As the world shrinks and the global economy becomes a reality, companies are pushing into new geographic markets as well as finding niche markets in which to do business. Understanding your potential new market and finding new customers, wherever in the world they may be, are important steps when considering market entry. Where do you turn if you're tasked with finding a list of the major wholesalers of electrical goods in the Baltic States, or a list of the top 50 oil and gas exploration companies in Texas? Many people think that the World Wide Web provides the answers to most questions, but is the Web the best place to start when it comes to rankings? This article takes a look at the advantages and disadvantages of World Wide Web rankings and compares them to those that can be generated by commercial online databases, such as those on Dialog, DataStar, Factiva, LexisNexis, and Bureau van Dijk.
THE WEB AS THE NEW CONTENDER
The World Wide Web is a great resource if you're looking for the top companies in one of the major economies, such as the U.S., France, Germany, the U.K., or Japan. Many of the leading newspapers and business magazines in these countries publish company rankings on their Web sites. One example is the Financial Times' lists [http://specials.ft.com/ft500/May2001/global.html], which include the UK Top 500, Top 100 Eastern European Companies, Top 100 Asia Pacific Companies, and Top Middle East Companies. In the U.S., Fortune magazine [www.fortune.com] publishes a Global 500 list and one on the 100 Fastest Growing Companies.
If you're looking for Europe's 500 Largest Companies, then the Web site of well-known daily German business newspaper, Handelsblatt [www.handelsblatt.com], is a good resource. Even if you're looking for the top companies in a much smaller economy, like Switzerland or Spain, it's still worth checking out the World Wide Web for the main business publications of those countries, as it's more than likely that the Web has published a list of top companies. (For a more complete list of rankings available on the World Wide Web, see my article in Free Pint, www.freepint/issues/060901.htm].
One advantage of rankings on the World Wide Web is that many have great functionality. Take those rankings published by the Financial Times--all of them can be downloaded into Excel for free. Handelblatt's ranking of Europe's 500 Largest Companies can be sorted by a number of criteria, including shareholder value performance, revenue growth, market capitalization, and number of employees. Indeed, some of the criteria you can use for sorting company rankings on the World Wide Web, such as shareholder value performance and market capitalization, are only available on the Web and not via the traditional commercial database vendors.
The Web also comes into its own if you need to find more unusual rankings, such as the names of the top European value creators, entrepreneurs, financiers, and innovators; the Top 40 best places to be single in the U.S.; or the Top Entertainers in Australia. These three lists are all available on the World Wide Web, but generating the equivalent from any of the more traditional commercial databases is just not possible!
That's fine, but just where do you go if you have to produce a list of the top wholesalers of electrical goods in the Baltic States, or the top 50 oil and gas exploration companies in Texas? Do you know the relevant business newspapers or magazines for these geographies, which may have published rankings? Should you try and find out the major business publications first and check out their Web sites, or is there a better way?
COMMERCIAL DATABASES AS THE HEAVYWEIGHTS
One of the most efficient ways of producing reliable rankings for niche markets, emerging countries, or geographies with which you are not familiar, is to use a commercial database. A major difference between Web sources and commercial databases is price. …