Research Industry Upheaval is On the Horizon

Jack Meyer’s Media Business Report today had a nice piece on looming upheaval in the research industry (no link, email subscription only, unfortunately). Meyers had some interesting points:

The greatest single challenge for the research community will be methodology, and whether to question and rethink established methodological rigor and requirements. A CMO of a top 100 national marketer, when confronted with attacks on agency insights that did not meet the standards of his top research exec, commented "I’d rather gain knowledge from research that meets 85 percent of research standards than learn nothing from research that meets 100 percent of your standards."

As online field work, digital set-top data, assumptive analytics, emotional and perceptual insights, and other forms of research gain marketplace acceptance, researchers will be forced to take a position on their validity and credibility. The research community is about to be subjected to forces similar to those that have radically altered the music, film and television businesses. Precedence proves that holding onto models that the marketplace itself no longer respects is a dangerous and potentially disastrous mistake.  

Meyers also questioned how traditional mainstays of research will evolve, balancing tradition with innovation:

A couple of traditional players like Nielsen are effectively positioning themselves for continued growth, but others will find themselves unable to compete for either traditional business or in the emerging worlds that require research innovation. 

Here’s one final build on Meyer’s analysis: I usually avoid semantics, but market and media research could go through a name-identity crisis in the coming years. “Research” – as traditionalists define it – will morph into several of the things Meyers describes, and many I have covered. Research will need to adopt unconventional methods to remain meaningful, as the CMO above noted, and that may mean meeting only 85% (or less) of legacy “standards.” That evolution will inevitably drive more tension between innovators and traditionalists.

In the end, I think pragmatism will win and innovation will become more significant, if not wholeheartedly disruptive. The research industry is going through all the same digital disruptions that all of its clients are, and that presents a key question: in ten years, will we still call research “research”? Semantics.

(Disclosure: The Nielsen Company is a majority shareholder in Nielsen BuzzMetrics, where I work. As all my published opinions on this blog, my opinions are mine only.)

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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