Increasingly, the word “research” is being tossed around in B2B circles, suggesting that not just data or information, but market insight and understanding will be a particularly valuable tool in the arsenal of next generation B2B media companies.
Having spent much of his career in information and technology services, Bill Carter, president and CEO of ALM, is looking to further ALM’s legacy of market intelligence. But where some B2B executives have tried to distance their companies from the “media” or “publishing” tag, Carter sees media as inextricable from his vision for ALM. “I view us more as expanding the definition of a media company and what that means, rather than saying, ‘No, we’re really information,’ and dismissing that media piece. I do think the media and events parts are critical to actually getting the information part down right.”
Digging for the Insights Carter sees a lot of opportunity in collecting data, extracting insights, and incorporating that insight into ALM’s business and products. However, connecting all the dots of the data ALM sits on has presented some challenges.
To illustrate this, Carter offers the example of ALM’s many dispersed offices, where people work on different publications and are engaged in various initiatives to collect data and turn it into insights to share with their readers. For instance, in New Jersey employees were rating judges and in Atlanta they tracked billing rates on attorneys in a variety of practice areas.
Meanwhile ALM had an online repository of data, where some of these surveys and benchmarks were loosely collected, including the company’s famous Am Law 100. “I’m very deliberately using the word repository,” says Carter. “It was literally the spreadsheets out there. If you wanted to go back to 1985 you had to pull down the 30 spreadsheets and start to crunch numbers.”
Carter did a sample analysis to demonstrate to the organization the value that could be derived from linking and analyzing its disparate data sets. As a use case, he reviewed five years of performance in the Am Law 100 (which ranks law firms by gross revenue), along with a separate data set on the age distribution of partners and historical patterns of when people typically attain partner status. Carter gleaned that two firms appeared to be clearing out anyone not a partner (likely to protect the partners) and were probably on unstable footing. Within six months those two firms merged.
In so doing, Carter demonstrated one case for the value of ALM’s rich data insights. “I said, ‘You know, we have an opportunity to become the Gartner Group for the legal industry to produce these types of reports, link this data, and provide those insights.”
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