In the late 1990s, the research firms were trumpeting the threat that the Internet poses to traditional business models. Now the research firms themselves are being threatened by the Internet.
I got the brush-off this week after proposing an informal swap with a research provider I think does some interesting stuff in our area. Let me read some of your research, talk to some of your sources, and I'll feature the findings in the paper, with proper citation.
Harsh words often get traded between trade and business journalists on the one hand and PR people and research analysts on the other. Personally, I respect folks who work in both professions and understand the job they're trying to do. But their bosses can be thickheaded. In the analysts' case, instead of letting me make fair use of their research product, promoting it at the same time--free publicity!--they would rather charge me for it. A fee in the hand is worth a large number of potential fees getting exposed to your brand, I guess.
Of course it's a little more complex than that: Analysts are kind of bespoke publishers whose content-peddling model kind of overlaps with our content-peddling model, in a funny sort of way, and might even compete with products from our corporate parent. Of course, I'm not supposed to care about that--and I don't. Naturally, I'll use research from the parent because it's available, but as far as I'm concerned, in my editorial independence, it's an open marketplace of ideas, and if there's better data or interpretation out there, I'm gonna say so.
Still, the paper and the Web are the windows through which potential customers shop the market. It's really more like the relationship between book publishers and newspaper critics and feature writers. If I find Phillip Roth's new novel timely and interesting and cite it to make a point in a feature article, that's as good as a positive review, don't you think? The advantage is that if I think it sucks, I just won't use it, instead of saying that it sucks. And no one can assume that I left it out just because I thought it sucked.
I have been wanting to expand our library of quote-robots, I think I've mentioned. The more the merrier. Also, there needs to be some competition involved, because some of the folks we hit up for things like guest commentaries tend to take their access to print for granted. They'll just cut and paste some paras from a pre-packaged product and send it along, instead of producing some original thinking to spec, something that actually applies to our quirky little take on the odd little niche we occupy.
I have to hand it to the analyst-bloggers, actually: I get a lot of ideas from them; they point me to the things that are important that I should know about. Just to give one example, I've been thinking we should try to keep abreast of securities law and litigation as part of fulfilling our motto to cover "what makes markets." Ain't the GOP always whining about the damn trial lawyers? And there are some great bloggers on just that subject, including The 10b-5 Daily, SECURITIESLAWBlog, and Securities Litigation Watch. The day will come when even SIN will not blush to cite guys like these, who are simply sharing their thoughts about the daily intelligence stream--and, sure, advertising their smarts in the process. And the folks who want to charge you $800 sight unseen for prose that belabors the obvious will gnash their teeth because the emperor will have to go back to wearing some clothes.