More on research and relationships


To continue the discussion of what information you can trust and from whom, I’ve recently received a number of emails wondering about my opinions on various other research groups.

Here, I’ll address IMS, just because I seem to have as much of the full story as you can get.

So, after reading my blog about Frost & Sullivan, a reader emailed me:

Frost & Sullivan - Is their business strategy being copied by other “prestigious” market research companies?

Just read your interesting piece on Frost & Sullivan and thought you may be interested to read the link below.

So, I went to that link, and you get this:

In the ‘Software-only Vendors of Open Platform Network Video Management Software (VMS)’ category, See Tec was ranked number 2 in the EMEA region and is rapidly closing in on the number 1 position. In the rankings for all open platform VMS vendors, including players also offering hardware, See Tec was ranked number 3. The report also clearly foresees a macro-shift in favour of hardware independent open platform based VMS in the period between 2009 and 2014. Furthermore, IMS Research expects proprietary VMS solutions to decline significantly in the same period.

The implied question: Is IMS doing studies to determine market rankings, then selling the ability for a company to tout that ranking?

So, I asked that question of Alastair Hayfield, who heads up their video practice at IMS:

Me: “Hey, I’ve seen a couple releases like this one lately:

That’s just them touting their ranking on their own, right? You don’t charge them for the privilege or anything, do you?”

Alastair: “Yep, that’s pretty much it. If a vendor/manufacturer wants to promote their market position from the report that’s fine with us and there’s no cost. We even have a press release code that they have to adhere to.

The rankings are also always based on annual calendar revenues from vendors (i.e. sales of product in 2009). Another thing to bear in mind is that we don’t include maintenance, service or integration/consulting revenues in our equipment reports (i.e. World CCTV 2010). Just equipment or, in the case of the above, sales of VMS.”

Thought that was an interesting back and forth and worth sharing.



<p class="comment_author">August 19th, 2010 at 12:48 pm</p>
<p>Allowing vendors to reproduce a reviewer&rsquo;s findings incents reviewers to provide more positive coverage.</p>
<p>Some reviewers profit from this directly by charging reprint fees (and only vendors receiving positive coverage will pay the reprint fee).</p>
<p>Even without direct payment involved, the free press that vendor PR offers is valuable and can distort the incentives of reviewers to say more favorable things to get promoted by the vendor.</p>
<p>We want to minimize such influences and, therefore, do not want nor approve of vendors using our reporting in their marketing/PR materials.</p>

<p>August 19th, 2010 at 12:30 pm</p>
<p>Yeah, we let anyone use our stories any way they want as long as they appropriately attribute the content to our authors and don&rsquo;t chop up the language from the story to make it seem like we&rsquo;re saying something we&rsquo;re not. We generally avoid value-laden statements as much possible, and in our straight news stories avoid opinion-type commentary, so most people who use our stories in marketing are just saying things like, &ldquo;xxx highlighted in Security Systems News,&rdquo; which is basically true (I might quibble with the verb &ldquo;highlighted&rdquo;) and I don&rsquo;t see how we can tell people they can&rsquo;t repeat what we&rsquo;ve written.<br />
I&rsquo;m surprised you guys don&rsquo;t allow people to reproduce your findings. If you say a product is reliable, etc., I don&rsquo;t see how it makes you seem less genuine if someone trumpets those results. There&rsquo;s no fee for getting a review, and you don&rsquo;t accept advertising, so I don&rsquo;t see what your potential conflict of interest would be, other than, I guess, their trumpeting being a promotion for your service in general. I think most people would be understanding of that, though, and not infer that you were giving a good review so someone would give you some free promotion.</p>

<p class="comment_author">August 19th, 2010 at 12:19 pm<br />
Yes, we give copies.<br />
Two important differences between IMS and other services:<br />
1) IMS reports are thousands of dollars each - 10x to 50x more than either of our service, making them expensive purchases that are hard for most non-vendors to justify<br />
2) IMS allow vendors to use their results in marketing material<br />
What&rsquo;s your position on allowing vendors to use you reporting in marketing? We do not allow it and ask vendors to remove if we find they do without our permission. Your reader&rsquo;s question is a good example of the problems caused by reporters crossing the line into marketing/vendor promotion.</p>

<p class="comment_author">August 19th, 2010 at 12:05 pm<br />
Well, good question. I put it out to IMS and I&rsquo;ll see what I get back. I do see your point. However, taking that line of thought to its logical end, I don&rsquo;t think there would be an incentive for them skew the rankings to favor those likely to buy the report and thus trumpet the results.<br />
In a similar vein, if someone I quoted in a premium story wants a copy of the story, I give it to them. If you review someone&rsquo;s product and they want a copy of the review, do you give it to them?</p>

<p class="comment_author">August 19th, 2010 at 11:50 am<br />
Does the vendor need to buy a copy of the report or can the vendor just call up IMS, get their rank for free and issue the press release?</p>