James Governor's Monkchips

RedMonk’s policy on vendor press release quotes: industry analyst ethics

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Well apparently there is a debate going on, with an ethical dimension, which I feel I should comment on.
According to David Rossiter’s analysis RedMonk is “out of order“.
ARmadgeddon meanwhile seems a teeny bit naive about the process that leads to canned quotes on press releases. With reference to a recent Tom Foremski piece, it argues:
We’ve never, ever, heard of anyone asking taking payment for quotes. We are very keen to hear if Tom can substantiate his allegations. We bet he can’t and thus should retract.
Well here goes: RedMonk only offers press quotes to customers.
We have been known to make exceptions, but that is our stated policy.
Said policy is based partly on the fact that press work is time consuming. If you are put forward as a contact the chances are you may have to spend some time talking to reporters. Certainly no journalist worth their salt would use a press release quote without calling the analyst in question, to find out the back story.
Some reporters are in and out in five minutes, because they know their beats inside out. Others are somewhat less easy. The concepts and contexts we deal with are complex, and often take a lot of time to explain. Try spending 45 minutes on the phone with someone wilfully not getting it sometime.  You can give up those 45 minutes, and still be appallingly misquoted.
That benefits RedMonk how, exactly? Time is money. Time is chargeable
Vendors often claim we will get marketing benefit about being quoted on their press release. Not only is that quid pro quo probably just as much of a conflict of interest as getting paid to offer a quote, its also, in my experience pretty much untrue.
When I was a reporter myself, for five years on weekly IT trade mags, I made a point of calling someone else when I saw an industry analyst’s name on a press release. It just seemed like good practice to talk to someone that might be talking off message.
In my five years as an analyst I have seen little if any marketing benefit in being quoted on a press release. In a news story yes, but a press release… now that’s a different matter.
So let’s add some nuance to the debate.
I should state categorically that a RedMonk analyst will never put their name to a quote prepared for them. We write the quote, with no question of editorial interference, or we just say no. We try and talk to issues rather than make endorsements. After all, a core RedMonk pillar is that analysis requires context. But sometimes, you know what, we may actually think the thing we’re commenting on is pretty cool.
The fact is, we offer a lot of free advice to both clients and non-clients. We don’t charge for briefings in any way shape or form, and any vendor will get a fair crack of the whip with us. Nothing to do with a client relationship.It is another stated RedMonk policy that anyone that briefs us should obtain some useful information from us as a quid pro quo. We pride ourselves in creating value in all our interactions.
My line has always been: You Can Buy Our Thinking But You Can’t Buy Our Opinion. 
Therefore, I, for one, am certainly not going to apologise for using the quote question as a useful line in the sand for helping to turn regular briefings into ongoing client relationships.
Vinnie the Deal Architect, in his comments on both blogs I linked to above, makes a sensible argument which is not so far from my own position.
Look at it this way. Would an analyst agree to be quoted for a company he/she did not know? How does he get to know them? If they are not clients chances are slim they would agree to a quote. So, while they would not specifically charge for a press release, they would not do one for a vendor which was not a client for some other revenue.
We don’t offer a pay for play quote service, but we do see press referencing as a service bundled into a RedMonk subscription agreement. That’s it.
If you all want to get aerated about it, so be it. But bear in mind that I am here making a public and transparent statement. I don’t mind criticism from David, I know it wasn’t aimed at me or my company directly. We have nothing to hide.
And I haven’t even written my InformationWeek rant yet…


  1. James. why is it that every time that someone changes the “traditional” revenue model is such a mess?
    Pretty much anyone that as been around for a few years remember the change in focus from the Hardware to services. Strangely, not that long ago, the installation services for the Software were offered with the machine (and, sometimes, the Software itself was offered with the machine). Now, we can discount the machine, we can offer the Software but, don’t you think about toutching the services price.
    Don’t worry, you’re not the first guy to make a fuss when the “traditional” revenue is chalenged and, you won’t be the last one either.
    In My Opinion, provided a supplier is frontal with the customer and clearly explains to him what it will be charged, he (the supplier) is entitled to charge for whatever he wants

  2. Press Coverage for Clients Only: What Do You Guys Think?

    James brought my attention to an interesting ethical debate that affects our business model, and I’m curious as to what you guys think on it. Let me go through it, explain our thinking, and then ask (for those that feel…

  3. James, this is an interesting and informative post. Thank you.

  4. James,

    Thanks for the link.

    We’re well aware that some vendors submit pre-written quotes to analysts for approval and use them in press releases. In our humble opinion, this is doing a favour neither to the analyst nor to the vendor. We’ve added a PS to the original post, just in case:

    On Frost & Sullivan, one reader reports that analysts are being given a quote sheet, where only vendors clients figure:

    This should be enough to make them the laughing stock of the industry ; and brings us back to your policy of quoting only for clients: what does it do to your credibility if for instance you don’t mention that a certain vendor (client) is a challenger to a well established competitor?

    This said, we agree some journos are a waste of space: we’ve heard many analysts complaining about being misquoted, it’s just not you not speaking clearly 🙂

  5. weird. re canned quotes – they are almost NEVER about competitors, are they? i have never seen that. i certainly wouldn’t be associated with a quote that said, for example – DB2 is better than Oracle because it would be a meaningless statement.

    when i quote i look at the problem space and say whether a vendor is trying to nail that problem.

    and yes i do lay myself open to misquoting….

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