Measuring the right stuff
About those 2013 predictions

Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas

Brian Singh has a post over on GreenBook that gives us his take on a recent conference where a group of venture capitalists shared their views on the investment opportunities in MR as it grapples with its future.  I didn’t find most of what Brian reported to be surprising; it’s pretty much the standard stuff we are used to hearing about the “transformation of market research.” 

But the last part of Brian’s post really struck a chord with me.  He calls it “the creep factor.”  I would call it the dark side of big data, and at the moment it’s mostly playing out with mobile. At the heart of it is the assembly of massive amounts of personal data on all of us, too much of which is collected by offering some attractive service for free (often discounts on popular consumer produces) as a sort of head Stealing-data-300x200fake when the underlying business model is to amass large amounts of data on individual users and then monetize it via direct marketing.  To stay out of jail these services offer up long terms of use and privacy policies that they know the vast majority of us never read.

For people like me, who grew up and then old in the research profession, this weird twist on caveat emptor is at the heart of our misgivings about much of the NewMR.  Respect for respondents or participants or research subjects or whatever you want to call them was always at the center of everything we did.  That quaint notion is rapidly going the way of the landline telephone.

I am not so naïve that I don’t understand the need for MR companies to evolve in response to new technologies, new modes of social interaction, and an increasingly competitive marketplace.  My hope is that we can do so without betraying what I consider to be an essential part of the ethical foundation of the research profession.  Pete Cape once said, “We have allowed this industry to be taken over by venture capitalists and technology geeks.”  I hope he’s wrong.