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RFL 2017 “Global Top 50 Research Organizations” Reveals New View of Research Market

RFL Communications, Inc. has released its 3rd annual "Global Top 50 Research Organizations" (GT50) ranking based on 2016 revenue results. GT50 gives a new view of the research market by expanding the market to include research suppliers and other related research businesses.

For many years the AMA Gold Top 50 Report (formerly the Honomichl Report) and the variation of it used in the ESOMAR Global Market Research Report have been the default view of the size of the research industry. These reports have evolved over the years to encompass an ever expanding definition of what constitutes market research, but have left some critical gaps by not including sample companies, technology platforms, and organizations such as Google, Facebook, Equifax, etc… companies that fit within other categories but yet have active research divisions that are players in the market. So although incredibly useful and important, I think they are incomplete views of the industry.

Over the past few years there have been a few alternative views circulated, mostly through the work of organizations such as the MRS, Cambiar Consulting and even here at GreenBook, however industry legend Bob Lederer may have gotten closer to what such a list should be like via his own “Top 50 Research Organizations” report. While still somewhat incomplete in my view (for instance Research Now, SSI, Google are not listed and should be), it is a more comprehensive ranking and presents an interesting alternative structure.

The new RFL Report is out, and below is the press release with a link to download the report. You can download the AMA Gold report here and the ESOMAR report here.

RFL Communications, Inc. has released its third annual “Global Top 50 Research Organizations” (GT50) ranking based on 2016 revenue results. This unique tabulation first broke industry norms for such a list in 2015 by extending inclusion beyond only dedicated research agencies, and giving consideration to many of the most important research suppliers, plus dynamic and unorthodox research businesses.

Key examples on the 2016 list include Acxiom, Dunnhumby, Tableau Software, Experian, Harte-Hanks and Twitter, among others.

Revenues reported in the “GT50” are sourced from financial filings by public companies, published and confidential sources, and RFL’s own internal estimates.

The third annual edition of the “GT50” contains a surprising shuffling at the top of the industry hierarchy. Optum, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, is listed as the industry’s number one player, displacing the Nielsen Company, the longtime standard-bearer on every research industry ranking.

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“We were surprised to find Optum’s $7.3 billion revenues from its Data and Analytics division in 2016 were $1 billion larger than Nielsen in the same period of time,” says Bob Lederer, RFL Communications’ President and Publisher. “Optum’s business activities, notably its operations’ research work, validated its presence on the GT50 and its revenues consequently led to their supplanting Nielsen as the largest company in the research industry today.” The Nielsen Company comes in at number two on this year’s list.

There are eight new research organizations in the GT50 this year, led by Optum, Rocket Fuel, and Simon Kucher & Partners. Six research organizations on last year’s GT50 are not on this year’s list. Some of those are due to mergers with other GT50 companies, notably Quintiles and AlphaImpactRx, both of which merged with IMS Health in 2016.

One conspicuous company missing from this year’s ranking is comScore, whose final 2016 financial figures are part of a multi-year auditing and were not available as this report went to press. Two other companies, IBM and Omnicom, were dropped from the 2016 list. In spite of their existence inside public companies, a lack of transparency made it impossible to calculate their research revenues.

RFL’s “Global Top 50 Research Organizations” is available now on the company’s official website, Existing RFL newsletter subscribers should have already received their copies by mail.

Hat’s off to Bob for continuing to expand our understanding of the market!

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One response to “RFL 2017 “Global Top 50 Research Organizations” Reveals New View of Research Market

  1. Thank you for this kind profile, Leonard. As we specify in the report’s accompanying press release, sourcing for our numbers comes from financial filings by public companies, published and confidential sources, and RFL Communications’ own internal estimates.

    While we would certainly like to include SSI and Research Now on the GT50, neither of them are public companies and were therefore unwilling to share financial information with us prior to publication. In the case of Google, their publicly-disclosed revenue figures were still not transparent enough for us to accurately estimate the percentage of their revenue which was earned through research-related activities.

    If we find reliable, verifiable information related to these companies in time for next year’s report, it’s highly likely that they’ll be included at that time. Until then, though, we preferred to only include figures that we knew were accurate through multiple channels of verification.

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