Chris Porter, who writes many of the company intelligence vendors profiles for FreePint, recently ran a research study where he conducted half his research using an unnamed subscription aggregator and half using the open web. While he gave the edge to the aggregator, the margin was not as wide as he’d anticipated. Porter commented that it’s “not time to cancel that subscription just yet – but worth keeping an eye on.”
Porter found that the free web was able to provide much of his project’s content, particularly for US publics. However, the paid service made information discovery quicker and easier.
For private companies, he found that neither fully met his research needs so a combination of open web and aggregator service worked best.
Porter confessed that his subscription service lacked annual and interim reports which would have made his research easier. These reports are available in some of the other aggregator services.
Porter was unhappy with the Reuters Significant Developments report. “It was not picking up all the major developments I was looking for,” said Porter. I have had a similar problem with the report as it is limited to material events. But an event could be important for non-investors without impacting the stock price. For example, a new VP of Marketing may own product positioning, a significant marketing budget, and demand generation. Likewise, the company may have announced a significant improvement to a struggling product line. Such events may not move the stock price, but they are highly relevant to competitors, customers, partners, and vendors.
Where I have found the Significant Developments report useful is in looking at specific topics such as M&A or Litigation going back fifteen years for US publics and about ten years for international quoted companies. Being able to quickly filter to a topic provides insights such as whether the pace of M&A activity has changed or whether the nature of the acquisitions has evolved. It can also be quite useful for locating a historical event such as when a joint venture was launched. Oftentimes, these are difficult to discover as they are based upon vague information.
Aggregators bring together tools not available on the open web such as full family trees, prospecting lists, sales triggers, market research reports, executives with contact information, and SWOTs. They also have advantages in downloading financials, researching European private company financials, locating earnings transcripts, identifying competitors, presenting analyst research, and downloading PDF profiles of companies or full-text news stories about companies.
As a competitive intelligence analyst and market researcher, I use both subscription services and the free web for company research. I would never research a company without visiting its website. If public, I will also visit the investor site for presentations, Corporate Social Responsibility reports, and other material they make available to their shareholders. Likewise, I head straight to LinkedIn for researching individuals. But if I want to understand the company structure, analyze its financials, or reach out to individuals at the firm, then aggregators can make a big difference.
Image: Global Business Browser from Avention.