Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Free Data as in Free Beer

I found myself wandering the aisles at the American Library Association national conference over the weekend. Plenty of publishers, library management systems and book shelf builders, none of which are particularly relevant to this blog (although there was at least one “loyalty” system for library patrons). There was some search technology but nothing particularly noteworthy.

The only exhibitor that did catch my eye was Data-Planet, which aggregates data on many topics (think census, economic time series, stocks, weather, etc.) and makes it accessible over the Web through a convenient point-and-click interface. The demo system was incredibly fast for Web access, although I don’t know whether the show set-up was typical. The underlying database is nothing special (SQL Server), but apparently the tables have been formatted for quick and easy access.

None of this would have really impressed me until I heard the price: $495 per user per year. (Also available: a 30 day free trial and $49.95 month-to-month subscription). Let me make clear that we’re talking about LOTS of data: “hundreds of public and price industry sources” as the company brochure puts it. Knowing how much people often pay for much smaller data sets, this strikes me as one of those bargains that are too good to pass up even if you don’t know what you’ll do with it.

As I was pondering this, I recalled a post by Adelino de Almeida about some free data aggregation sites, Swivel and Data360 . This made me a bit sad: I was pretty enthused about Data-Planet but don’t see how they can survive when others are giving away similar data for free. I’ve only played briefly with Swivel and Data360 but suspect they aren’t quite as powerful as Data-Planet, so perhaps there is room for both free and paid services.

Incidentally, Adelino has been posting recently about lifetime value. He takes a different approach to the topic than I do.


Tom Paper said...

David - It will be interesting how all of this shakes out. It remains to be seen how many people will want to review public data that has been aggregated and organized. It also remains to be seen how easy it actually will be for organizations like Data360 to aggregate and present public data WITH INTELLIGENCE. Many newspapers are entirely advertiser supported and profitable...and there are also many non-profit newspapers or magazines that are sustainable...Furthermore, analysis and aggregation, even of public information, when completed by certain renowned (ie smart & wise) people, can command VERY high prices. Our model at Data360 is still evolving and a piece of our model is free data, but a piece that's probably bigger is selling our software as a service for organizations that want our tool to collaboratively analyze their situation. Our price is $600 per year for what we call "private platforms." We think there are many organizations that could use a simple, collaborative and robust tool to analyze their metrics.


Tom Paper http://www.data360.org

p.s. BTW, I would rather have water than watered-down beer!

ByTheNumbers said...

David - Data-Planet is really a different product. We take data from many public and private sources and process it so that users can compare any number of geographical entities or metrics and we allow the user to create charts from any combination of metrics for any geographic entities. For example, "Show me the trend of teenage pregnancy in Cook County, Illinois charted against the dropout rate of females in that same county or state. You can trend or rank data regardless of the source. Today we have over 20 Million time series of data. It is true that about 75% of the data is avialable for free in some form, but it is typically very difficult to find, use and analyze. The value we add is really threefold. First, we organize the data ina single repository that can be cited back to the source. Second, we apply a powerful data visualization tool that allows the user to easily trend, rank, map or download any combination, and lastly, we want to allow the users to look at any metric in the context of another metric. Thanks.

Richard Landry www.data-planet.com