Where Marketers Go for Information, Part 2: Free Resources

Few of us have the budgets to purchase all the advice, research, or data we need. We’re left to our own devices to scrounge around for information. Part one covered the wealth of free information you can find on industry analysts’ Web sites. Today, we’ll look for data, data, and more data. I’ll start with the heavy hitters: sites I’m hardly the only fan of, based on your feedback.

Pew Internet & American Life

This site is an excellent source of unbiased, free research. The Pew Internet & American Life Project is a nonprofit effort to “create and fund original, academic quality research that explores the impact of the Internet,” and there’s a wealth of data on the site.

The Daily Internet Activities report is an ongoing tally of what people do when they access the Internet. Data memos cover varying topics, such as America’s Online Pursuits, which looks at changes in Americans’ Internet usage trends over a three-year period. Other reports are more in-depth. This one is sure to be of interest to many of you: Spam: How it is hurting email and degrading life on the Internet.

Hard-core researchers can even request access to raw data. Some raw data is available in an SPSS download right on the site.

A related site, The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press isn’t Internet focused but is still worth checking out.

U.S. Census Bureau

The Census Bureau site contains a seemingly endless supply of information on both people and businesses. Everywhere you look there’s a link to a different type or slice of the data, so spend time exploring this site; I can’t possibly cover all that it offers.

Looking for business information? The Economic Census contains industry information such as number of businesses in a particular industry, sales, annual payroll, and number of employees, both nationally and broken out by state.

Need a profile of all the industries in a particular state or county? There’s an option to search that way, too. There are links within each industry to a wealth of additional information.

The last Census posted for businesses was 1997, but don’t let that keep you away. Results from the 2002 update are due to be posted later this month. Often, more current information is available within site subsections. For example, quarterly financial reports for each industry are more current, with December 2003 already posted.

The E-Stats section will certainly appeal to ClickZ readers, especially the breakout of each industry’s sales into online and offline categories. You can download Excel and PDF versions of the data.

American FactFinder focuses on demographics. One nifty feature, the population counter, provides almost-real-time estimates of U.S. and world populations. Data junkies will love the 1,000-page 2003 Statistical Abstract of the United States. The demographics Fact Sheet provides an at-a-glance summary of American demographic information and allows you to narrow the results by city, state, county, or Zip Code. Needless to say, I could devote an entire series to this site alone. You’ll just have to explore.

U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics

As with the Census Bureau, it’s hard to know where to start in summarizing what this site has to offer. The home page does a good job of laying it all out, but digging for data can be overwhelming.

As expected, most information is related to employment and the various indexes that measure inflation, unemployment, productivity, and so on. At-a-glance tables summarize major findings by state, metro area, and industry. The demographics section slices data by age, gender, and more. It includes a Consumer Expenditures report, which categorizes every dollar spent by consumers right down to the types of food we buy. As the agency’s name implies, statistics reign supreme on this site.

Need more? The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Statistical Sites on the World Wide Web is a data-lover’s dream. It links to state, federal, and international statistics to satisfy even the most data-obsessed.

I haven’t run out of free information resources yet, so check back for part three. Don’t forget to share your favorites. Tell me where you go for free information.

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