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Posts from August 2011

Privacy:not dead yet

I find it surprising that with all of the online chatter pre, post and during "The Great Privacy Debate" no one seems to have mentioned current happenings with Facebook and Google+. Sooner or later the online privacy debate almost always comes down to the assertion that people don't care about privacy any more, that it's gone the way of the hula hoop. Hula hoops

That's just nonsense and Google agrees. They learned the hard way with Google Buzz that there are lots and lots of people who want to be able to control who knows what about them. That learning is evident in the release of Google+ which has featured increased privacy protection as a major differentiator from Facebook. The point is not lost on Facebook as it scrambles to overhaul its privacy controls in response to what Google+ is offering. Of course, this sort of scrambling and backtracking on privacy is nothing new at Facebook. Do a Google search on facebook+apology+privacy and you'll get 11 million hits.  It's getting harder and harder to trick people into sharing what they don't want to share, at least publically.

I'm not about to defend the Google privacy policy which has a whole set of its own problems. My point is that they at least know that privacy is an issue with people and if you want to attract and retain users you need to deal with it in a straightforward way. I expect every other social networking site knows that as well but most choose to address it only when forced. There is a lesson here for our industry as well.

MROC and mobile revenues still unimpressive

I have long advocated that the real test for any new market research method is how well it resonates with clients. Or, in somewhat more crass terms, how much clients are spending on it.

Inside Research maintains a number of indices that provide estimates of US revenues by method and the August issue reports on two of the hottest new methods: MROCs and mobile.

IR estimates 2011 revenues for MROCs at $152 million. If we assume total revenues for US MR to be around $8 billion (some argue it's much higher) then MROCs are accounting for just about 2% of the total. The companies making up the index are pretty much a who's who of providers in the MR space. Granted, there is some DIY and other uncounted revenue from other providers but that's probably true of the $8 billion base as well. You also could argue that as a percent of total qualitative it's much more impressive and I would agree with you. Where I would disagree is when you try to argue that it's a significant threat to online quant. Not any time soon.


Mobile revenues are lower still. While mobile revenues are expected to almost double in 2011 over 2010 they are still only projected to be just over $16 million. The caveat here is that these numbers are derived from reports for the overall online index and a good deal of what's happening in mobile is happening in small, focused agencies whose revenues will not be included in the $16M. So go ahead and double it.Still, the best you can say at this stage is dramatic growth from a very small base.

The maybe not-so-great privacy debate

Yesterday I listened into "The Great Privacy Debate." I won't summarize it here, that having already been done by Jeffrey Henning and Lenny Murphy with Lenny, as we might expect, being  somewhat more argumentative than the less impassioned Jeffrey. However, I will say that in terms of substance I didn't feel the debate went much beyond what's already been said in other venues and the answers to the questions posed to attendees at the end suggested that no point of view triumphed over the other.

All in all, the event had a sort of old bulls/young Turks feel to it. I was reminded of the scene in A Man for All Seasons where Thomas More and the young Turk Will Roper, More's future son-in-law and biographer, argue about the importance of the rule of law.

Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

The difference between market research and marketing

Earlier today I posted my reactions to a marketing piece from Communispace promoting the benefits of mobile in MROCs. Communispace reports that in their research "connected consumers demonstrate a strong appetite for contact from brands." The folks at Communispace are really good at marketing and I honestly admire that about them, but when they say "strong appetite" I read that people are open to contact from brands on their mobiles. But gives us a demo of real hyperbole in action. Their take on the Communispace research: "people are craving communications from brands." My dictionary tells me that craving means having "an intense, urgent, or abnormal desire or longing." I mean, really.

MROCs and mobile

Earlier in the week someone sent me what I take to be a marketing piece from Communispace called "Connecting with Connected Consumers." Its purpose seems to be to describe how mobile might be used in the MROC context to add a new dimension of insight. Two things struck me about the piece.

First, they report that when it comes to mobile advertising their MROC members report ". . . a strong appetite for contact from brands, provided that contact is both solicited and relevant, and that they are able to retain some control over the cadence and nature of the interaction." It occurred to me as a read the wordsTextingShopper a second time that we probably could say something very similar about what it takes to conduct successful mobile research or, for that matter, any kind of research. It implies subtlety, creativity and treating people as individuals rather than a commodity. Well said, but I'm not sure brands or researchers have yet figured out how to do just that.

Second, in the requisite in-the-moment section of the mobile pitch they talk about "deputizing" their MROC members "to become participant observers—not just of the lives of others, but of their own lives." The words that then immediately popped into my head were "mystery shop." I confess that those are just words to me, that I've never been within spitting distance of a mystery shop project and what little I know has never impressed me.  However, in the context of an MROC it somehow seems more interesting. I'm not a mobile evangelist who believes that mobile will soon become a dominant methodology, but I have always felt that there are some really cool niche applications where mobile can add a lot of value. The MROC context seems to provide just that kind of opportunity.