Online is hurting Traditional Research in a new way

by Simon McDermott via

Traditional research has obviously taken a whack since the inception of the Internet. The billions of euros that goes to online research came from somewhere, but not a problem, the major agencies have shifted larger portions of their business online or bought companies that had done it first.

What is happening now is something different, what occurred before was Internet as the medium of transport i.e. online panels, internet based questionnaire, web based focus groups, now it is Internet as the source. This is where companies like Attentio make their bread and butter. The cost is through extracting the information and while this is significant, when we do it, we have it and then once categorised and “cleaned” we can really reuse and enable insights for clients repeatedly. We get those insights from truly conversational sources such as the blogs, forums, networks where the discussions are free flowing, unstructured and unedited.

While reading Research Live (a leading research website) I saw an article demonstrating the impact. The piece was entitled Pressure from online alternatives could stunt research recovery and Morgan Stanley’s Edward Hill Wood says “in recent years ‘traditional’ MR agencies have been undercut by start-ups using purely online data collection methodologies and new approaches such as social media analysis”

Those 7 words “new approaches such as social media analysis” talk to thousands of jobs that will change, millions of euros of lost sales to research companies, methodologies that won’t exist in 5 years, but also companies who will get information quicker while you and me get listened to more. A metaphor for the impact of this is record producers. Online distribution was first a new channel to ship CDs but when online downloads emerged the impact was catastrophic. Services like iTunes, Last FM and Spotify have and will do very well but they are new approaches and most record companies simply have not dealt well with the new world. I believe as with the music analogy the Research Industry will lose revenue although a large portion will go to listening and community based approaches, but will the larger players be flexible enough to do something about that? We’ll see.

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