Magazine article Information Today

Harris Business Profiler Joins Database Roster: This New Directory Offers a Good Combination of Selection and Pricing. (Database Review)

Magazine article Information Today

Harris Business Profiler Joins Database Roster: This New Directory Offers a Good Combination of Selection and Pricing. (Database Review)

Article excerpt

So you want to do some company research? There are lots of company databases around, but do you know just what you need? Company names, addresses, URLs, and telephone numbers for sure. But what else? Do you want annual sales, number of employees, multiyear financials, earnings forecasts, product lines, or insider-trading information?

A lot depends on the purpose of your research. Are you a personal or professional investor? Are you looking for a job? Are you sales prospecting or seeking suppliers of business-to-business (B2B) goods and services? Are you looking nationwide or close to home? Finally, how much can you spend? Can you afford $3 for a company description? What about $20 or $100? Maybe you need a list of 50 or 500 or 5,000 companies. How much can you afford per record?

What may have started as a seemingly straightforward request actually leads to a large and confusing jumble of company databases with widely divergent content elements, costs, and numbers of companies. There are over a dozen major, comprehensive online databases of U.S. companies, along with thousands of industry-and geographic-sector electronic and print directories.

A recent addition to this cornucopia of company data is Harris Business Profiler, available on Dialog ( Harris Business Profiler has descriptive summaries of approximately 550,000 U.S. businesses. Nevertheless, you may well ask, "Why do we need yet another company database?" With so many others out there, it's a fair question. You answer by asking not only "What does this database have in it?" but also "Where does it fit?" "How does it compare with other company databases?" "Does it compete directly with them, or does it occupy its own niche?"

The best way to address these questions is to take a tour of the company database scene and visit its principal landmarks. The tour will be through Dialog, with a few side excursions to the Web. Dialog has more company databases, by a large margin, than any other aggregator. It remains unsurpassed for its depth of information about U.S. businesses.

Much Info on Public Companies

There are over 10 million businesses in the U.S. The main research interest, however, lies in a group of about 15,000 public corporations whose stock is traded on the principal U.S. exchanges: NYSE, AMEX, and Nasdaq. Because of their size, they are important to every kind of business researcher, including many thousands of personal and institutional investors. Public companies are required to submit extensive financial and operational data to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), where it becomes the raw material for many commercial business database producers. (More on the SEC and its data later.)

There are four Dialog databases that cover U.S. public corporations. The largest, with 15,000 companies, is Market Guide Company Financials (file 100). For each company, it offers a description; SIC codes; detailed 4-year financials; extensive stock, dividend, shareholding, and earnings data; key ratios with industry comparisons; and principal executives. A complete record is approximately $20, including search and data charges (though most kinds of searches won't require everything in a Market Guide record).

The public-company database category also contains Standard & Poor's Corporate Descriptions (file 133), MG Financial/ Stock Statistics (file 546), and Mergent Company Profiles (file 555). Each covers fewer companies than Market Guide, with the intent to concentrate on those having the greatest investment interest. Search and record charges are roughly comparable to those of Market Guide.

Public-company information is the only type for which free Web content can compare with proprietary databases. Company Web sites themselves are an obvious source for data, although the amount of information that companies choose to post on their sites varies widely. At best, you'll find multiyear financials, executives, news, and, of course, extensive product information. …

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