Online, nothing is really what it appears to be, especially when it comes to business, and the spectacle that surrounds "the business." Today, the term, "influencer" has become a blanket euphemism for everyone who has influence, and is getting paid for it. So while it is easy for FTC to identify the online influencers, the rules don't seem to apply to the analyst community.
As blogging took hold, and as we some of us attracted clients, or patrons, the FTC stepped in to make sure we all revealed our business relationships. In my case, I started to use the word "client" in my posts. But when it comes to analyst firms or the independent analysts, there seems to be a double standard, as you never see the same type of transparency that you now see from bloggers when the reports come out, or for example, the Gartner's Magic Quadrant get announced. It seems we have different rules for different people. A double standard per se. And that's not right.
Over the past 15 years, or since the early days of blogging, it hasn't gotten better. It's only gotten worse. With consolidation in the analyst world there are fewer "big voices" to shill for the vendors. With fewer media outlets, and less reporters, there's less neutral commentary. This all means the pay for play content is trumping the independent voices. Add in domain authority to SEO and the truth further gets pushed down and less seen.
Large analysts and research firms like IDC, Forrester, Gartner, 451 are all paid for subscriptions to their reports. But vendors are really their clients. These same client companies also offered and pay for research, advisory and writing services. The analysts in turn offer guidance on product and services launches. Some offer feedback on "go to market" planning, or serve as sounding boards for presentations to the industry or public market analysts and media. But even so, the FTC Guidelines don't apply to them. There's no disclosure. No transparency. Well it's time.
The solution is simple. If you're paid by a company, reveal it. Be radically transparent. That way, the audience can decide if it's like wrestling (fake) or like the MLB. A real game, where the outcome is based on who is best, not simply the richest.