Data Policy Ordnance Survey Thoughts

Geodata suppliers – lessons from the music industry..

I got myself in trouble on a number of occasions with my old boss when I drew the obvious comparisons between the Geodata industry and the Music Industry, and how Geodata providers needed to move with the times..

It is therefore interesting to see that a least one music industry boss is recognising the mistakes of the past/present… to quote Edgar Bronfman of Warner Music..

“We used to fool ourselves…We used to think our content was perfect just exactly as it was. We expected our business would remain blissfully unaffected even as the world of interactivity, constant connection and file sharing was exploding. And of course we were wrong. How were we wrong? By standing still or moving at a glacial pace, we inadvertently went to war with consumers by denying them what they wanted and could otherwise find and as a result of course, consumers won.”

Remember this is not always about making information free, it is about making it accessible..

There is a lesson there for leadership of a number of organisations don’t you think ?

Written and submitted from Starbucks, Horseferry Road, using my three 3G modem.

22 replies on “Geodata suppliers – lessons from the music industry..”

All I will say on that matter is that a business that is reliant on a single product and a few large customers for its survival is not the best of business models in my view.

The market for wholesale map data in the UK is mature unless prices fall, so opportunities for these data providers to grow are extremely limited without diversification. There are opportunities but this requires a very innovative approach that will increase channels of distribution and therefore revenues.

Ed’s points about going to war with consumers are absolutely right as without them there is no business. The lesson applies not only to., but also to some private companies. Why is this important? Well when you are recommending map data suppliers to a client you look for assurance for the life of the system you intend to write. Unfortunately map data is not just another consumer item that you purchase and throw away, updates etc are an all-important part of the system. Relying on free open source data or data from companies with a poor covenant is a recipe for disaster when writing premium bespoke GIS systems.

With consumer pressure being built by Google and Microsoft with regard to the perceived financial value of mapping data, sooner or later something will have to give. We are entering a phase where small independent map data supplier’s in order to survive will have to pile it high and sell it cheap. The days when map data could be sold at premium and in some cases obscene prices are fast disappearing.

Some of the GIS data suppliers here in the UK are only just starting to wake up to fact that the market is changing. All to often here in the UK we are good at inventions but when it comes to capitalising on what we have invented time and again it is a sorry story. The best example is the programmable computer!

With the downturn in the World economy starting to happen you will see organisations the World over looking to make savings and efficiency gains. Certainly here in the UK, GIS data providers will not be immune and GIS projects will come under closer scrutiny with regard to justifying the business case. The lean and the fit will survive and those that fail to innovate will either go to the wall or be taken over at a bargain price.

As yet I have never seen a farmer or food producer dictate prices to a major supermarket, in every case the opposite is true. In GIS terms the same business model applies now that two of the Worlds giants are entering the GIS market place.

I think your points are appreciated, I’m just not sure I would have approached the point by pointing a finger at a particular company you had a meeting with in relation to the topic, and then pointing out their share price.

In relation to data — believe me, I’m one out there sitting on a 15m world natural-color dataset. I’d love to have a datahousing component that would allow me to make it available on an extremely low-cost, royalty-free basis. But, 1) it currently costs too much to house that much data and distribute it for a little guy like me, 2) by making my data-product royalty-free, I’d potentially create quite the negative stir in the industry, probably losing a heck of a lot of friends in the process.

Is it possible? You’re darn tootin’ it’s possible. But data won’t come cheap as long as there’s not a way to house the data at no initial cost to the producer, outside of a hosting-plan strategy for data — that allows smaller entities to turn their products out to anyone and everyone. I’d love to do that, but, I’d be stepping on some toes in the process. And I’m a pretty sensitive guy, and I might feel a little bad if I did that. Or, something.

Then again the pricing disparity exists because of a significant factor — 1) data is free as the expenses of the projects are paid for by grants and gov funding. 2) The projects are priced high in the market, because those companies have high overhead on the projects. Little guys like me? Little to no overhead — just time and energy, and experience to make some pretty cool stuff.

Hi Daniel

It is possible on the assumption that you are free from copyright or licensing constraints. The most important point is who will use the data and what is a realistic and fair price. Giving the data away for free will down grade its value and perceived worth. The Navteq pricing model for tracked items regarding mapping costs I think is an excellent pricing model with a low entry price point that allows prototypes and small systems to be developed and with royalties rising as a system scales up i.e. the more assets that are tracked. What is significant is that you have full map coverage of a country i.e. the complete dataset regardless of the number of items being tracked.

I think it would be a great shame if your map data had value yet remained unpublished. I have an idea here that may be a solution to your problem and others like you. Feel free to contact me.

Duncan, Thank you for your offer, though I can see immediately by your thinking that data worth outways the inherent value of the point-to-point distribution model and the reasons for allocated placement of value that adjusts according to higher principles. Or something like that. Data-products are only as valueable as their use, in my perspective.

Thus, until such a distribution model, as I envision, is apparent (and which I believe will eventually manifest) — I will continue to stand down gracefully as the world zooms on at breakneck speeds.

Thank you though, really.


Agreed lets move this debate on..

Neo-geography – I think we can hold Andrew Turner responsible, you may not like the term – but there is something there to describe.

Paleo-geography – that’s me, as a natural balance to neo

Neo vs Paleo.
I’ve been thinking on this alot recently. Fuelled in part by an excellent review of the recent AGI gig in London in most recent Journal of Institute of Civil Engineering Surveyors. Lots of talk on Neo vs Paleo.
I had opportunity last week to vocalise these thoughts whilst participating in a panel dicussion (value of GIS) at the ESRI ePUG in Norway. A member of the audience asked a question on the Google effect and the rise of Neo.
I may have let rip: I don’t like the terms Neo and Paleo Geography. They kind of imply that there is a distinct differentiation between those involved in API’s, mash-ups and all things bright and shiny; and those lesser souls who have been working the scene prior to the 2nd coming. Or as the ICES article laid it out: paleo being the area where basic data is handled and neo being where infomation is generated. Get’s under my skin. What if you span both worlds? Similary can’t stand the term Geomatics. Bah!

What would be really interesting though…if we could get the great minds of GI in one room for a brainthrashing on this subject. Rhind, Raper, Dykes et al. Maybe get national geographic to do a live debate. Is this concept not worthy of 3 pens, a mug and Google parking place?

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