Stealth Market Research & Google Movies

I love stealth market research — that is, unusual ways of figuring out what companies and competitors are doing. There are all sorts of ways of doing this sort of thing, from counting cars in company parking lots on outward. But there is no denying that technology continually creates new ways of ethically observing companies, and therefore new kinds of stealth research.

One of the more entertaining practitioners of this sort of thing is, in a Google tech context, Garett Rogers over at ZD. In the past he has delved into Gmail code to discover new upcoming features and services — he tipped Google Apps long before anyone else. He also tracks the company’s domain registrations and today showed how keeping an eye on Google’s robots.txt file can tip new functions, like the company’s new Google Movies feature.

Equity analysts, market researchers, competitive strategists and others should be watching closely. There are many unblocked holes in company’s strategic defences, as well as in meta-info like keyword data (Hey, my competitor just started buying keywords around one of my products!). Some of this will never be blocked, but all of these emerging forms of market & competitive data are worth watching.


  1. Norman Benjamin says:

    Well, from a mathematical point of view there are logics and structures of actions that allow to move in stealth mode, meaning: all options and strategies visible cancel themselves out into complexity. 5 more years and there will be programms doing that for you. Untill that, well, actors should be more away of the market watching not only their foot prints, but also the way their breathed out airs vanished into the sky.

  2. Sure, easy for you to say.

  3. Google Movies isn’t that new. I first noticed it back in May.
    Niniane Wang talks about it in this recruiting video released in April 2005, and on her webpage says Google Movies was released in time for Oscars in February 2005!
    So it’s not that new, but it is an incredibly useful feature, especially from your phone.

  4. This reminds me of that story about Burger King and McDonalds. Burger King would watch the property sales reports for anything that McDonalds would be bidding on or renting/buying. They would use this to find where they would want to put up a chain store.
    Well, McDonalds started to get wise when they realized that BK was puting up stores everytime they were putting one up on the highway stop (sometimes many months in advance). McDonalds had a whole team that would spend millions of dollars to find where to place new stores. After many studies on population growth, traffic trends, surveys, and even visiting locations, McDonalds would choose the places for their next stores.
    It was too strange that BK would always be a step ahead of them on these same exact places. Well, they finally found out that BK was doing their own research, which was to just watch the filings for real estate or permits and just find a location across the street and start building.
    So McDonalds got smart. They started to register 100’s of locations they had no plans at all in going into. They chose many of the places they knew where bad because of traffic or competition.
    What happened? BK started building like crazy. After millions of dollars invested, they realized what McDonalds had done. Too late.
    Anyway – Google might be leading us to think they are doing something they are not. It is the oldest trick in the books.