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VMS in the rear view mirror

For those in public relations, corporate communications, or investor relations, you most likely have heard the news that Video Monitoring Services, VMS, closed last Friday with Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Since the story first broke on commpro.biz, many industry newsletters have posted their view of what caused the fall of the largest broadcast monitoring service. Looking in the rear view mirror is always far easier than projecting where one needs to be. Unfortunately it is too late for VMS, but here are some comments that have been said publicly, and my opinion on those speculative thoughts.

1. Said: VMS could not keep up with the competitive platforms built solely on a computerized infrastructure. Opinion: Probably not true. VMS had a very good system in the Quickview reports and were first to market with such a product. VMS had many integrated products that helped correlate efforts to results. Technology, when comparable, is rarely the reason a company fails.
2. Said: VMS couldn’t pay their vendors and this led to a death spiral. Opinion: I’m not sure about all vendors, but since VMS purchased some of their broadcast content from Universal Information Services I know they stayed current with us.
3. Said: VMS management didn’t know what they were doing. Opinion: I can’t speak to the most recent management hires, but many of the people I knew and worked with at VMS were extremely bright and had a great intuition for the industry. In the end, a loss of mission or direction is probably the most likely culprit for this failure, but to say VMS had a history of poor management would dismiss the many years they were the market leader.
4. Said: Better services passed VMS by. Opinion: Consider the source of these statements. If you are a competitor who has much to gain from the failure of VMS, then you may be tempted to yell, “We scared VMS out of the water because we are awesome”. Competition rarely forces a company to liquidate. Restructure, reconfigure, retool, these are the hallmarks of a competitive company that has been a market leader in any industry.

Looking back over the past week I see a couple lessons to be learned. First, the VMS employees caught in the bankruptcy are great people. I’m glad to see quality services like cision hiring some of these employees. Soon we hope to also be working with former VMS staff. Second, don’t believe all that you read…especially in advertising. Whether a blog or an ad, some lofty claims are being made. Phrases like “biggest”, “best”, and “only” are hollow terms that don’t tell you a thing about the level of service and support you can expect from vendor. Finally, if you are a former VMS client the best thing you can do is interview prospective monitors. If you are a local or regional organization, there is undoubtedly a monitoring service better located to serve your needs. Local and regional monitors know the news that is important to you. They know your city, state, issues, problems, etc.

Use the wonderful search of Google to locate news monitoring services that may be better positioned to provide what you need. Yes, I think Universal Information Services is the best company in the world. I would not be able to fake passion for what I do if I did not truly believe in the team I work with and the client missions we serve. I also own Utah News Clips, a news monitoring company located on the west coast so we can better serve the Western time zones. The team at Utah News Clips shares the same core values as Universal, we make your news our business.

Please comment where you think I’ve missed the boat on what has been said, or leave additional comments on what you think happened to VMS.

6 Comments on “VMS in the rear view mirror”

  1. 1 breakClean said at 4:43 pm on September 2nd, 2011:

    I’d follow the money and research about Robert J. Cohen, who died at the end of June. July is when the sales suddenly dropped, seems fishy?

  2. 2 Todd Murphy said at 10:24 am on September 3rd, 2011:

    Bob Cohen had retired from Video Monitoring Services, VMS, many years before he died. Usually the simpler explanations are correct. My feeling is that the bank for VMS called their loans before they could implement more and better tools. They never had a bad service or lacked news monitoring tools. I believe their cash runway simply got cut short. Thank you for your thoughts, everyone likes a conspiracy theory.

  3. 3 ughggg said at 5:59 pm on September 2nd, 2011:

    Looks like VMS starting losing sales right after this… http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=robert-j-cohen&pid=152171791&fhid=12152

  4. 4 Todd Murphy said at 10:20 am on September 3rd, 2011:

    Bob and his team built a strong broadcast monitoring empire. It sounds like the evolutionary pains at VMS started well before his death. I learned much about what to do, and some things not to do, from Bob Cohen. But nobody in this industry would deny that he set the bar that all others strived to get over. As stated, I’m allowing all to share their opinions on this post, so thank you for doing so.

  5. 5 RIPvms said at 6:31 pm on September 3rd, 2011:

    Sales had been dropping for years. Read the bankruptcy filing – you can see for yourself. There are several reasons we went under. Many of us are just glad Bob didn’t have to witness the end of his creation – especially the way it happened.

    Thank you, Todd, for your positive posts about VMS and its people/services. It was once a great company. I hope other companies can learn from VMS’ strengths as well as mistakes.

  6. 6 Todd Murphy said at 7:26 pm on September 3rd, 2011:

    Thanks for sharing your inside perspective on sales and the past few years. I agree that it is sad, but fortunate, Bob didn’t have to witness the fall of Video Monitoring Services.


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