Why Gnip, with a Digression on Independent Analyst Inattention

Let’s start with the back-story, followed by a digression on independent-analyst inattention, followed finally by a few paragraphs of substance, my take on social-data provider Gnip.

Or just click here to skip to the substance, my impressions of Gnip.

The Back-Story

I had a request for 30 minutes on the phone to discuss Gnip, to which I responded, “I’d be happy to talk although I don’t have enough knowledge of Gnip to discuss them for anything close to 30 minutes.” (I assume the gentleman had already reviewed the Gnip technical information available online.)

This fellow’s reaction —

“It’s interesting that you have been cited as a knowledgable source on this company, yet you say you know very little, the interesting aspect being that no one seems to know much about  these guys despite their apparent success in the market.  This is one of the items I’d like to get your opinion on: Why do the people who are the experts in the area of social media analysis not know, or know so little about, the guys who are billed as the prime suppliers of social media data?”

My response, the message I sent (hence the use of “yours,” etc.) —

On Independent Analyst Inattention

I’ve never had a business driver to learn enough about Gnip to call myself an expert in the company’s business or technology. One business driver would a due-diligence assignment like yours. When I’ve had those assignments, I do exactly what you’re doing: I consult analysts, customers, business partners, competitors, and company execs and staff. I also do online research. Ask me about Syomos for instance. I did a due-diligence business and technical appraisal prior to Marketwire’s acquisition of the company and I’m still fairly current.

Also, there are companies that sit in the core of my work, in text analytics and sentiment analysis and business intelligence. Ask me about Clarabridge, which is one. I attend their yearly user conference, where I can talk to customers and business partners, and I get periodic product briefings. I have lunch with the CEO a few times a year, and did an investor consultation a year ago.

A third category of business driver is a consulting relationship, where I advise a company on their product and/or market strategy or on the search for business partners that fill product gaps or extend capabilities. This year, I’ve advised two consulting clients to look at Gnip (and also at rival DataSift) as a possible alliance partner, but while I’ve learned a lot about that client’s platform in the course of the consulting gig, I’ve learned only enough about the data providers to be confident that my recommendation is sound.

Having Gnip and DataSift as sponsors of Sentiment Analysis Symposium hasn’t, unfortunately, provided for really substantial, in-depth interaction. (Let the preceding sentence serve as a disclosure. By the way, you can see videos online of October 2013 symposium presentations by Gnip President & COO Chris Moody’s and DataSift CEO Rob Bailey’s presentations. Also, Ian Cairns of Gnip blogged his thoughts about the symposium, and prior to the symposium, Elaine Ellis interviewed me for the Gnip blog.)

Impressions of Gnip

So I’ve never looked at Gnip really closely. Not having done an in-depth investigation, I can nonetheless tell you — finally getting to the point — that:

a) Timely, harmonised, filtered social data is important and b) so is access to historical data. Further, c) dealing with a single provider for data from multiple sources is mighty convenient, and d) an intermediary provider such a Gnip enjoys economies of scale — buy once, sell many times — that a data user doesn’t. This latter point means that e) Gnip (and rivals) can likely sell data cheaper than data consumers can get it by direct purchase from the platforms, if they can get it directly from the platforms at all. Further, f) working with intermediary providers lets Twitter and all the other social platforms monetize their data without having to provide data-availability infrastructure of deal directly with the data customers, and g) working with intermediary providers means that data consumers don’t have to create, support, and pay for the level of infrastructure they’d need if they went directly to the sources.

Those points are all general. About Gnip specifically, I can tell you that:

h) I’m impressed with the company’s market success, both sales and positioning, the latter including especially i) the Plugged In To Gnip program, which includes — funny thing (i.e., not really) — out of fourteen companies, only two I don’t know. Staff from seven of the fourteen have spoken at conferences I’ve organized. j) Not Plugged In To Gnip, but linked to the company nonetheless, are analytics companies I respect such as Texifter, Attensity (which also licenses the full Twitter firehose directly), and StreamBase.

k) On the flip side, it’s a positive thing that Gnip is part of Twitter’s Certified Products program, as a Certified Data Reseller. I’ll add that l) the Gnip-DataSift competition is good for both companies. As I said in an October interview, “market rivalries spur better products and a faster innovation pace.”

Unfortunately, I haven’t interacted with Gnip executives enough to be able to say anything about them, and I also haven’t used the service myself.

Hmmm… do we still need to talk?

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