When I wrote a little over a month ago of my decision to start my own research company at my personal Tumblr, I was surprised by the positive response from the many people who reached out with support, questions about my research, inquiries about advisory and consulting work, or just to say hi.
I guess after being in the research business for over a decade, you make some friends!
While I answered many questions over email, phone and cups of coffee, it was hard to write a post about NextMarket because you need a website to do that. Well, in late December we finally "soft-launched" the site, and while I and my (very small, at least for now) team are still tweaking things a bit around here, I've already started selling research and scheduling advisory hours through the site, which was the one major goal I had for my business by the end of 2012.
So with the site comes a blog, which allows me to talk a little bit about the company, which is what this post is about.
When I decided to go out on my own, I knew I wanted to create a research company that was modern in its focus as well as the model itself. Having tried to help create a new type of research business at GigaOM, I learned a whole lot about the world of research and advisory. Some of the grand experiment(s) at GigaOM Pro I was involved with included testing lower pricing tiers and distribution models for research, leveraging a freelance network of analysts as well as utilizing a curative fast-response model of analysis, an open model analyst relations program, and developing a platform for connecting analysts with firms for advisory engagements.
While not every effort was a success out of the gate, it's safe to say the GigaOM Pro research business has been a success (in fact, I'd call GigaOM more of a research company now than a tech blog), which makes me happy since I am still cheering for their success and also have GigaOM as a client. Still, I personally wanted to continue try and innovate a bit at the edges in the research business, looking to see if I could live a and work a little of what I've been writing about for the last few years, while also building my own company in the process. At the same time, I also wanted to leverage the brand I had built in the consumer technology area, where I had built a name first by developing highly successful research advisory practices at In-Stat and ABI Research in connected consumer and digital media.
So, what does this mean? Let me break it down into two pieces, the business and research models:
The Business Model
Having recruited and worked with hundreds of independent analysts and small research houses over the past few years as I helped built out the GigaOM analyst network, I saw that most small "indy" research shops were actually closer to standalone consultancies, where the analyst would write research mostly for a few clients and would largely build their book of business around billable consulting hours.
This is a great business and many analysts make a good living doing it.
Somewhere in the middle of the research-advisory continuum are larger research companies, like the one built by my good friend Clint Wheelock at Pike Research, which tend to lead first with research and then do advisory and consulting as the company's research inventory - and brand - grow. It's these companies, in my opinion, which generally scale a little better, but that is very much by design.
Since I wanted to do both research and offer advisory - and having witnessed and written about the democratizing platforms for doing business online - I wondered if I could do both out of the gate. This got me thinking about a model where I lead with research but also start to offer atomized units of advisory outside of the bigger syndicated and consulting relationships which generally characterize how advisory is distributed at bigger research shops.
So that's what I'm planning to do here at NextMarket Insights. As an example, my first "wave" of research (I'll write more about this in a bit) is on digital publishing/e-books, and as as the research comes out it is packaged in a few iterations: a standalone report, a report with more detailed data sets, and finally a report bundled a small unit of phone advisory. (If you want a basic description to refer to around the various research report iterations, I've created a small graphic).
The Research Model
As I alluded to above, I wanted to continue to build upon what I've done in my career by publishing research on emerging consumer, social and network technologies, but felt the traditional research model of working for a month or two gathering intelligence, fielding surveys and talking to executives before I finally publish a single report is an outdated model. It's the model that worked when I first started at In-Stat (we used to publish, believe it or not, 125 page reports), but now people are too busy and, as blogs and new publishing models have emerged over the past decade, traditional research publishing has had to change.
I also believe that much of the value in the analyst job is uncovered in the research process, where analysts like myself talk to the smartest people in the markets, compare notes and ideas with them, and through the process shape a industry outlook based on the very latest intelligence. I know this is my process (and that of many other analysts), and I had always wondered what would happen if the market briefings I did with these smart people were opened up for others to consume so, not only do they get my final take, but also hear that of those who helped shape it.
And so that's what I've done by creating the NextMarket Podcast. I wrote a little bit here in a post about why I do a podcast, but to summarize, I wanted to create an "open lab" market research model where I can let my clients, potential clients and industry friends know what I am researching and also let them participate in the process. I also know that not everyone listens to podcasts or audio conversations, so I also plan to make the conversations available not only through podcasts but in written format as addendums to my paid research reports. (BUT, if you do listen or want to try out a podcast on emerging technology in the consumer, social or web space, I'd encourage you to subscribe at iTunes or through RSS).
Another convention I wanted to challenge in the research business was what I call the "savant-like" focus analysts are traditionally expected to have. In the past, firms had (and many still have) a "handset" analyst, or a "business intelligence" analyst, or a what-have-you analyst, but I have found in a connected world where consumer, social, business and network technologies have long been broken out of their silos, having a singular, "savant" focus as an analyst is neither practical nor advised anymore.
Many good analysts realize this and write across a range of subjects, and I (and my team) plan to do the same. Of course, I will have focus on a few core areas that I believe are inter-related, under an umbrella of emerging consumer, social, crowd and digital media markets, but since I believe much of the value is in the interconnection, the nexus point, I will continue to explore where and how these different parts of a holistic research body connect to one another.
As I indicated above, my first "wave" of research is in digital books and publishing, but that will be quickly followed by digital living room/TV technology, crowd and and some other research areas which I will begin to write about soon. And again, I will also examine how these technologies (such as social and various consumer/entertainment technologies) connect. The nexus. At the same time, my focus on individual areas will continue throughout the year, hence the idea of "waves", which will continue to ripple throughout the year.
On a more practical note, the research itself will be also packaged by industry/topic (such as digital books, TV, etc) in all the various iterations I have talked about.
Ok, this is getting long, so let's wrap it up
So that's it, the vision behind the NextMarket Insights model and research approach, and with the launch of this site we are only just getting started. We have some other ideas about how to try and innovate at and around the edges of the research business while we create compelling research to sell along the way, so I hope you can join us for the ride. Whether it's to buy research, schedule an advisory session, buy a syndicated corporate research package, hire NextMarket to develop a thought leadership campaign, listen to a podcast, or just to sign up for updates, we appreciate any and all of it, and I sincerely thank you for your support.
Founder, NextMarket Insights