SEO Marketing Research

SEO Marketing Research header image 2

Market and industry research data resource evaluations and reveiws

62 Comments · Marketing Research

Market and industry researchers generally require access to a broad range of sources. The twenty-first-century global economy encompasses hundreds of industries, each having its own experts, analysts, journalists, and publishers who follow that industry.

The data points that are used to characterize a market can also seem limitless, including such details as products, prices, advertising media, market size, market share, customer base, product features, product benefits, and so on.

Couple this with the need to verify and cross-check information from multiple sources, and the prospect of wading through the data options can seem overwhelming.

This article looks at the strengths and weaknesses of some of the data sources most important to the market and industry researcher.

These sources include online access to market research reports; databases of trade and industry magazine and journal articles; local, regional, and national news sources; and reports, data, and flings from government agencies.

Because this material is often available through multiple outlets, aggregators, portals, or database developers, we will look at some of the various options and point out which sources work at some of the various options and point out which sources work best in certain situations.

The critical reviews of business data sources provided in this article will assist the reader in selecting which source or service to use for market and industry research.

The sources included were carefully selected based upon this editor’s research experience, acting in concert with the editorial board. Contributors also recommended key sources for inclusion.

Experienced researchers have prepared the detailed source reviews included here to describe the source’s general content and value, as well as to look at costs, currency, comprehensiveness, and ease of use.

Industry changes resulting from mergers, acquisitions, partnerships, and closures seem to occur with increasing frequency among information providers, and we’ve made the information in this volume as current as possible.

Nevertheless, readers are encouraged to suggest changes and additions. All reviews will eventually be made available online.

Given the large number of sources that are essential for market and industry research, it has impossible to include fully developed source evaluations for all of the most important sources.

So, at the end of this chapter is a section containing annotations of additional key source.

In a couple of cases the source are complex and extremely rich in content, but the occasion for their use is infrequent.

Still, the researcher should be aware of their existence and be prepared to explore and discover their value when the need arises.

Keeping track of the availability and content of online business databases is a monumental task. A database from one publisher may be available through three or four database portal services.

The search interface for each portal will affect how the database is searched and which output format is used. Even the actual content of the database may differ from service to service.

Deciding which service and/or database will provide the needed information most effectively and economically is always a tremendous challenge.

The value-rated data source reviews in this article are designed as a guide for that decision-making process.

Although the sources evaluated represent only a small portion of the resources available, they are deemed essential for market and industry research and are the data sources anyone who performs such research should know about.

Data source ratings
All of the data source reviewers were asked to rate each source on the basis of the following eight categories, using 10 as the highest rating and 1 as the lowest (80 being a perfect score):

1. Relative cost-to-value (a 10 would be very cost-effective)
2. Relative timeliness of data
3. Relative comprehensiveness of data
4. Ease of use
5. Search options available
6. Level of support services
7. Level of training offered
8. Amount/kinds of special services offered

The editors also provided the following general rating instructions to the reviewers: “Under this section we would like you to be critical but fair, bearing in mind that no source is perfect, complete, and free.

It would be most useful if you always compare this source to similar sources when answering the following questions:

• How would you rate/describe the cost in terms of other sources? Do you feel the source is cost-effective for the applications/questions/data you are using it for?

• Describe the various cost schedules and/or options as you know and use them.

• How timely is the data? How often is it updated? Is the updating partial or complete?

• How comprehensive is the data? Consider such factors as breadth, depth, and completeness of coverage.

• How easy is the source to search? What do you like best about the user interface?

• What is the level and value of technical support offered? What is the cost for this?

• What type of training is offered, and how effective is it? What is the cost for this?

• Summarize and comment on a total rating you would apply to this data source, using the guidelines from the rating scale above.

Many of the initial source review ratings were double-checked by editors and other contributors, but, in the end, these opinions were expressed by individuals whose professional experience with the source under review was honestly stated.

A different set of reviewers might very well arrive at different conclusions, and the reader is advised to use these ratings with some caution.

A broad-based survey of one thousand users of the same source would be necessary to ensure reliable quantitative results, but that more elaborate process was not feasible for this series.

Development of the reviews
The review process was undertaken in full cooperation with the data source publishers. All the publishers were invited to participate in the project, and each one that accepted the invitation provided a password so that a reviewer could access the source.

A few publishers did not respond, and hence there are some obvious and regrettable omissions.

All publishers were asked to read and comment on the review of their data source, so the responsibility for any errors or misstatements is shared by both sides of the review process.

All of the market and industry data source reviews were prepared by experienced database searchers, many of whom are business school librarians and/or professional information researchers.

Each review follows a standard format that includes a description of the source, an overview of the source, content, and an evaluation of the content and its use.

Most of the reviews conclude with search tips helpful for researching that particular source.

Although you will need to evaluate the reviews in terms of your own needs and capabilities, these business data source evaluations should help as you sort through the most important information resources available to market and industry researchers.

Arrangement of the reviews
The business data source reviews within this chapter have been divided into five categories.

Some of the sources could fit into several of these groups; to find a particular source, consult the source review listing in the table of contents.

The big three database aggregators
The three most important online information research services and database aggregators are Dialog, Factiva, and LexisNexis.

They are the supercenters of online research, and it would be difficult to conduct real secondary research without resorting to one of these three excellent services at some point.

Each of the “Big Three” has a few sources the others lack. All include a variety of interfaces to satisfy the needs of the novice as well as the experienced researcher.

They all carry thousands of full-text sources and are deeply indexed so that they can be searched efficiently with training.

In terms of business content, Dialog, Factiva, and LexisNexis are somewhat comparable, although Factiva may have a slight edge when it comes to company and industry research.

Pricing and cost comparisons between the three are more difficult to construct; all three have a number or pricing options, each of which differs from any known standard. Meryl Brodsky provided the following price comparison summaries:

DIALOG. In addition to DialogClassic, which is expensive, other Dialog products include DialogSelect (with two pricing options, DialogSelect and OpenAccess) and DialogWeb.

Dialog also offers DialogPRO and Dialog 1. For people who need only occasional access to Dialog, the Open Access program is best.

You don’t have to subscribe, and the interface is menu driven, so it’s not hard to use. As with many menu-driven systems, the interface is a little chunky.

This means that if you know what you’re looking for, it can be difficult to make the menus find what you want, in the database you want to search in.

For those searchers used to using more sophisticated trying to speak English in a foreign country.

English can be understood, but you’re not sure it’s going to work, and it is inelegant as best.

Charges are based on output and there are no connect-time costs. The per-record price is about 25 percent higher in Open Access than in Dialog Select (for subscribers).

That means articles cost roughly $4 for most industry publications, and $3.40 for newspaper articles.

FACTIVA. Factiva offers several pricing models, including a subscription for up t five users at $1,000 per month.

There is no pay-per-article plan for Factiva right now. Factiva has recently rolled out a plan where, for an annual subscription fee of $69, you will be able to search Factiva.com for free, and pay $2.95 per article.

Other content, such as company profiles, investment and analysts’ reports, and corporate credit reports, will likely cost between $5 and $15.

LEXISNEXIES. LexisNexis offers pricing models ranging from the all-you-can-eat variety (annual subscription or $250/week for news, business, and financial information or less for just one of the three) to document fees, which range from $3 for news articles to $12 for legal documents.

All three sources provide options to serve the needs of small businesses or the occasional business researcher.

The source chosen may have more to do with content needs and frequency of use than with price.

Dialog (DialogClassic) covers the most subject areas and offers the greatest variety of search options, from forms-based research to sophisticated search software capabilities not available in the other online services.

Dialog also includes science and technology and academic journal databases that do not appear elsewhere.

For obtaining a few specific articles, the best choice may be Factiva, because it offers a low-priced per-article fee and free searching through a simple search interface, with more advanced search tools when needed.

LexisNexis would be the most appropriate source for an occasional need for in-depth research or legal materials.

The daily and weekly passes offer good value, particularly if several research projects are batched and run at once.

There are a couple of sources in LexisNexis not readily available elsewhere, including the Market Share Reporter, which would have significant value to a market and industry researcher.

Government Information
Government sources truly shine when it comes to statistics and company filings at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis publishes statistics that help explain U.S. and international economic activity.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is the place to go for information on employment, the consumer price index, wages and salaries, and productivity.

The Bureau of the Census provides demographic information in such detail, both in terms of content and geographic specificity, that primary research of a target market is often not required.

The Economic Census provides data on all industry sectors down to the country level. EDGAR is a searchable database of SEC filings available through the SEC Web site.

A number of entrepreneurs have taken these electronic SEC filings and enhanced their content and searchability for value-added business searching.

Some, such as the 10k Wizard product, are fully searchable by keyword, facilitating powerful research of executive names, market share data, market size, and product-specific information.

Aggregators and Portals
A number of enterprising businesses have concluded that there are certain types of information that will be of value to a large segment of business researchers.

These companies have bundled representative sources of information together in one place or through one interface to create a “one-stop shop.”

Alacra, OneSource, Reuters Business Insight, and Thomson Research serve this purpose.

Note that Thomson Research includes the Trade Association Research database, which is not generally available elsewhere.

Besides, Investext is the place t go for analysts’ reports collected from more than 950 firms.

MindBranch, Marketresearch.com, and Profound all collect market research information, but each offers unique content, pricing, and search capabilities. The comprehensive market researcher will want access to all three.

Individual Databases Covering Multiple Industries and Markets
ABI/Inform, Business & Industry, Datamonitor, Gale Group New Product Announcements/Plus, Gale Group Trade & Industry, and PROMT are available through a variety of database services.

Markets and Industry Library is a collection of databases, including PROMT, available through LexisNexis.

The slice of PROMT available on LexisNexis can vary from the slice available on Dialog, so it is important to keep that in mind if dates are important.

ABI/Inform is known for its deep archive, going back to 1971, and for content related to management techniques, finance, and corporate strategies.

Business & Industry and Trade & Industry are complementary databases. Whereas Trade & Industry covers primarily North America, Business & Industry covers more than thirty countries.

Together they index more than one thousand trade, business, and industry publications.

Both have powerful indexing that allows the searcher to find market share, consumer behavior, and forecast or trend information.

PROMT is a good place to start when searching for events, trends, corporate activities, facilities, and product information.

When searching on Dialog, Business & Industry. Trade & Industry, and PROMT can be searched simultaneously. LexisNexis offers similar capability in its Markets and Industry Library.

Simultaneous searching of these powerful business databases offers thoroughness and the opportunity to eliminate duplicate hits.

Datamonitor provides a unique look at markets and industry, since its reports are based on primary research and generated internally by industry experts.

If all you need is market share, then MarketShare Reporter separates these statistics from the surrounding content and offers just the facts.

Subject-Specific Special Sources
The sources discussed in this section provide the details often necessary to round out a market or industry profile.

Go to Adweek and Brandweek for product and advertising information. Country Data and EIU ViewsWire provide the global insights necessary to understand the political and economic environment of suppliers and partners.

The Encyclopedia of Associations and EventLine can lead the researcher to just the right organization or trade show that might provide the needed answers.

Hoover’s is an excellent source, providing just enough free company and industry information to point the way, and in many cases to make you want to subscribe to the premium content also available.

USADATA is an example of a mailing list service. These services are important to the market researcher who has determined that the secondary sources are not going to provide the necessary information, and that a survey or some primary research is required.

Key Additional Sources
This section of Chapter Four stands on its own as a directory of additional sources for specialized market and industry information.

They are important complementary and supplementary sources to those evaluated at length, and no less important.

Be sure to review the annotations in this section to round out your market and industry research toolbox.

DIALOG
Alternate/previous data source names: DialogClassic, DialogWeb, Dialog1, DialogPRO, DialogSelect, Dialog Open Access

Service/portal name: http://www.dialog.com

Source description: Dialog s a leading worldwide provider of online information services that contain an impressive amount of information on an extensive variety of subjects.

Dialog users can precisely retrieve data from more than 1.4 billion unique records, via the Internet or through delivery to enterprise intrnets.

Searchable content includes articles and reports from thousands of real-time news feeds, newspapers, broadcast transcripts, and trade publications, plus research reports and analyst notes providing support for financial decision making.

Content also includes in-depth repositories of scientific and technical data, patents, trademarks, and other intellectual property data.

Information professionals and end users at business, professional, and government organization in more than one hundred countries prize Dialog services for their depth and breadth of content, precision searching, and speed.

This online information is offered through five product lines: Dialog, Dialog Profound, Dialog DataStar, NewsEdge, and Intelligence Data. The interfaces discussed in this review fall under the Dialog brand of services.

Dialog was formed as a commercial venture in 1972, originating from a project at Lockheed Corporation that dates back to the early 1960s.

Today, Dialog is considered to be “the pioneer of online information services.” It has developed and evolved through numerous iterations and owners, including Knight Ridder, MAID plc, and currently The Thomson Corporation Web-based options include Dialog1, DialogClassic, DialogPRO, DialogSelect, and DialogWeb.

Other interfaces include Dialog Company Profiles, Dialog NewsRoom, DialogLink for Windows, Dialog OnDisc, and Dialog thru Telnet.

Dialog is also available in a selection of intranet options, including Dialog@Site and Dialog for Lotus Notes. Detailed information on these products can be found at http://www.dialog.com/products/productline/dialog.shtml.

Following is a detailed look at the five Dialog content options: DialogClassic, DialogWeb, DialogSelect, Dialog1, and DialogPRO.

1. DialogClassic is a Web interface to the command-line version of Dialog. Command-line access provides the most flexibility and control during a search.

DialogClassic is text based for fast access, and images are available from the patent and trademark databases.

DialogClassic requires the most user knowledge of the search options and format types of Dialog, and the sparse interface makes it necessary to also have a fairly thorough knowledge of the content of the Dialog databases.

It is necessary to use the command language and the indexes specific to the selected database to create carefully crafted searches in the DialogClassic interface.

This method of access is geared for the knowledgeable information professional who desires speed and precise control of the search to retrieve information.

2. DialogWeb provides a straightforward, graphical Web-based interface accessing the entire content of the Dialog service. It provides both in a Guided Search and a Command Search option.

The Guided Search option allows the user to select from a menu of categories and subcategories until arriving at the Dynamic Search screen.

The Dynamic Search screen presents the user with the option of searching simultaneously all of the relevant databases attached to that subcategory, or of selecting an individual database for information retrieval.

The Command Search option in DialogWeb provides the same flexibility and control as the DialogClassic version.

Knowledge of the Dialog command language is necessary for effective searching, and database selection is facilitated by a browsable list of databases.

DialogWeb serves both the experienced searcher and the novice/intermediate searcher by providing the two search options.

The browsable category menus facilitate databases selection for expert and novice alike. Command Language searching is another option. This interface will serve a varied of user population.

3. DialogSelect is a cross between DialogWeb and Dialog1, providing a Web-accessible interface to approximately three hundred databases from the main Dialog list.

The information is organized into vertical categories to direct the user toward the desired content.

Knowledge of the command language is not necessary, but searching is not as easy as in Dialog1.

Nevertheless, there is a fair amount of flexibility in creating a search, including proximity and Boolean (AND, OR, NOT) operators. There are a number of accessible fields that can be searched as well.

4. Dialog1 is a simple interface to approximately 150 databases of Dialog content. The information is presented in Channelsin a question-based format, leading the user through several menus and submenus until a search screen is provided that offers a clear search function, with preselected databases and appropriate content.

The search page often contains internal or hidden search parameters, created by information professionals, to facilitate the delivery of better results.

Dialog1 removes the agony of determining which of the nine hundred files should be searched to fill an information need.

It provides access to a select subset and is geared for novice and infrequent users. It lacks flexibility in its search capabilities, but this is to be expected with a beginner audience as the target market.

5. DialogPRO is similar to Dialog1 in that it provides access to a subset of the Dialog databases divided into Channels.

This option is geared for small business owners (the “PRO” in “DialogPRO” stands for “Predictable Research Online”).

Subscribers can select which channels are most relevant to their situation and pay a tiered flat fee for access.

The whole content of Dialog is available on a transactional, as-needed basis. This option is particularly useful for infrequent users interested in controlling costs and in need of access to only a portion of the Dialog databases.

PRICING: The most complicated aspect of Dialog is the many pricing issues and options. Dialog charges both by connect time and by file format, and these charges are different across all of the databases.

The charges range from $30 an hour for PsycInfo, with full abstracts costing $0.80 each, to $300 an hour for PharmaProjects, with full reports costing $13.40 each.

Pricing for most databases falls between $80 and $300 an hour. Charges are also accrued for each User ID at the following rates.

United States and United Kingdom 1-5 User IDs U.S.$14.00/month/User ID
Rest of the world  1-5 User IDs U.S.$20.00/month/User ID

Dialog also offers a DialUnit charge rate, where the user in charged for the amount of system resources used during a given search session.

With this option, searches that are more complex cost more money. The user can choose which method of charging is used within an account.

The DialUnit charges span from $1.00 to $28.50 (for example, the DialUnit rate for PsycInfo is $3.50, an the rate or PharmaProjects is $28.50). These charges apply to DialogClassic, DialogWeb, and DialogSelect.

DialogSelect access is also available through Dialog Open Access, which is a pay-per-view option using a credit card.

Dialog Open Access does not require a subscription fee, and it does not accrue any connect time or DialUnit charges.

It is strictly pay-per view for each document. Charges per document are 20 percent more than what is listed on the standard price list for the databases. Its interface is similar to the DialogSelect version.

Dialog1 is geared for less experienced users, so it does not accrue any connect time or DialUnit charges. There is a subscription fee and standard document charges.

DialogPRO has a flat-fee pricing structure, with Primary, Plus, and Premier levels that provide increasing levels of access.

The price points depend on the topic area and range from $60 a month to $500 a onth. Several excellent articles have been written on this topic; see the “Source Reviews” section below.

Source content: The information available through Dialog products and services consists of over nine hundred databases of content.

These databases contain information on business, government, intellectual property, medicine and pharmaceuticals, news, science and technology, social sciences and humanities, and reference information.

The information comes from journal and news articles, chemical abstracts, company financials, trade and country data, demographic information, government information, reference materials, intellectual property documents, and science, social science, and humanities data.

Among the Dialog databases are the following:

• Adis Clinical Trials Insight
• Brands and Their Companies
• Datamonitor Market Research
• EIU Country Analysis
• M & A Filings
• Polymer Online
• San Francisco Chronicle
• World Textiles
• Xinhua News

Some insight into the scope of the content can be obtained by viewing the subject menu for the Bluesheets:

• Business – Business & Industry
• Business – Business Statistics
• Business – International Directories & Company Financials
• Business – Product Information
• Business – U.S. Directories & Company Financials
• Social Science & Humanities
• Law & Government
• Multidisciplinary – Books
• Multidisciplinary – General
• Multidisciplinary – Reference
• News – U.S. Newspapers Fulltext
• News – Worldwide News
• Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights
• Science – Agriculture & Nutrition
• Science – Chemistry
• Science – Computer Technology
• Science – Energy & Environment
• Science – Medicine & Biosciences
• Science – Science & Technology

As this list illustrates, the depth and breadth of content offered in Dialog is unparalleled.

Other resources that come close in size and scope within certain subjects would be LexisNexis and Factiva. However, neither of these can match the Dialog holdings across the humanities, sciences, and social sciences.

Help and Supporting Information. Dialog provides access to a substantial amount of supporting documentation for its massive quantity of information.

Specifically, each of the nine hundred databases has a unique Bluesheet that provides detailed information on the database’s content, date coverage, update frequency, and source of information.

Besides, to this descriptive data, the Bluesheet provides possible search tips, a sample record, and a list of the basic and additional indexes fro each database. These Bluesheets are available at no cost online through the Dialog Web site (http://library.dialog.com/bluesheets).

Search Aids. In addition to the Bluesheets, Dialog provides other search aids and documentation to assist users.

These aids include general information on the Dialog service, details on search support, a manual that details how to effectively search Dialog, and several other comparison tools and quick reference resources.

Also available are several database-specific search aids that provide greater detail on the indexing and classification systems of many databases.

Examples include Business & Industry Concept Terms, Definitions Used in Dun & Bradstreet, and GEOREF Geographic Coordinates Fields. These specific search aids can be found online at the Dialog Web site (http://support.dialog.com/searchaids/dialog/#aids).

DIALINDEX and ONTAP Files. Two additional features within Dialog designed to help users learn and use the database are the DIALINDEX and the ONTAP files.

DIALINDEX (http://support.dialog.com/searchaids/dialog/pocketguide/finding_tools.shtml) allows the searcher to send a query across multiple databases.

The results returned are a total number of potentially relevant hits found within each database.

Thus, the searcher can rank the databases to determine which have the most content for their search. A list of Supercategories is available so that similar databases can be searched simultaneously.

The ONTAP files are small-sized versions of a select group of major database files. These versions do not accrue any connect time or file format charges and can be used to practice searching with the command language.

There are thirty-eight ONTAP database files. This tool is highly recommended for beginners wishing to become more accustomed to using Dialog.

SOURCE EVALUATION. Dialog contains a tremendous amount of content, spanning every major subject category.

It provides access to hundreds of databases through a variety of interfaces with a variety of pricing formats. Its scope, breadth, and depth are unmatched by any other database aggregator or portal service.

I recommend looking carefully at the content and pricing structure before you subscribe to Dialog, to determine if it meets your organization’s needs.

Although its breadth may make it an obvious choice for most any situation, it may be excessive (and costly) for some information needs.

Also, carefully evaluate the interfaces to determine how much power you and other researchers in your organization need and are capable of handling.

I would recommend Dialog for researchers interested in having a broad array of sources at their disposal.

Because there is connect-time charging for several of the Dialog interfaces, it may be important to carefully consider who the primary users will be and how experienced they are in information seeking.

Keep in mind that a benefit of this clear pricing is that it makes it very easy to track costs and bill clients.

The Dialog Web site contains a large amount of useful information about the databases, pricing options, and support tools and should be perused before you make any final decision on acquiring this database.

Useful tips
• Read the Bluesheet prior to using any database.
• Use DialIndex to help determine which databases will be useful.
• Utilize both in-house and Dialog-supplied training options for your users to ensure effective and cost-conscious use of the databases.

Tags:

62 Comments so far ↓

Leave a Comment