What Can Market Research Learn from Journalism?

Market research and journalism have a lot in common. The requisite curiosity, persistent investigation, and knack for storytelling are threads that connect my own biography—from college newspaper editor to history grad student to researcher by trade.

The journalist, of course, occupies a pop culture space of much greater visibility; and the savvy researcher can look there for hints of the future.

This recent Mashable piece on curation struck a particular chord for me. The basic premise is this:

“Over the past few weeks, many worries about the death of journalism have, well, died. Despite shrinking newsrooms and overworked reporters, journalism is in fact thriving. The art of information gathering, analysis and dissemination has arguably been strengthened over the last several years, and given rise and importance to a new role: the journalistic curator.

With a torrent of content emanating from innumerable sources (blogs, mainstream media, social networks), a vacuum has been created between reporter and reader — or information gatherer and information seeker — where having a trusted human editor to help sort out all this information has become as necessary as those who file the initial report.”

There are some important parallels, the most important of which is an increasing load of content that is user generated, free, and growing exponentially.

Like consumers of the news, many businesses are ill-equipped to manage the torrent of information that is flowing their way, learning on the fly how to use the bevy of new tools available to help manage it. Like consumers of the news, businesses increasingly expect cheap information and have a hard time evaluating the quality of the source.

In terms of skill set, the best researchers should be able to incorporate curation pretty seamlessly into their portfolio. The very words “curate” and “research” suggest the combination of art and science that has defined market research as a discipline. The ability to apply quantitative discipline to qualitative learning (and conversely, to explore nuances of data in an unstructured way for deeper insights) is critical to using Big Data.

But it requires a shift in orientation, and a different paradigm of what you can and cannot control.

The shift in journalism has taken a painful toll on many of the employees as big media companies struggle to adapt. The research industry historically operates a bit behind the curve.

What else can researchers learn from what’s happening in the media biz?

What Can Market Research Learn from Journalism?

1 Comment »

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