1/17/13

On the Tendency of Vendors to Release New Products and then Seek Publicity

Kevin O'Keefe, wrote about the dueling Lexis and Thomson Reuters blogger summits on Tuesday in his post, Who's Influencing Who. He seems to be concerned that the big L and TR are trying to curry favorable blog content by lavishing a few bloggers with fancy perks.  I happened to stumble across his post as I was lounging on my pillow top King Size bed and perusing my Twitter feed on Tuesday afternoon in the St. Paul Hotel, in St. Paul, Minnesota.  I even mentioned it to my dinner companions later that evening at the St. Paul Grill, where I enjoyed a wonderfully buttery cream of mushroom soup, bourbon glazed Pork Chops, and asparagus with hollandaise, washed down with a very drinkable (and free flowing) Cabernet Sauvignon, all of which was kindly paid for by my very good friends at Thomson Reuters.  In return for this spectacular treatment, Thomson asked exactly two things of me: 1) venture to the Twin Cities in January! and 2) listen to five hours or so of the marketing pitches, development road maps, and executive presentations that they will be presenting at Legal Tech New York in a couple of weeks. The one thing no one ever overtly asked me to do was to write about the event or the product announcements.  Now, I'm not stupid, and they're certainly not either.  If you invite bloggers to a summit, you're looking to create buzz.  If you ply them with good food and wine, you're hoping it's really good buzz.  I'm sure the Lexis event was much the same.

Some of my colleagues who were in Eagan are, in fact, journalists as well as bloggers.  I'll let them speak for themselves, but speaking only for me, I am not a journalist.  I do not have pretensions to be a journalist.  My lifelong friendship and goodwill can be openly bought for the price of a couple of rounds of drinks and a few hours of good conversation.  And I will gladly say nice things on this blog and elsewhere about anyone who wishes to purchase my friendship in such a manner. (BTW, Toby and Greg: really great guys.) That said, drinks, presents, perks, and "flights to Eagan, Minnesota in January" on their own, don't buy much from me, it's much more about the good conversations.  Please feel free to take that into account as you read anything I write.   Including the following.

Back to Thomson...

I came away from the excursion to Eagan having learned a couple of things.

1) Thomson has a lot of really smart, very interesting, and incredibly nice people working for them. 

2) Thomson now sees itself as primarily a software and solutions company, rather than an information and news provider.  Interesting.

3) Thomson is moving a number of their new and existing products to the cloud.  (I'm pretty sure Mike Suchsland, President of the Legal group at Thomson, paused momentarily after he said this as if  expecting a gasp of shocked surprise from the bloggers around the table. And he seemed just a little disappointed at the "yeah, we figured" response he got.)

4) Thomson has a "new class of products, tools, and technologies that [they] think will define the next generation of technology for the evolving legal marketplace”  Um... maybe.  We (the bloggers) didn't get to play with any software. We saw a couple of demos and some screen shots.  Two new products, Concourse (for corporate, government, and large firms) and Firm Central (for small firms) are matter centric collaboration and communication hubs that nicely incorporate existing and future TR products into a single, simple, intuitive user interface, that can be customized to meet your firm's needs.  My take is that these are pretty early products.  They could definitely grow into generation defining products, but I don't think they're there yet.  And I think Thomson would probably agree.  Concourse looks very much like a consumer, rather than enterprise, product. (Which is good thing.) It has larger fonts and plenty of white space. It's designed to work on a tablet as well as a desktop.  I can imagine it would require very little user training and moderately savvy users who are familiar with consumer products like Dropbox and GoogleDocs will probably pick it up very quickly.


My big takeaway from the event is that in their new role as a software and solutions provider, Thomson is focused heavily on design, seamless integration between products, and overall ease of use. They are very much trying to bring the consumer experience to the enterprise, so I think they are moving in the right direction.

As I didn't get a chance to use any of the software, I can't say for sure whether the new TR products are any good or not, but I can say that the people working on them are pretty good conversationalists and they bought me a few drinks. So they're OK in my book.  Does that impugn my integrity?
 




P.S.
Some of the more journalistic attendees at the Thomson Reuters event took copious notes and I'm sure some of them will post extensive "reviews" of the products we saw.  Rather than duplicate their efforts, I will take the easy (lazy blogger) way out and link to other posts below as I find them.

Monica Bay: Thomson Reuters to Debut Concourse at LegalTech New York

Jean O'Grady: Thomson Reuters Legal Announces New Strategic Direction: Content no Longer King, Shift to Client Centric Platforms

Bob Ambrogi: Thomson Reuters Unveils New Tools for Litigators, Corporate Counsel and Small Firms

Lisa Solomon: Thomson Reuters’ Firm Central doesn’t measure up to its small law practice management competition

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6 comments:

Kevin OKeefe said...

Thanks for sharing feedback on the event in MSP and to my post. I really mean it. I may be missing things, but this is the first word I have seen from anyone about what Ambrogi labeled law blogger summits by LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters.

My point here is why no social media coverage of this event or the LexisNexis event? Both were billed as getting bloggers and others in so as to being introduced to new services and products. With bloggers, one gets people Tweeting and live blogging so as to drive discussion across the net.

Look at Facebook's intro of Graph Search this week. There was near live discussion between the room where it was being introduced and the net. People both at the event and people not at the event, some with access to the Graph Search, were blogging, reporting, and Tweeting about Facebook Graph Search. By the end of the day there was a vibrant discussion and record about the plusses and minuses of the search. Facebook had a wealth of feedback to work with, not from a small amount of people in the room, but from tens of thousands on the net.

Facebook does this to build relationships with its users, advertisers, and investors. Without such a dialogue Facebook would be looked at as more of an evil empire because of people's privacy concerns. By opening the doors Facebook gained relationships and feedback.

LN and TR are no Facebook, but they more PR people and probably more tech and business development people. They're equipped to take the discussion to the net if they wanted to.

LN and TR either chose to keep the doors closed or the bloggers or reporters in attendance chose not to take the discussion in real time outside the doors. Taking notes and reporting later, to me, seems like old school of PR influencing reporting -- something that does not benefit LN/TR or the customers they serve.

Make sense?

Ryan McClead said...

Kevin,
Thanks for commenting. I hoped you might. I completely get your concerns about journalistic ethics, etc. and I agree that it would have made a lot more sense to me to open up the conversation and include the wider blogosphere and twitterverse in real time. I can't speak to why no one was posting about the LN event, but Thomson asked politely that we not tweet or post during their presentations. I'm not sure why, but my speculation (and this is purely wild speculation) is that Thomson is still crafting the exact message they want to present at LTNY. I have a theater background and in my opinion, the presentations had a definite dress rehearsal feel to them. That's not to say they weren't good presentations. Dress rehearsals are often better than opening night and for the most part their presentations were very well done. But if I were running marketing at a large company like TR, I would not want presenters to go into a show like LTNY cold. I would want them to have an opportunity to speak to an external, knowledgeable, and potentially antagonistic audience who is going to ask unexpected questions at least once. Inviting Legal Journalists and bloggers to a closed session, provides exactly that type of audience and has the added bonus of maybe getting a little buzz going before you get to the show.

Thanks for providing a frame for my post. I find it's always a little bit easier to write when I'm pushing back against something or someone even if it's something or someone I generally agree with. :-)

Ryan

Kevin OKeefe said...

You are probably right about TR's logic, but shouldn't they do their practicing internally. If they're inviting bloggers and influencers, why wouldn't they expect and want people to blog or tweet? That's nuts to lock things down. That sort of behavior may be part of why TR has earned the reputation they have.

No question they have good people and good products, but they could earn a lot of money by setting up a booth at a conference where you get to kick a TR rep in the knee for $10.

Without any prompting, I am told by lots of people how much they hate TR or LN for this or that. I am sure that's not the case for a lot of folks, but the way to improve your reputation today is to understand how the Internet works - especially of you're a tech company.

TR holds themselves out as offering social media training to lawyers so that lawyers know best practices. Doesn't it seem strange that TR doesn't even know the best practices themselves?

Niki Black said...

I was at the Lexis event. They didn't mention anything about not tweeting, etc. and provided us with outlets for our laptops and a wifi password. They did, however, ask that we not write about 2 of their new software releases until early next week, but everything else discussed was fair game.

Personally, I pretty much stopped live tweeting conferences, etc. years ago. I don't think it adds much to my Twitter feed or any discussion about a conference and just clogs up my followers' feeds.

For that reason, I chose not to tweet about the conference. And, quite frankly, when I live tweet I tend to miss much of what is being said.

As for writing about the conference--I was originally going to post to my Sui Generis blog re: my thoughts on the conference, but my Daily Record article is due on Thursdays and I was facing that deadline today. Since I was traveling back from NYC today, I was pressed for time and had to write the article while at the airport and on the plane.

The conference was on my mind, so it seemed natural to write an article about it, which I did. It should be published early next week, at which point I'll re-post it to my blog, as I always do. I also plan to write a follow up article about the new software products next week.

As for others in attendance, as you know from her comment on Kevin's blog, my co-author, Carolyn Elefant was unable to make it at the last minute. Others in attendance consisted of a few bloggers along with traditional media types from a number of different backgrounds ranging from law librarians, eDiscovery, knowledge management and legal technology generally.

Hope that answers some of your questions.

Niki Black

Gwynne said...

this is all very interesting and appreciated as i cull the web for info and POV to inform my purchase decision re: MyCase vs. Houdini vs. FirmManager vs. Amicus in the cloud...

I really appreciate the authenticity of your POV!!!

Lisa Solomon said...

I was at the Thomson Reuters summit in Eagan. TR invited me even though, following their last summit (in 2010, when they introduced WestlawNext), I wrote a series of what can only be termed scathing posts about WestlawNext's pricing.

TR did ask us to hold off on writing about the summit until it was over. Even if they hadn't though, I wouldn't have tweeted during the summit because the presentation that I was most interested in - concerning Firm Central - left many unanswered questions. My in-depth review of Firm Central - written with the benefit of a subsequent live online demo and answers to a number of follow-up e-mailed questions, is at http://tinyurl.com/ak3vzv2.

 

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