The Twisted Jupiter Tale

    July 12, 2006

I’d intended to title this post “more twists in the Jupiter tale” but I think the actual title is far more appropriate.

Quick recap: Last month, Jupiter Research published a study about corporate blogging that led to Toby Bloomberg asking questions about their research methodology. She received a brush-off from Jupiter’s PR agency. Fard Johnmar purchased the survey report and also asked questions about the research methodology. He, too, got the brush-off. His post concluded with a recommendation to treat the research with a pinch of salt and not buy the report.

My own commentary on this story a few weeks ago attracted quite a few opinions from readers of this blog on Jupiter’s behaviour and that of their PR agency. A particularly thoughtful view on that latter point came from John Mims:

[] I think that the agency does have to shoulder some blame. I would hope that the agency would have at least anticipated some of the questions from the media. Number one question would have to be: How did you conduct the research? As someone who has managed a fair amount of research, that is the basis of the believability of any research project. If I can’t provide that basic information *to protect my reputation* as well as that of my client, I am compelled to walk away. Our responsibility as public relations pros is to provide accurate information for our clients to various publics. If that information is not accurate and we know it, we ruin our reputation and that of our industry. In this case, this agency might have provided accurate information, but they have done so in a way that it makes the information look suspect. They should have better advised their clients or offered a referral to another agency.

Ian Betteridge did a good job as devil’s advocate, standing up for Jupiter and the agency in questioning whether bloggers like Toby and Fard had really done enough in reaching out to Jupiter before posting criticisms. Fard’s response makes it clear to me that they had (and majority view in the comments: yes, they had.)

The latest opinion added to that discussion came yesterday from Clyde Smith:

[] As a highly trained qualitative researcher (PhD, OSU, 2000) I’m deeply disturbed by this whole affair. I’d like to get into more commercially relevant research myself so seeing a major research firm undermine the credibility of such research is quite disturbing. It’s been interesting to read the comments about the agency and I’ve gotten much more interested in the relationship of research and pr. But doesn’t any company have to take responsibility for the services they outsource? I don’t see how Jupiter Research could get off the hook at this point in time. [] Deep research always produces a lot of maybes and the media, politicians, etc. don’t handle that very well and remove the nuances that they don’t understand or can’t fit into a soundbite. In the process they typically misrepresent the research. It’s a mess and it’s sad to see a research firm contributing to the situation in this manner.

I agree with Clyde’s last point. No matter how you look at this story, the way in which Jupiter Research and the PR agency have reacted to questions about the research simply raises more questions. Those questions, and the people asking them, aren’t going to go away. It places Jupiter’s credibility on the line, in my view.

It gets worse, though.

Yesterday, Toby posted an email exchange between her and David Schatsky, president of JupiterKagan (the owner of Jupiter Research), in which Mr Schatsky effectively ignores the focus of Toby’s questions – asking about the research methodology – and, instead, goes on the offensive to accuse Toby of misleading her readers.

I’m astounded at this behaviour. Mr Schatsky has a great opportunity here to engage with an influential blogger, provide the information requested and so open up a further opportunity for far more relevant commentary.

He did, however, provide a snippet about the research methodology:

[] I’ll tell you that some of the data cited in the report you are discussing and mentioned in our press release is from a survey of 251 executives from a variety of industries who make decisions about their company’s Web site spending and who work at companies with $50 million or more in revenue.

Why stop there, Mr Schatsky? Come on, let’s have the whole story! Add to that little snippet. Let’s try and make your survey’s claims a bit more credible. Or not, as the case may be.

But perhaps this is nothing more than a mess, as Clyde said. If so, Jupiter’s doing a good job at adding to that.

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Neville Hobson is the author of the popular blog which focuses on business communication and technology.

Neville is currentlly the VP of New Marketing at Crayon. Visit Neville Hobson’s blog: