Observations on changes in the analyst ecosystem

Gerry Van Zandt  [This commentary comes from guest contributor Gerry Van Zandt (Twitter handle), AR manager with HP Services. This guest post started as a letter that Gerry sent to his HP colleagues. We are posting an edited version with his permission]

I think it’s important to read and internalize what’s happening in the analyst ecosystem at a macro level.  Please note that this is my own take, and not the opinion nor the official position of HP.  Thus, you may or may not agree with it.

For the past 6-7 years, since blogs began to take hold and proliferate, a sea change has been occurring in the influencer (press and analyst) ecosystem.  The strict lines between press and analysts have been increasingly blurring, and a new class of influencers emerged circa 2002, and began really solidifying in late 2005.  I coined the term “blogalysts” for these influencers around this time.

Dozens of reporters and editors have left the press ranks to become industry analysts over the years — that’s not news.  However, we’re seeing more analysts who are contributing regular content to print and on-line press publications (i.e. Gordon Haff/Illuminata and Peter Glaskowsky/Envisioneering writing for C/Net).  Furthermore, laid-off press people and now analysts are leaving their traditional organizations to join on-line blog networks (and going solo) as “expert commentators” around particular topics. Some have strong reputations, others are striving mightily to build or re-build them.

RedMonk was probably the pioneer “blogalyst,” deliberately eschewing traditional paid, data-based research services and publishing commentary free, and 100% on-line.  They joined other newly formed “new-era” research firms like The 451 Group who aggressively embraced blogs and other emerging on-line tools.  Since then, other Tier 2, 3 and specialist firms have adopted blogging as a means of differentiating themselves and publishing research, opinions and commentary.  Over the past 12-18 months, we’ve now seen both Forrester and Gartner establish active, formal, sanctioned analyst blog networks centered around macro topics, or on the commentary of individual analysts.

In my opinion, three factors have accelerated this evolution over the past two years: the folding/consolidation of the IT trade press and IT analyst industries (and moving content online); the current recession that is putting people out of work; and the emergence and “hockey stick” adoption among influencers of social media tools and techniques for communication and building communities.

We’ve also seen significant changes in how analysts are publishing and interacting with their client bases.  Fewer research reports are being published, and analysts are spending ever more time blogging, tweeting, and interacting with their clients and vendors online.  Forrester two years ago successfully moved to a “role-based” research model, which Gartner has (not yet fully, in my opinion) aped.  We’ve seen the emergence of “AR” practices at the major analyst firms, and with limited success, more effort being placed on process transparency and being easier to do business with.

On Wednesday, [May 27] another notable thing occurred in the analyst/blogalyst ecosystem.   The GigaOM blog network, a confederation of ad-sponsored blogs run by former “Business 2.0″ journalist Om Malik, announced a new “virtual” analyst research network.  This network of analyst experts, which they are calling “GigaOM Pro,” is publishing in-depth research which is provided on-line via very inexpensive subscriptions.  The analyst contributors to this network are specialist experts in a number of market areas that include IT infrastructure/cloud computing, mobile computing, consumer tech and clean/green tech.  This roster will expand over time.

The GigaOM Pro network is claiming they are not trying to compete with the larger established firms, but rather are trying to establish a new way to publish and distribute value-added research and make it available to many more people, inexpensively.  GigaOM will oversee topics and conduct editorial review and content oversight of GigaOM Pro network research, but the actual reports will be fully authored by the analysts in the network.  GigaOM has hired a veteran analyst (Mike Wolf, a consumer/digital entertainment/networking analyst from ABI Research) to run this operation.

You can find more information about GigaOM Pro here.  They describe the service as: “A new kind of offering that would allow us to leverage the on-the-ground expertise and insight of our current GigaOM Network sites and to enable deeper conversations within our community.”

I expect that this network will continue to expand with more analysts, and perhaps some Tier 2 and 3 firms & recognizable specialists who are looking to democratize and expand the audience and distribution for their research.  You can check out SageCircle’s take on it here

This is not a dramatic disruption in our focus and work with the firms and individual analysts who are most influential with HP customers.  Like with social media, we shouldn’t drop or dramatically change what we’re doing in our AR work.  However, it’s important that we are aware of these little shifts as they occur, and adjust or add to our AR activities to accommodate and embrace the changing landscape so that we can obtain the maximum influence and benefit for HP from it. With this GigaOM Pro analyst network, two of their stated focus areas are directly relevant to major HP initiatives, and thus we should be sure we’re aware of and investigating (and influencing, if warranted) research that’s being done there.

Thanks for listening.   Cheers, Gerry Van Zandt, HP Analyst Relations

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8 Responses

  1. Hi Gerry,

    I’ve definitely been observing the same changes in the ecosystem, and tweeted about this a few months back. It is inevitable–even without the economic downturn–that the Internet would have a huge impact on the analyst industry–just as it’s had in publishing, recording, movie, travel, retail and just about every other industry I can think of!

    There has always been a push and pull between the brands of analyst firms, and the brands of individual analysts. In some ways, this trend helps individual analysts establish their own brands more easily. But on the flip side, it probably makes the AR job more difficult. I think SageCircle and other firms that “analyze the analysts” may be the big winners–helping vendors figure out how to best allocate time and resources between firms and individuals.

  2. Interesting take and good recommendations. AR professionals will need to keep track of a growing universe of analysts firms (or more precisely, analysts) that can offer unique perspectives and additional influence with media and customers.

    The GigaOM model of lower cost research may be new, but the banding together of independent analysts has been done before. For example, a number of individual analysts share Valley View Ventures as their business development (web site and sales).

    It will be interesting to see if GigaOM goes beyond the V3 approach and their independent analysts team up on projects, adding additional value and scale to what they will be able to deliver.

    • Rick – thanks for remarks. I think we will see some interesting potential projects like you suggest. Still, its early days for us and we’re focused on continuing to get great research from a variety of voices right now. But check back in the future…

  3. Realy good piece, agree with all of the trends you have listed all I will add is that there are some other macro-trends.

    The new environment means that analysts can no longer just be grouped by geography James Governor et al have global presence and therefore global influence.

    The rise of influence over analysis maybe its semantics.

    The final point – AR professionals should not forget that not every analyst Tweets and Blogs – obvious one but I think its easy to get carried away with the hype.

    Thanks for the insights

  4. Gerry, you’re connecting up a series of real and well-connected developments here. However, does this really reflect a sea change in the analyst ecosystem? Certainly it continues an expanding of analyst influence into the places that previously could not afford analysts but, from a macroeconomic point of view, it’s a substitute for big-brand subscription services and has done little to dent the core market.

  5. I think it’s a great comment about the former geo-centric analyst spheres of influence being increasingly (and now, perhaps, mostly) broken down.

    The rise of influence over analysis — or I should say, the separation and parallelism of the two — is an interesting topic. That’s a topic for another day…

    Duncan and Marc, to your points … in my last paragraph I attempted to keep a “reality” hat on things and note that we as AR professionals shouldn’t even consider abandonign the very tried and true relationships, methodologies, processes and best practices out the window. MQs and Waves — nor their influence with end-customers as decisionmaking tools — aren’t going away anytime soon. Nothing takes the place of the trust, integrity and relationships that the AR pros and analysts have, and which must be developed over time.

    My major premise was mainly to say that from time to time, things occur that do alter the set trajectory, however large or small.

    The Internet was a large and permanent one (to Laurie’s point). The adoption and use of social media tools and techniques is also, at minimum, notable. The advent of an exapnded reach for inexpensive but quality analyst research (this will need to play out for GigaOm Pro) is another.

    Singly, perhaps these developments don’t dent the core market much. But collectively (and there are many more) they do change the market’s trajectory. I look at this similarly to the open-source movement, and the impact it’s had on the software industry over the past 15 years. Individuallly, small. Collectively, quite significant.

    My apologies if I wasn’t clear in communicating my premise. Thanks to all for the comments.

    Cheers,
    Gerry

  6. […] Observations on changes in the analyst ecosystem « SageCircle Blog How analyst firms are changing, and new firms and business models that are emerging. (tags: analysts) […]

  7. After a chat with the Freeform team, it’s clear that my comment above does reflect neither my thoughts nor their position. It could be interpreted as if I was saying that smaller firms would only cover vendors -which is emphatically not the case.

    Those firms cited above have very different models, but a common point is that they don’t cover technologies or issues systematically and broadly like some larger firms would do.
    Some select an area they have deep expertise in and then research it thoroughly but others tend to be issue based and produce generic (vendor neutral) research that doesn’t evaluate vendors.

    I plan to post on the IIAR blog on this very subject of “coverage model” but it needs more research so it might be a while.

    My sincere apologies to all my analysts friends who, rightly, felt quite upset by my misphrased rambling.

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