Paid Data vs. Free Data: Which Is Right For You? |

Research paid versus freeWith all the wikis, blogs and articles available for free on the web, it is impossible to look at the market research arena without wondering,  What makes the paid data worth more than free data?  The answer has a lot to do with what kind of information you need and who is providing that information.

So, what kind of free information is good?

Information that is widely known or is easily verifiable from many sources is often the best kind of free information.  Also, free information is good when the providers of the information have no real agenda about the material they are presenting.

Historically, newspapers or academic journals fit this description, though recent years have seen several controversies around allegations of bias or influence creeping into some publications.  Still, for basic 'just the facts' information to help your general understanding of markets, they're a good starting point.

For example, let's say you have questions on a wide range of topics:

  • How do I install a new air filter in my car?
  • What is the current market price of flu medication in the US or in the UK?
  • What kind of TV commercials has Pepsi done for its products in the past?

In all these instances, the resources you have for getting an answer are numerous and may be provided by individuals with a personal interest in the subject (say an industry trade publication or a blog) rather than by an organization with any sort of ulterior motive (The New York Times).  

So what should you pay for? Information that is hard to find or difficult to verify is what you want to purchase. In particular, if you are seeking business insights on a narrow sector, as in:

  • What are the current trends for the sale of men’s suits?
  • What is the best insulin delivery technology on the market today?
  • What has been the success rate and overall feedback on the commercials Pepsi has done for its products?

These questions either require a conclusion or are based on information not publically available.  In these cases, it is possible to find information on the web for free --  but it is often unverifiable and/or written by an organization that has a reason to present the information in a way that is favorable to their point of view.

So how does buying the business intelligence or analysis make it better?

If you are purchasing a market research report from an established publisher, you have a clear and verifiable source for the information and, in most cases, the reports or publishers will even have a listing of how the information is gathered.  Also, as these publishers are not the producers of the products and services they analyze, you can be confident that biases will be at a minimum.

In the end, gathering information is two parts finding it and three parts being able to trust it.  If it’s free, verify it. And if you can’t verify it on your own, buy it from a reputable, unbiased publisher.

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Thanks for reading!

Rob Kaminsky, Research Specialist

Rob Kaminsky,
Research Specialist

Topics: Market Research Strategy