By Ojala, Marydee
Online , Vol. 36, No. 1
Researching industries is one of those staples of a business researcher's life. We combine free web resources with fee-based ones to provide a well-rounded picture of the present and future states of an industry. We frequently break down an industry into its smaller parts, depending on the requirements of our users. Vehicles become trucks, which become pickups.
We search in multiple places and retrieve different answers to the same questions, which forces us to analyze why these differences occur. We look at past performance, current situations, snapshots, analyses, overviews, and predictions. We tailor our research to the needs of our customers, clients, students, and other users. We recognize that students completing a class assignment want a different end product than an industry executive, an investor, or a bank loan officer does.
Although it's possible to glean worthwhile information from free web resources, information professionals rely on fee-based services to streamline their industry research process. It's not "industrial duty" if you haven't accessed professional resources.
NETADVANTAGE FROM S&P
When it comes to the stalwarts of industry research, I usually turn first to NetAdvantage from Standard & Poor's Financial Services, LLC (www.netadvan tage.standardandpoors.com). Note that this URL leads to a login page with some S&P marketing verbiage attached. It is not a free site where you can access the premium content of NetAdvantage. To do that, you need to pay for a subscription. NetAdvantage provides industry surveys for 50 major industries and more than 115 subindustries.
The pull-down list of industries contains 55 industry names, but some of these are not updated, having been subsumed into other industries. For example, Agribusiness was last updated on May 31, 2007, and is now part of Foods & Non-Alcoholic Business; Computers: Networking was last updated on Sept. 18, 2003, and is now part of Communications Equipment; and Chemicals: Specialty combined with Chemicals in October 2003. Surveys are updated twice a year and are archived back to 1999. For the latest ones, click New Releases. Eight new surveys were released in December 2011. For the full list, with the changes in categories, you can use Browse all Industries.
When you limit by continent--click Global Industry Surveys to do this--the number of industries decreases to 28. One industry in the full pull-down list, Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco, becomes merely Tobacco in the global version. Regions available are Europe, Asia, and Latin America, with different counts for each one. Latin America has the fewest.
You can download a survey either as an HTML or PDF document. The format for all surveys is the same. It starts with a section on current environment, followed by an industry profile that includes industry trends, industry operations, key industry ratios and statistics, and industry company analysis explanation. At the end of the survey, you'll find a glossary, industry references, and various financial comparisons.
The subindustry reports are much shorter than the full surveys. They consist of a long paragraph, the first sentence of which gives the fundamental outlook on the subindustry as positive, negative, or neutral. The reports are replete with numeric data and signed by an S&P analyst.
INDUSTRY RESEARCH FROM PLUNKETT
The Industry Research Center from Plunkett Research Online contains fewer industries than S&P NetAdvantage, and a few of the items--Asian Companies, Canadian Industry, International, and Private Companies, in particular--aren't industries at all.
Plunkett covers some traditional industries, such as Advertising, Branding & Marketing; Airlines, Hotels & Travel; Banking, Mortgages & Credit; Food, Beverage & Tobacco; and Transportation, Supply Chain & Logistics, although the scope is larger than that of NetAdvantage. …