There is a growing trend in online media to allow business sponsors to write articles for sites. It’s a very ethically questionable practice since you often don’t notice that the piece is almost a paid advertisement for the writer’s company. At the very least it can damage the publication’s credibility as the line is blurring between its supposedly legitimate journalistic content and content paid by businesses – the latter skewed by a ridiculous bias, like Brad Pitt reviewing his own movie.
The development of infomercial type content that uses the Forbes name was an odd Christmas gift to the editor I’m sure, as she realized her status as a filter for objective coverage had been compromised. The good news is that you can easily spot one of these articles once you look at the details. In the case of Forbes, the articles are all filed under the heading, “ForbesBrandVoice” – which has the creepy subtitle, “Connecting marketers to the Forbes audience” (with the CTA “What’s this?” that for some reason doesn’t lead to a page that says, “Hooey” in 200-point font). Additionally, the writer of the article is matched with the name of their business, underscoring the fact that the article is basically a glorified press release.
One example of BrandVoice is a recent promotion of the concept of a “vertical cloud” company, one that focuses on a specific business sector as opposed to a wide spectrum of companies. The basic message from Bryan Spielman of Medidata: Hi everyone, thanks for reading the article. I’m with a niche cloud provider, but I’ll call us ‘vertical cloud’ so you think we are doing something special, and then I’ll argue for using what we have to offer. Summary: you are being sold.
Spielman notes that the healthcare market is rapidly developing, and that the vertical cloud is the best type of service choice for firms in that field.
One type of enterprise for which Spielman believes his company is a unique fit is drug manufacturers, a sector that spends $100 billion annually on research and development, along with $45 billion on their computing infrastructures. Every molecule that is synthesized has a total end-to-end expenditure of $4 billion (per medical research firm InnoThink). Spielman notes astutely that big money is being directed into pharmaceutical R&D, but the payoff is not all that impressive when you look at FDA approval rates.
R&D vs. M&A: Spielman’s Argument for a Vertical Cloud
Spielman says that IT systems will need to keep pace with biomedical research as the market develops. He states that cloud is generally the strong choice, since you can introduce a solution almost instantaneously that fulfills many of the business’s needs. A vertical solution spreads itself out horizontally in this way, says Spielman, “almost as a horizontal approach for a vertical model.” In other words, Medidata would like to spread out, so no one sit next to them on the bus – and whatever you do, don’t move their newspapers.
Spielman is basically suggesting that by focusing on one industry, a niche provider is able to pour money into improving its mechanisms. He notes that some companies are more focused on mergers and acquisitions than their own research and development when it comes to staying cutting-edge. Regardless of that factor, a vertical cloud company – says Spielman – is ideally prepared to meet the needs of anyone within its niche. As an indicator of the commitment to systemic refinement built into the vertical cloud, Spielman remarks that Medidata spent more than 18 cents for every dollar of revenue on R&D last year, a statistic that was also true of niche cloud firms Guidewire (property and casualty insurance), Opower (energy companies) and Demandware (online transactions … which is supposed to be a vertical?).
The Problem with Devil’s Advocate
The fact is, it’s really easy to play around with statistics to serve whatever your side of the debate is at that time. That’s the whole problem with someone promoting their business and positioning their statements as an open-minded op-ed piece. Clearly the person is profiting off of a position that is heavily weighted on the side of their solution. In other words, why listen when all someone is doing is talking about how great their company is. It reminds me of an awful elevator ride next to a used car salesman with a gambling addiction who has to get you behind the wheel of a Pontiac Sunbird today.
The beauty of a horizontal cloud company, despite Spielman’s arguments to the contrary, is that we don’t have to aggressively argue for our value to a certain industry. The whole idea is the open possibilities of our environment. The idea of presenting a strong service with guaranteed performance is something that is appreciated by all industries. Spin up a Worry Free (automatic failover standard) cloud server today.
By Kent Roberts