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To Sell or not to Sell?
Glenn Letham
Editor, the GeoCommunity

In a recent EOM Newsletter (august 1999 issue) the author, Roland Mangold, featured a column titled "If We Build It, They Will Come". Unfortunately, the article is not on-line so I can't point you to it; however, I can comment on it and relay some of the issues raised. The article deals with the Internet and how remote sensing, aerial photography, and GIS businesses are harnessing the power of the web.

Mangold refers to the large number of "super stores" on the web and how everyone in the industry is building their own store. The focus of the article; however, is several imagery and data super stores currently on-line, and others in the planning stages, how will they all (or any of them) succeed? It definitely is a challenge, however, I believe you have to remember that the internet is not a traditional medium, and thus, traditional methods of marketing may not work. Simply taking your inventory, making it accessible from web site, adding a shopping cart, and opening the doors, so to speak, will not work. What I feel Mangold has not looked at in his column is the fact that most (successful) online stores in our industry offer alot more than simply data or imagery sales from their site. The trend seems to be creative and come up with innovative ways to not only sell your products but to generate other revenues.

I had to personaly comment to Mangold on the column since he refered to The GIS Data Depot as a forerunner in on-line data sales. He comments how we (The GIS Data Depot http://www.gisdatadepot.com) "sell" data and questions how a venture can be successful by "resorting" to giving data away for free while soliciting support from paying advertisers.

In order to help clarify these issues concerning The GeoCommunity I offered these words about our website. The GIS Data Depot is but one component of The GeoCommunity http://www.geocomm.com. It was mentioned that the Depot "sells" all types of data. What we do is provide public domain data for free - we don't sell data or re-sell data. We do offer a CD writing service where you can custom order data and save a bunch of time by getting us to write it to a CD. We only charge a nominal cost recovery fee for this service.

I respect Mr. Mangold's opinion regarding the potential success of a venture in giving away data. You cannot measure the success of this as it has not been done before. There's no point in selling or reselling data because there are too many others around the web that are already doing that. The GeoCommunity (and the GIS Data Depot) decided to be innovative and give away the data, while also providing many other resources for visitors (such as free classified ads, discussion forum, daily news, events listings, and more).

What Mangold (and many others) don't realize is that The GIS Data Depot is but a small piece of the puzzle at The GeoCommunity We have many other things on the go here at GeoComm International which enable us to be innovative and supply valuable resources to the GeoCommunity for free. These other ventures allow us to support the development of The GeoCommunity.

All we ask is that visitors to our website visit our advertisers. People want, and expect, free resources on the web. Companies are willing to pay to advertise in order to get exposure from the large number of visitors we get every day. We also provide sponsors, advertisers with methods to advertise for free, such as sponsoring a contest, providing news releases, running feature articles, etc...

If you have any comments or opinions concerning this I'd like to hear from you. Let us know how you feel about on-line data sales, The GeoCommunity's "Free" Data concept, and the future of e-commerce in the geospatial industries.

Send your comments to Glenn Letham, editor, The GeoCommunity.

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