IBM Signals Death Of The Press Release And Market Research

| About: International Business (IBM)

It used to be that if you wanted to know what was happening you bought a market study. It used to be that if you wanted the world to know what you were doing you issued a press release.

That's so 2009.

This Christmas season IBM (NYSE:IBM) has quietly been demonstrating another way to play, one that will dramatically impact a lot of industries in the months ahead.

The demonstration is over Christmas sales. IBM has wanted to push the idea of mobile devices moving the sales needle for some time, and blogged about it before the season started. It did this through "cloud analytics," a hot new product category it's selling in a variety of industries, combining its Cognos unit with software from other acquisitions like DemandTec.

The retail demonstration was called the IBM Coremetrics Benchmark and it showed what IBM expected it to show, namely, that more business was moving online and, specifically, toward mobile devices.

IBM isn't doing this to sell market studies. It's doing this to sell Coremetrics as a product to web commerce sites. Goodbye market research, hello software analytics, although (for now) companies like comScore are still in the game.

Rather than issue a straight press release on Christmas Day figures, which showed a huge jump in m-commerce, IBM simply leaked the news to Forbes through John Squires, chief strategy officer for IBM Smarter Commerce.

The result was a host of stories repeating precisely what IBM wanted them to repeat, sometimes lifting the lead sentence of Forbes' Erika Morphy directly. The rest of the media pack got the scent this morning, and while the stories differed in tone and some added other research the spin was precisely what IBM wanted, precisely what it has been saying for well over a month.

There are important lessons here for investors.

  1. Don't wait for the press release. If you are a company with news, blog about it and call a reporter or two. Let the post be your press release, and if you break that blog post after the reporter issues their story you'll have reporters beating down the doors next time.
  2. Christmas is just another shopping day. Commerce is on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and next year 366. This doesn't just go for sweaters and iPads, by the way, but stocks and bonds.

We will speak more on both these subjects soon.

Disclosure: I am long IBM.

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