Monday, May 19, 2008

Geodata distribution, piracy, and the future business models.

The big talk in the GIS world is the presentation Jack Dangermond of ESRI and John Hanke of Google at a recent conference (Where2.0). In it, they effectively outline the plan to do as much as possible to encourage the greater GIS community to openly offer their data to be served up by their products, which are going to be integrated in a much closer fashion when 9.3 comes out in a few weeks. A lot of firms and even public agencies offer geographic data for money, and they are probably going though a variety of stages of "freaking out". Already a lot of data that they could formerly milk has been put up in some form or another in Google Earth, VE, or NASA's WorldWind. Anyone who has taken a passing interest in the internet for the last decade can probably tell you this model, selling data for profit, is not going to work forever in the same way it always has. The sustainable model in the digital age is in offering expert, specialized services rather than trying to produce artificial scarcity via DRM or hiding yourself entirely behind a firewall. Ask the entertainment industry how the latter two options are working out. For geographic digital data, this is already happening. Go on any given piracy website and prepare to find the latest TomTom or other proprietary maps/data. Undoubtedly there are more specialized and discrete sites out there just for geodata (or if there isn't then there will be when the demand exists). This kind of thing can be mitigated by making your product very accessible (easy to buy) and superior to the free alternatives. Working with Google or other distributors to set up a one-click purchase system for geodata together with free samples and an open format. Continue to improve by offering semantic and interest associations (people who bought this also bought this, etc). Young people - time rich and cash poor - will still pirate the heck out of it. But when they join the business world they will be pitching your data to their bosses/clients. And they'll be buying it themselves because they will eventually be relatively poor in time and rich in cash. Selling to businesses will still be perfectly viable though (they assess the risk of piracy a little differently than individual actors), but the mass market is a different animal.

No comments: