media is changing the way we slice the B2B influence pie, just as it is changing influence in consumer markets.

Popularity: 4%

Barbara on September 16th, 2008

The high tech industry analysts aren’t making much headway among the SMB decision-makers, according to this week’s Sage Market Pulse from Chadwick Martin Bailey. In this survey, independent consultants and colleagues lead all other types of external advisors on IT needs and solutions.

You can see that SMB decision-makers are a smart bunch. They set up a well-balanced decision ecosystem for themselves. They distribute their attention among 3 primary groups — independent consultants, colleagues (peers), and the combined sales channel — direct, VAR, SI, outsoucing providers.

CMB/Sage Market Pulse #226 - Information Sources for IT Solutions - Share on Ovi

The CMB Sage Market Pulse is a free weekly email blast. I’ve subscribed to it for years, long before CMB acquired Kathryn Korostoff’s Sage Research. Good read for marketing and sales. Highly recommend it.

Popularity: 4%

Barbara on September 8th, 2008

If you sell technology, you already know that sourcing advisors figure prominently in your influencer ecosystems. Have you ever wondered how they manage to get into your accounts in the first place?

Most likely, they’re getting to your customers and prospects through word of mouth referrals, vendor referrals, or direct sales. That’s according to a new study on the sourcing advisory business by Phil Fersht, AMR Research analyst and blogger, and Ed Nair, Global Sources (part of CyberMedia India Ltd.). The survey finds sourcing advisors get as many business leads from vendor referrals as they do from their own direct sales efforts.

In other words, sourcing advisors obtain the lion’s share of their business through influencer marketing (word of mouth, vendor referrals).

This helps explain why sourcing advisors are such a disruptive and persistent force during a decision process — they walk in with networked authority.

The study is free and well worth a read, despite the dubious title and tagline — “The Definitive Survey of Sourcing Advisers”, the first ever study on…. (Phil, you ought to know better.)

Hat tip to Vinnie Mirchandani.

Popularity: 2%

Barbara on September 3rd, 2008

There’s quite a debate raging over whether IT decision-makers are influenced by blogs and other forms of social media. No matter which side you take in this debate, you’ll find good news and bad news in the latest installment of the “IT Social Media Index.”

The IT Social Media Index is becoming a twice-yearly survey conducted by ITtoolbox (now part of the Corporate Executive Board). It’s sponsored by PJA Advertising + Marketing.

This time out, the Index finds social media content consumption is up across most IT job positions. IT professionals are spending more time per week with social media and user-generated content.

The survey defines social media types as discussion groups, peer-to-peer networks, social networks and profiles, blogs, wikis, podcasts, and mash-ups.

Which is most popular overall with IT professionals?

You probably guessed it: discussion groups. Discussion groups command the most time per week.

There’s an odd split in results among tech decision-makers. The “executive decision-maker” respondents are consuming less social media and user-generated content. That’s bad news for social/UGC advocates because presumably, these are the very decision-makers that the high-rolling tech advertisers will pay dearly to reach.

Meanwhile, the “IT decision-makers” are consuming more social media and user-generated content.

Visit ITtoolbox to download and browse survey results. It’s absolutely free. Plus, there’s some interesting trivia, from early mentors to tastes in music and politicians.

Popularity: 2%

Barbara on August 5th, 2008

Interesting news for industry analyst and market research companies operating in high tech: exevo, a leading Market Research Outsourcing (MRO) firm, announced has invested USD $1 million in instituting a Global Technology Panel comprising dedicated business and consumer panelists. The research panel totals more than 125,000 members, divided between a Business Panel of more than 75,000 opinion leaders and a Consumer Panel of more than 50,000 members.

The investment highlights exëvo’s commitment to strengthening its strategic research portfolio with a full suite of services to its global clientele comprising leading research and consulting firms across the world.

The members of the panel are spread across the globe and include key economies like Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, New Zealand, Singapore, UK and USA and aid in providing key insights for exëvo’s research studies. The Business Panel comprises over 75,000 opinion leaders, decision makers and purchase influencers with expertise across Hardware, Software, Network and Telecommunication, Data Centers, Security and Systems. The Consumer Panel consists of over 50,000 members who will provide insights on consumer attitude and purchasing patterns for consumer technology products.

Commenting on the announcement, Mr. Alok Tayal, CEO, exëvo, said, “Continuous investment and innovation are hallmarks of exëvo’s core philosophy. The Global Technology Panel is a key step forward in our commitment to strengthen the company’s outsourcing research capabilities and to support clients with best-in-class research solutions with far greater speed and accuracy.”

The consumer panelists are essentially segmented by gender, age, ethnicity, income and technology use. This panel consists of over 50 profile dimensions and is continually refreshed with new panelists to ensure that exëvo’s clientele are able to get apt feedback from the segment that they target. Panelists are continuously updated about the purpose and focus of various studies and how they enable research firms and service providers to improve their products and services. They are selected telephonically and are profiled prior to their inclusion to maintain authenticity of the panel. The panelists are well ingrained for rapid turnarounds and quality responses and this will enhance the delivery to exëvo’s clients based around the world.

exëvo is one of the world’s leading Market Research Outsourcing (MRO) companies. exëvo provides comprehensive survey programming, data collection, data processing, data analytics and business research services to Market Research and consulting organizations globally. With significant experience and expertise in market research, exëvo conducts research in 90 countries with capabilities in 17 international languages. exëvo is today one of the leading companies with specialization in IT, Financial, Healthcare, Retail, Telecommunications, and Automobile verticals. It is the only MRO to have the three quality certifications — ISO 20252:2006, ISO 27001: 2005 and ISO 9001:2000.

Popularity: 2%

Barbara on May 30th, 2007

Market researchers are turning to neuromarketing — aka brain scans — to understand secret reactions to advertising, media and product packaging. The goal is discovering what triggers your brain’s pleasure center, spurring that purchase instinct. Dr. Joshua Freedman, a neuropsychiatrist at FKF Applied Research and professor at UCLA, has used brain-scanning technology to test the effectiveness of political campaigns and Super Bowl ads over the last two years. Is he pioneering a new era in market research?

The brain scan technology is a form of MRI, called functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI. According to the company’s website:

“The fMRI allows us to view what is going on inside the human brain while subjects watch, listen, talk or think. Using the data generated from the fMRI, our analytical methods help uncover previously hidden or suppressed thoughts and emotions. The insights gained into human decision making are both startling and actionable.”

“Looking beyond the spoken word provides immense and actionable insights into a brand, a competitive framework, advertising and visual images and cues. ”

Dr. Freedman says top ad agencies and Fortune 100 Companies are already embracing brain scanning technology as part of their market research. He will discuss how fMRI displays the brain’s reaction to ads, brands, and packaged goods, and accurately predicts what consumers will buy in the store, during PROOF. PROOF is an annual event for the packaging industry put on by the Institute for International Research. Find more at www.iirusa.com/proof/27430.xml.

During a segment on ABC last month, Dr. Freedman explained that, as a rule of thumb, focus groups and surveys are inaccurate because people say almost the opposite of how they’re responding. It is not a case of misrepresentation — people tend to like ads that don’t activate their brains at all. Neuromarketing shows actual brain activity and thus reveals which ads might trigger a mission to buy.

Find more about fMRI, Superbowl and election advertising studies, ethics, and more at the FKF website link below. Find the ABC Catalyst story, “Why We Buy — the science of shopping” [here].

If the ABC report is accurate — that 50% of all ads incite no brain activity whatsoever — it’s likely that brain scan optimization will become a lucrative segment of the market research and consulting industry as fast as you can fry an egg.

Popularity: 1%