Case Study – Research 2.0: Ready to Go Viral!
In a recent eSeminar — Research 2.0: Ready to Go Viral! — Chris Williams, the developer of Research 2.0, and Jack Roehrig, Executive Director of RIXML.org, discussed some of the exciting ways social media is changing investment reporting. Chris has worked in the investment research space for more than 17 years, and Jack has been at the heart of discussions in the investment community on defining an open standard for categorizing, tagging, and distributing global investment research.
You can learn about Research 2.0, the work of RIXML.org, and see a demo on how analysts can integrate social media into their investment reporting by watching the 60-minute eSeminar. Here’s more from Chris on Research 2.0 and from Jack on what it means for the investment community.
Julie: What is Research 2.0
Chris: Research 2.0 places a social media layer between clients and the consumption of investment research. This will facilitate collaborative exchanges between analysts, their clients, and sales. The goal is to create deeper client engagement, which should lead to more commission dollars. These social networking opportunities – connecting with others – are made possible by social media tools such as instant messaging, interactive blogs, and other technologies.
To take one example, Research 2.0 will deliver efficiencies that will allow analysts to give tier-two, three, or four clients more personal service, which in turn can generate additional revenue from underserved segments.
Julie: What gave you the idea for Research 2.0, and what prompted you to identify what you’re seeing with a unique name?
Chris: What prompted me to articulate “Research 2.0” was really just watching how social media and the especially the iPad are becoming part of the fabric of our every-day lives and the opportunities they present. When the iPad first came out, sell-side firms wanted to release their own iPad apps so their clients could access their reports there – and many did.
But in their race to be the first to get to the iPad, all they accomplished was delivering the same standard print or PDF-based reports, similar to what we saw in the publishing industry with newspapers and magazines. They weren’t taking advantage of the unique capabilities of the iPad or social media.
Julie: And why do you think this was the case?
Chris: Research is in the same place as traditional media was a couple of years back. Like them, many research reports are still published on daily, weekly, or monthly schedules. As with any periodical, the information is no longer timely or relevant because the protocol of producing that information gets in the way of distributing it.
So what these first iPad apps did was dabble with the new media without being fully aware of the opportunity they were missing had they offered new types of content. In other words, these Research 2.0-like products were being displayed as Research 1.0 products.
And until firms move beyond the standard research report, this distinction between old and new media will not evolve. Only through focused projects within and across research providers and emerging technology discussions about new ways to package research, like those Jack and RIXML.org are having, will we see Research 2.0 become the new standard.
Julie: What are some of the implications of new ways to package research?
Chris: Consider this – in contrast to a traditional report with its associated production costs, what if there’s little or no cost associated with delivering information? Such as posting a link to a news story and having an RSS feed send it out. This means the analyst has done less work, the burden of the full publishing process is reduced, and clients get real-time information. We’ve never had media to satisfy this possibility like we have today.
Julie: Tell me more about the influence of social media on the research business model. How and why did you put these two ideas together?
Chris: The costs associated with forming groups have dropped dramatically in the last five years. Some very smart writers believe that social media was a facilitator of the democratic revolutions in the Middle East – it had the power to form groups nearly overnight. Much of the buzz accredited to the power of social media is about its ability to form groups that wouldn’t have existed without it.
But what would happen, I thought, if you take a reverse approach…take existing professional communities – like the investment community formed by a research analyst’s franchise – and inject the power of social media? How can existing groups use these tools to further their goals and interests? The most pronounced way, I believe, is by offering a whole new level of collaboration between the analyst and their clients.
Julie: What does Research 2.0 mean for analysts? How will it change their daily lives?
Chris: Research 2.0 means that analysts will be more connected to their clients. Instant messaging and blogging, for example, will create more focused interactions and also fewer missed opportunities.
On the product side, I think we still need a mix of old and new media, such as long, detailed reports for which there is a definite need, as well as shorter, more topical information delivered in focused products.
Julie: What are the biggest barriers or challenges to adopting Research 2.0
Chris: Technology is not the barrier. It is available and understood.
I believe the biggest barrier will be corporate culture. One of the more interesting brakes on change that I’ve found is what I call nostalgia for the PDF. This is the view that the PDF has been the hero of the research publishing and distribution story and that it’s self-defeating to kill it. Of course, there are hard issues around compliance that need to be addressed as well, but these are challenges and not barriers. But while these issues may prevent things from being done immediately, we may see a push by brokers to influence adoption as well.
Julie: What does Research 2.0 mean for technology providers?
Chris: I believe that every large broker is in either the envisioning phase, thinking through what social media and digital opportunities mean for them, or they’re in an implementation phase with a Research 2.0 initiative. Some may wait for out-of-the-box solutions and others already are demonstrating they want to be on the cutting edge by getting there faster. The real opportunity for technology providers is to bring tools together that no one ever envisioned could work together, changing business in the positive ways social media has changed our lives.
Julie: You mentioned in the eSeminar that RIXML.org was established a decade ago. What brought about its inception?
Jack: RIXML.org originally came about as a way to make it easier to find specific research information. A decade ago, the main way to share research was through e-mail. This created a flood of information that inundated people’s inboxes and made it extremely hard to find specific research, which obviously slowed down how you could use the information.
Not only did the predominant use of e-mail make finding information difficult, but so did the range of disparate formats used to deliver research. Nothing was uniform so you spent a lot of time searching.
So to bring some order and establish some discipline, a number of firms got together with the goal of applying metadata to research so that when you search you get to the right content faster.
At about the same time, XML as a publishing technology was starting to make its way into the research business, specifically because XML is extensible – meaning its functionality is flexible and can be extended or tailored to meet specific business requirements. The investment community saw that if a firm producing research could define even a small set of metadata to describe content, they could create the foundation for consistent product descriptions. This was the basis for uniformity that began to streamline the way research information is managed.
More and more firms caught on, and today the conversation about metadata and tags to identify content – and how to support them in business applications – continues.
Julie: What’s happening now that brings renewed energy to the adoption of standards for research reports?
Jack: This is the cool part. Change is coming – in fact it’s here. We can no longer talk about reports in the traditional sense. Rather, we’re seeing that the iPad and digital devices have brought new ways to package and display content. We’re seeing livelier discussions through social media. All of this means identifying new types of tags and metadata to identify new kinds information.
And it’s not coincidental. New generations who have grown up with this technology – whether on the commercial or the consumer side – are forcing change. They’re less likely to read a newspaper or read a PDF, so they’re a driving force behind how research is packaged and delivered and, consequently, how it has to be managed. Research ideas have to be brought to bear all sorts of ways because the new model isn’t about just about print and PDFs anymore.
Julie: How does RIXML work with the investment community to teach analysts about — and keep them up to speed with — the concepts that are behind new ways of engaging their customers through investment reporting?
Jack: Regarding the technology itself, dedicated staff from large sell-side firms participate in the conversations and discussion — for example in our Emerging Technology Group — so their analysts can focus on research and rendering opinions.
Smaller firms rely on third parties to, as I say, “RIXML-ize” their content and provide applications for tagging content. But for the analysts themselves and how they’ll adopt new ways of engaging clients? Ultimately the consumer who’s demanding content be delivered faster and in different ways, who says the best way to get to me is through these new social and digital channels, will get the analysts on board.
Something else I see happening with social media, the iPad, and new ways of communicating on an individual level is that marquis analysts may selectively market models and content through these new channels for selective clients and business. We’ll see firms testing these new ideas by offering a slice of a product. The legal and compliance frameworks will need to evolve along with these new marketing strategies.
Julie: Tell us more about the types of tags that you’re identifying and what’s next for the standards.
Jack: Probably the best example I can give you stems from some of the unfortunate catastrophic events the world has witnessed recently, whether the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Gulf oil spill, or the deadly tornadoes here in the U.S. We’re living in an information-intensive world, and people want to know what the experts are saying about the impact and consequences of these events. For example, what companies provide the robotics required to address the Gulf oil spill? Who’s providing opinions and insight into this industry?
In order to help identify this information so it can be found easily, we’ve developed the concept of “spot tags.” Spot tags mark information that usually has a short shelf life because it fades as the next wave of information hits. This is in contrast to standard types of research content and their tags you’d find in and associated with regular research reports. We’re trying to take what was rigid and make it nimble, not waiting for new taxonomies or schemas but providing useful tools and methods that can be used in direct response to the demand for opinions, insights, and advice.
We’re also discussing how to use hash tags and QR, or Quick Reference, codes, still more ways to distinguish content so it can be easily found.
Julie: What do you recommend research analysts do? How can they become involved to advance standards for the investment community?
Jack: What we’re seeing is so powerful that analysts themselves will adopt new ways of engaging clients as the technology becomes accessible to support it. They’re in dialogue with their clients which naturally reinforces how things are changing.
The next steps for RIXML.org are member events for continued exploration of emerging technologies and how they can be applied to investment research along with work over the summer to build out use cases for what new packaging of research might look like.
While the pace of change is constant and exciting, it’s not break-though stuff. Really what we’re doing is finding better ways to leverage what firms already have, which is why I like to say that RIXML doesn’t guarantee you’ll do better research, but we do guarantee better structure to find research.