It is beneficial to know who or what produces business information and how it is disseminated so that you can go directly to specific sources and not waste time randomly searching for information. Below are some of the entities that produce business information and how that information is packaged and accessed.
- Analysts: Some businesses exist to provide strategic business intelligence to other business clients. These businesses will typically specialize in and generate a particular type of information like market research, credit ratings, or investment research reports. Information from analysts is typically fee-based and expensive, so you will need to access via a library database or corporate subscription. Access to analyst information can be found in the IUB Libraries through databases like IBISWorld, Mergent Intellect and Mintel Reports. Trade associations generally serve a single, specific industry and keep its members informed by providing news, market research, and practical guides for operating in that industry. Professional associations are for individuals working in a particular field and generally serve to educate its members and advocate for the profession by offering news and best practices. Associations often produce a trade journal or publication that must be purchased either by a library or corporation (see library databases like Business Source Complete for access). Sometimes they will have quite a bit of content available on a website (best practices, statistics, conference proceedings), but some may be restricted to members. These websites can be a great source of industry information and statistics when it can’t be found elsewhere. Do a Google search for industry name + association (e.g., home appliance manufacturers and association).
- Colleges/Universities: Academics at both colleges and universities conduct original research in their chosen field. Their work is then published in books or in scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles. Many scholarly articles need to be accessed through library databases, such as ABI/Inform or Business Source Premier.
- Companies: Companies generate a variety of information about themselves through marketing efforts, websites, press releases, and annual reports. Publicly-traded companies must comply with U.S. government regulations and file financial data with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which can be accessed through the EDGAR database. Numerous library databases can provide access to company financials and profile information.
- Government: The United States government collects large quantities of pertinent business data–industry statistics, demographics, economic indicators–through agencies like the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Department of Commerce. In addition, state and local governments provide local statistics and data, small business resources, and legal information. A large portion of this data is freely available on the Internet. Use the Business Data and Statistics portal on USA.gov as a starting place for federal information. American Factfinder, the portal for Census data, can be an excellent source for consumer demographics and industry data.
- Press: Numerous news publications, like the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and Forbes, provide information to the business community. Library databases like Factiva and LexisNexis can give you full access to these types of resources and also allow historical searching by keyword. Furthermore, almost every newspaper contains a business section, which is a good source of information on small, local companies and business issues. See the library database Regional Business News to access this type of information.
- Public: This category includes information produced by bloggers and social media users and can yield market and company intelligence, competitor and product analysis, and career information. Businesses may use this as a source of current/real-time information and trends about consumer interest/behaviors.
- Organizations: This category is dominated by non-governmental organizations, like the OECD, United Nations, and World Bank. These organizations collect large amounts of economic data–demographics, economic indicators, industry statistics, and country analyses–from all over the world. Large portions are disseminated freely, but some is fee-based.