If you've ever tried writing a business plan, you know what a chore it is to locate statistics about industries, markets and products. While there are many market research firms that charge huge sums for their reports on particular segments, one quickly realizes that the wide degree of variance in their statistics means that just getting reports from one source is not very useful -- one really needs to see all the statistics normalized across all the sources that project them about a market. For example, if writing a business plan for a collaborative software application, you need stats from IDC, Gartner, Forrester, and several other sources in order to estimate the average value across them all.
The same is true not just for writing business plans, but for all kinds of research and reporting that requires the use of statistics. But nobody has the time or budget to buy or even just read all the reports that are constantly coming out all over the place. So the problem is that:
- Statistics are too hard to find
- Reports containing statistics are expensive
- Statistics are not normalized
One solution to these problems would be the creation of a new kind of search portal specifically for finding statistics: The Global Reports and Statistics Portal ("GRASP")
GRASP would enable any party publishing statistics to register their statistics in a normalized taxonomy on the portal, via a Web-based data-entry form or Excel upload. These could then be centrally searched by Web users. This would make it possible to easily locate any statistic, or all statistics, about any topic or set of topics of interest.
For example, if you wish to add a statistic to the database such as "Percent of Bloggers who use Typepad" you would fill out a form that would:
- Classify the statistic in a normalized taxonomy of relevant topics, industries, organizations, markets, regions, etc.
- Name the statistic with a title
- Provide the value of the statistic
- Provide the units of the statistic
- Provide the applicable time period, geographic regions, demographic segments, or other coverage of the statistic
- Link to any related statistics (statistics it depends on, is derived from, that depend on it, are derived from it, act.)
- Link to any reports, publications or other resources that explain the statistic in more detail
- Include description, comments, footnotes, citations, URLs, and other annotations about the statistic
- Link to profile(s) of the Source(s) for the statistic. (Every source needs to be profiled so that authenticity and accuracy of statistics can be verified)
- Link to profile of party entering the statistic.
- Add any keywords or other search terms relevant to the statistic
Anyone could enter statistics into GRASP:
- Publishers of research reports could enter their own statistics as a way to promote their reports. People could find the statistics and then buy the reports for more data.
- Individuals who have reports or read articles citing statistics could enter statistics they find and attribute them to the appropriate sources. Parties who enter statistics would do so for the public good, just as people enter statistics into the Wikipedia -- there could potentially be some sort of benefit to those parties as well, such as reputation, or even perhaps some sort of advertising revenue sharing on the portal, or affiliate sales commissions on reports that are sold via clicks from statistics they enter into the system.
On top of this a community and annotation system would enable discussions to take place around the context of any statistic, set of statistics or topic area in the system. This could provide valuable feedback, sentiment and peer review around the data in the system.
The benefits of GRASP would be that it would become possible to do a central search for statistics from all sources on any subject. So you could easily get all market size projections for a given market segment across all the major analyst firms that cover that segment, without having to pay huge sums of money to buy all their reports (when all you want is just a simple statistic!). The research analyst firms might initially object to having their stats quoted in GRASP because they might fear that it would detract from their sales (some parties buy their expensive reports simply because they need their stats, not because they need all the prose in those reports). But my hypothesis is that in fact the primary customers of these analyst firms will still buy the full reports because they are interested in the strategic guidance, not just the statistics. In fact GRASP might even help increase sales of such reports.
GRASP could become an important research tool and search engine, like Google, but for statistics. I suggest that GRASP be structured like the Wikipedia, or even as part of the Wikipedia -- as an open-source community project. Alternatively, it could be done as a commercial venture -- and could even employ legions of offshore data-entry people to find and constantly enter and profile the latest statistics from various reports (government reports, commercial reports, academic studies, etc.).