How can I find estimates of various industries' revenue?
August 2, 2013 11:07 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for the easiest way to find data about "how big" various industries are, by revenue. For instance, when you hear a reporter say, "Video games are a $X billion a year business," where are they getting that information? I've poked around the census bureau's website and found their various reports, but it doesn't seem to be that granular (or easy to read, for that matter). I'm trying to create as diverse a list as possible, of various non-related industries (banking, retail, trade shows, sporting events, hotel, video games, Hollywood, pest control, you name it - virtually any business that is its own discrete thing) and how they stack up relative to one another in terms of the dollar-figure size.
posted by jbickers to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think these resources at the Bureau of Economic Analysis are perhaps what you're looking for.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:17 AM on August 2, 2013

economic census collects this data every five years based on something called an NAICS code. The data is extremely granular.
posted by JPD at 11:18 AM on August 2, 2013

Response by poster: Admiral Haddock, do you have any tips on making sense of those spreadsheets from BEA? For instance, using the video game industry example ... where in those documents would I find that figure?
posted by jbickers at 11:32 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

NAICS codes are not that granular. I believe creation of video games falls under 511210, software publishers. But that's just how the government classifies it, and there is a lot of other stuff in there.

A lot of the time, when you hear that XYZ is a zillion-dollar a year business, it comes either from industry associations (e.g., Entertainment Software Association, which is quoting a $20B/year number) or financial analysts at securities firms who put out a study (who likely look at SEC disclosures and extrapolate).

I'm not aware of a single resource that, say, has a drop down menu where you can just scroll to "locksmiths," or "massage therapists," or "louche blageurs" and find out their specific annual profits.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:42 AM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Came here to say it is usually reported by industry associations, as Admiral Haddock points out above.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:26 PM on August 2, 2013

When I've done industry analysis, I draw on a lot of resources, including government data like that mentioned above, SEC filings, bank-analyst reports, data from trade associations, press releases from major companies in the sector, and any other relevant data I can get my hands on, like average selling price, etc.

Other relevant data might include data from the same sorts of sources mentioned above but focused on major consumers or suppliers of the sector in question.

Once I've gathered a baseline of data, I try to make sense of it, to get a feel of what I have and what it tells me. Then I think about the relationships between the data. To what degree are these sources working with the same primary data? What additional data do they add (like industry surveys, etc)? What data might add up to the number I am looking for? What big numbers can I start with and whittle down with other numbers. How can I establish an upper bound, a lower bound? What data do I have, or do I need, that could help me narrow those ranges? If I work from a different direction, using different data, does that result support other estimates, or contradict them, why might that be?

It can take a long time to get estimates that seem at all reasonable, and its harder to do when you were on you own. For a lot of the work I did, I was working within a big, public company that had access to analyst reports from lots of banks and market research firms.

The approach used is going to vary a lot by industry. For mobile devices, and Apple in particular, you should check out Horace Dediu's work. He's very transparent about how he comes to his estimates.

When you see a journalist quoting numbers though, you can be pretty sure they are just repeating something passed along by an industry association, or by a major player or ambitious new entrant in the industry.
posted by Good Brain at 1:02 PM on August 2, 2013

I am in Australia and have used BIS Shrapnel, which is basically reports on sizes of industries etc. I think it might be subscription but either my work or library has had one. I don't know the US equivalent but would be surprised if there wasn't one.
posted by AnnaRat at 1:52 PM on August 2, 2013

I'm not aware of a single resource that, say, has a drop down menu where you can just scroll to "locksmiths," or "massage therapists," or "louche blageurs" and find out their specific annual profits.

Really? I am. There's tons of them--Euromonitor and Marketline Advantage and Capital IQ/S&P Net Advantage and Plunkett's and IBISWorld and PrivCo and Frost and Sullivan and literally ten or twenty other companies all offer this service.

Most of the time I'd guess they are providing journalists with that dollar figure in exchange for getting mentioned by name in the article (IBISWorld is one I've noticed doing that more than once), because these companies sell their industry reports for very high dollar amounts.

OP, I'm not sure if you're looking for free sources of this information (in which case, carry on with NAICS codes/Census analysis and industry associations' free pages) or paid sources (in which case, any of the above that I named will work).

If you're at a university doing research (student or faculty), then these resources likely have already been purchased for you by your library and that's your access point--that's what I do for a living, more or less. If you're doing independent research, use those free sources and I can recommend some ways to get cheap access to industry research as well, if you'd like. If you're doing corporate research, your company should damn well be paying one of the companies I named above but if they aren't and won't, yeah go with the free stuff.
posted by librarylis at 12:33 AM on August 4, 2013

Response by poster: If anyone is curious, this is exactly what I was looking for. Just some various back-of-the-envelope numbers.
posted by jbickers at 8:35 AM on August 6, 2013

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