IIeX Amsterdam 2019 Podcast Series

IIeX Europe 2019 Conference Series – Nick Thomas – MrWeb

Welcome to the #IIEX Europe Conference Series 2019. Recorded live in Amsterdam, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors and speakers at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Nick Thomas of MrWeb.

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I’m Nick Thomas. My company’s called MrWeb. MrWeb Limited, and a producer of Daily Research News Online as well.


You are my honored guest on Happy Market Research today. I have been, as has the entire industry, consuming your content for many, many years. You are the leader, I believe, in what’s happening right now in market research.


I like to think so. It’s a small market, so there’s not a vast amount of competition (laughs).


It’s true.


If we were the leader of 1,000 competitors then that would be great, but very few. It’s been going on now for 19 years, or 19 years next month, we’ll have been doing the news. The company is 21 this year, so we’re dinosaurs in internet terms (laughs).


Yes, that’s true.


Some would say we’re dinosaurs in the way we do it as well (laughs). We’ll come back to that later.


That’s hilarious. I can’t wait to dive in more. IIeX day two is winding up. How has the show been for you?


The show’s been excellent. I’m always telling people, whatever show I’m at, that… Which I’m not at very many, by the way. I’m trying to get out more these days rather than sit behind the PC. I’m always saying that there are quite a lot of shows around these days. It’s, if anything, quite a crowded market.


Very. It’s one I’m glad I’m not in.


Yes. You have to look at it and say that you’ve got to differentiate yourself. Would there be consolidation? Possibly. There are people collaborating in Quirks and TMRE in the US. Things may not mean consolidation, but there are a lot of events around companies that feel that they need to go to all of them. They’re now having full-time staff just traveling from (laughs) place to place for certain parts of the year.


It’s a heavy lift. We’re doing—


It is, yes.


At PureSpectrum, we’re doing 16 conferences this year up from zero.


You’re in second place then. Congratulations (laughs). I have a 20, a 16 and a 15 now. This company’s spending all their time on the road. Having said that, IIeX, this particular show, which is the only one I’ve been to, the European one, has easily got a place notched in there. There’s no threat to this one because it’s an incredible conference, incredible location. They do very well.


They’ve absolutely nailed it. What’s interesting about IIeX is they have… GreenBook at large, with GRIT as well, has really assumed this Sage leadership role of insights or cutting-edge technology in the insight space. What I like about this is you walk around the show floor. You’re meeting a lot of… I don’t know. We’ll call it $1 million to $5 million companies. In five years, some won’t be here and some will be big, which is neat.


It’s a good space for them to be in, and it also makes it a very interesting show. I’ve particularly enjoyed the startup competition this year because it’s showcasing… There are people competing for quite a reasonable prize.


Yes, $20,000.


Twenty thousand dollars.


Yes, it’s real money.


We’re trying to add in a little prize of some bonus advertising on DRNO.


Are you?


Yes. Only a small amount, don’t worry, Jamin. (Laughs.) That will be part of the prize, hopefully. The organization that—


I love that.


Scoops it gets as well. It’s a bit of exposure. We’ve had seven companies picked out in total, and the winner will be picked this afternoon. We got a chance to go and talk to each one of them yesterday and decide who to vote for. Sorry, not each one of those. A qualifying group to get a place among those final seven, which meant talking to some entrepreneurs about their company’s one-to-one of this group.


I definitely have my favorite of your group, but I’m not going to say who.


No, you have to say—


I have to be, yes, agnostic (laughs). It’s tough. You’ve got a tough job for this year because there are some great companies.




There really are. Tell me about MrWeb. What’s going on?


What’s going on? This is a year of trying to expand the audience. We always are, but we’re going to make a particular effort to do that for Daily Research News this year. We’re looking at the idea of doing it through associations and agreements and partnerships with other people. That’s one of our strategies for the year. It’s a year of trying to do interesting things with the job board.

We started off as a job board, certainly in income terms. We completely dominated 90 percent plus from job advertising. The news, funny enough, started off as just a way of promoting the job board 20 years ago, 19 years ago. That’s taken on a life of its own, thank goodness. It does very well. The job board, it’s a totally changed market from what it was 19 years ago, 20 years ago. A lot of people probably even hear the expression job board and think, “Are people still running those?”


It’s the dinosaur in us.


Yes, it is. It’s like running an old-fashioned panel company, as they say. Don’t quote me on that. It’s not got a mobile angle or an AI angle, whatever, but it’s still very much a market that’s alive and has a good point to it. It’s just more difficult to compete than it used to be with the likes on LinkedIn and Indeed. We have to try new things with it. We have plenty of plans for it, so watch that space.


We’re going to be watching. You’ve got to give us a little bit more though.


Just what might happen, there’s a lot of potential in picking up jobs ourselves on a permissioned basis rather than having them forms filled in by people. On a longer-term agreement with companies, to make sure that we stay in the position where we’ve got more market research jobs listed than anybody else, which is still the case. Not quite sure how many market research jobs LinkedIn has worldwide. That may be more, but certainly in terms of only specialists board. We want to make sure that you can find jobs more easily through us and find jobs that you won’t find anywhere else and know that it’s very focused on research professionals. We still think we add a lot to the game on that one.


It’s interesting because LinkedIn is very far away from nailing groups. That probably happens best on Facebook. When you get into niche markets, like market research, the probability of you getting hired is entirely based and predicated on your network. Knowing what jobs are available becomes the issue. You don’t get it in aggregate, whereas you deal with a major Fortune 500, for example. There’s a huge value opportunity that’s created for job seekers and hirers, employers.

I want to shift a little bit towards the news. When I launched, I launched two podcasts simultaneously. One, Happy Market Research. The other, MRx News. I stopped MRx News about three months into it, because of resource allocation. It was just taking too much time for me to focus on it. I just needed to be more disciplined. I would say that a lot of value was in the distribution of news in an audio format. Do you see that as a possible future for you?


I certainly do. Perhaps it’s something we’ll talk about (laughter). Got that to talk about afterward. It’s not a new idea. What was it called? MrWeb’s EarPiece at one point, or DRNO’s EarPiece. It was a little 5, 10-minute podcast produced by a guy in the UK. This must be 15 years ago or something. Produced a little piece once a week for us. It fell through. He had resourcing issues like you did as well. It took him a long time to edit the piece. He used to record it for us every week and we used to put that out. Something we did long ago, stopped and probably shouldn’t have stopped. If the opportunity had arisen we would have carried on. We’re always quite keen on the idea of bringing in different media if you like. Different types of news, different formats. We’ll do that.


Very exciting. This is my prediction. We’ll see what happens. In 2020, IIeX, Barcelona or Amsterdam, we’ll figure out where it’s going to be next year. My prediction is voice is going to be the new blockchain or new Automated Insights. We’ll see.


Quite possibly. Will it be dominant, or will it just be starting to take over? It takes more than a year, usually, for something to do that.


Yes, it is going to start. I predict it’s going to start. You’ll hear two or three talks about it next year.


Definitely, a lot more than this year, because I haven’t heard very much this year.


Zero. Nobody’s talking about voice.


No, it’s quite surprising.


Yes, it’s interesting.


You’re flying the flag for it by having this voice format here. That’s good. Technology moves at the speed of humans to a great extent, doesn’t it? The market adopts it.


That is well-said.


Sometimes you can hear people stand up at conferences. I won’t mention any names. BIG conference, 2011, somebody stood up (laughs) and said, “Traditional market research will be stone dead in five years time.” I don’t see it stone dead yet. A lot of people might tell you that it is.


Give me a break. It’s the opposite. Literally, it’s the opposite.


Even traditional market research. We still publish articles about people opening call centers to telephone people. It’s not unheard of.


It still happens.


That’s opening, never mind continuing to run.


Growing. There are some call centers that are growing that I know of.


Yes. Everything becomes a niche, everything goes into the toolbox. Things don’t die out nearly as fast as you think.


One hundred percent.


I wouldn’t disagree that voice is going to be a big tool, as it were, in the future. It’s going to be widely used.


If you look at units sold, that’s where I go to, you look at the market data, it’s very, very dominant right now from a consumption perspective. Now, we’re doing stupid things like music and stories, and maybe some games to a smaller extent. The iPod started in a similar vein.


You’re talking about Alexa and the revolution that’s leading in voice.


Yes, exactly.


Out of interest, do you have one?


I do.


You do?


I have three.


Do they argue with each other about who’s going to do things for you? “No, let me get that.”


My children’s favorite game right now is, “Alexa, play hide and seek,” which is a very entertaining three-minute exercise for the kids. This is being done by a two and a three-year-old. Voice as a medium is passively consumed. You and I could have a conversation and be on our phones at the same time, or driving a car. Something like that.


Yes, especially driving a car.


Especially driving a car.


It’s very good while you’re driving a car, yes.


You can consume it, whereas visual or reading, or whatever is a big problem. Big, big problem. My thesis is that the next generation, Z, voice is going to be part and parcel with a user interface.

Thinking about your automobile, now, you don’t have to type in the address anymore. You can say, “Directions,” or, “Take me to…” If it’s a Tesla. That technology is just going to continue to… Voice is going to continue to assert a dominant position in user interfaces

As that happens, we as researchers are going to need to start thinking about that the way that we had to start thinking about mobile compatibility with surveys when that medium changed. Anyway, that’s my view.


From our point of view, bringing it back to home turf again, a hybrid model is going to be a good idea. We’ll continue to put things out in print for a long, long time to come. Not print, print, but in words. That’s the quickest way to scan through things. With a voice or a video, it’s very hard to do that.


It’s impossible.


There’s a fairly well-established US Bob Lederer’s Daily Podcast Video. Going for a while. It brings out one issue a day and talks about it, but also hits on various other areas of news. Whereas it’s a very useful format to have, it’s very difficult to scan through a video.


You can’t.


Even if it’s got a summary or a quick rundown of what’s going to be covered today. It’s very hard to do that. A mix is always good.


This is what’s interesting. We went from a pen, a one digit input device to 10 digits. With our fingers now typing, so highly efficient. To two digits, your thumbs (laughter). You see what I mean?


Mm-hmm (agreement).


My theory is that users are lazy, I’m lazy, and voice offers an inefficient mechanism for communication with technology. To your point, it’s not replacing the world by any stretch of the imagination.


It’s a difficult way to scan things.


Yes, it’s impossible.


Visual is, by far, the best for that.


Yes, I agree.


I’m sorry. Voice and video have a fantastic impact. It’s much better for making an impact, perhaps, than being memorable than something that you’ve seen in print.

I just wanted to congratulate you on your paper this morning, and your use of some impactful techniques in that one. I have to admit when you started with the selfie and the company description I was a little worried (laughs), but then you became very… Sorry, I’m always rude (laughs). You became very interactive towards the end and we’re getting people to stand up and sit down depending on whether they use makeup and other features like that. Very entertaining.

I was just saying to some of the organizers that even at a show like this that brings in so many different media and has such technology, perhaps because it’s that kind of show, people seem to have forgotten the advantages and the benefits of a good old bit of audience participation. There is a lot of one-way presenting, even at IIeX. I have to say that because IIeX has been great. Of people just presenting something. A bit of participation woke people up. I don’t think they needed waking up, but they woke up even more when that happened. It’s a fantastic thing to do.

It’s the benefits of mixed media, I feel like. It’s getting different things happening, different senses being used. That’s a good reason to try and mix them up in whatever you do. Great job.


My guest today has been Nick Thomas, MrWeb. Sir, thank you very much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Thank you very much. A pleasure to be here.


Absolute honor.


You too.