Analysts and Blogging: Is Forrester Wrong?

I write an analyst blog and contribute to a group blog for my employer, Brandon Hall Research. The blogs are on the company’s URL. I also have this blog on my own URL here. So it was interesting to read of Forrester Research’s directive to analysts using their own personally branded research blogs: take them down or re-direct them to the Forrester site. Ugh.

Forrester’s reasoning: to increase value to clients by aggregating all of the content in one space.

Jacob Morgan wrote about the downside of their decision:

“No analyst with a shred of talent or ambition will likely ever choose to work for Forrester, assuming this policy is enforced.” He thinks the move will “kill the spark of innovation and curiosity that most research analyst have in their DNA…”

I disagree with that part. Read my analyst blog and you’ll know I am curious, innovative, and ambitious. Talent, you have to be the judge of but I do know I drive traffic to the main site.

Some of the other downsides Morgan lists I DO agree with: SEO value for the company, feelings around ownership, and brand visibility.

That middle one – feelings around ownership- is the tough one. I’ve spilled my guts on my analyst blog. I’ve dug deep and worked through some research questions publicly. I’ve thrown half-baked ideas around. If the company suddenly deleted me, I’d have four years of learning undocumented. Nothing to refer back to…”I wrote about that once…” would be no more. And, I’d have lost hundreds of hours of (additional) “work” I was not paid for. After all, I can’t be paid for 8 hours of work a day just for blogging. But if it takes me three hours to write something, I eat that cost. I find reward in the process of writing, thinking, reading what others think, etc.

It’s difficult because I get paid to write about work on the blogs but a lot of what I write drifts from that. I feel that’s mine. I did that on my own time. Too bad so sad, huh?

Dawn Foster wrote about it.

Given the current economic situation, I agree that this decision is unlikely to have much short-term impact on Forrester, but the long-term effects could be devastating. I suspect that several of their analysts will leave over this decision, although they may wait until the economy starts to improve before making the jump. I also think that they will have a hard time recruiting top talent. Very few people who have built active blogs in their areas of expertise will be willing to give them up. I know that I would never consider working for Forrester under these restrictions.

She points to one analysts feelings on the issue.

Am I thrilled at the prospect of giving up Experience: The Blog, my personal/professional blog? Well no—it’s become part of my digital identity and represents thousands of hours of time and effort. But I also understand Forrester’s reasons for the changes. There are obvious benefits to the company of aggregating intellectual property on, including Search Engine relevance and creating a marketing platform that demonstrates the breadth and depth of analysts’ brainpower and coverage.

Dennis Howlett also wrote about it. He refers to SageCircle’s assessment of Forrester’s reasoning:

Forrester CEO George Colony is well aware of that savvy analysts can build their personal brands via their positions as Forrester analysts amplified by social media (see the post on “Altimeter Envy”). As a consequence, a Forrester policy that tries to restrict analysts’ personally-branded research blogs works to reduce the possibility that the analysts will build a valuable personal brand leading to their departure. In addition, forcing analysts to only blog on Forrester-branded blogs concentrates intellectual property onto Forrester properties increasing the value of the Forrester brand.

Forrester’s Corporate Communications posted this response to Sage Circle’s post:

Regarding Forrester analyst blogs: We believe we can best serve our clients in their professional roles by aggregating our intellectual property in one place – at Make no mistake: Forrester is committed to social media, and the number of our analyst bloggers is increasing, not decreasing. Analysts will still have the ability to blog outside of Forrester on topics not related to their coverage areas.

Dennis Howlett calls the decision an epic 2.0 fail.

…both Jeremiah and Ray (former Forrester analysts) were generating huge interest in Forrester thinking. Not bad for a distant second placed player in the analyst community. Crucially and largely as a result of their solo efforts, Forrester was getting a LOT of new, incoming revenue. But equally crucially, neither Jeremiah nor Ray were rewarded for their efforts, often on top of 80+ hour working weeks.

He goes on…

Enterprise 2.0 mavens consistently argue that bottom up adoption of Enterprise 2.0 will make business better. That’s fine except in one crucial regard: pre-existing success history dictating future policy. There is plenty of evidence for that. Forrester’s belated but still knee jerk reaction confirms. Worse still. Rather than behaving as the doyen of what it preaches regarding social media, Forrester is showing itself as hypocritical in the worst possible way.

Josh Bernoff, Forrester, tells it like it is:

Forrester is an intellectual property company, and the opinions of our analysts are our products. Blogging is an extension of the work…

I hope I don’t have to deal with having my company blog deleted. But it is always a possibility and that said, if I had a choice, I’d put it on my own site.

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