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Journalism - Entrepreneurship@Journalism: Preparing a Situation Analysis

A resource guide for journalism/media entrepreneurs

Company Analysis

Search for information about the company:  its past, present, and projections for the future.  Find information about the company's collaborators, customers, competitors and the current business climate.  Use MU licensed article, news, company, industry, market databases first, then search the web for secondary research, trade publications, data, industry blogs, etc.  Deciding the status (publicly trated/private, etc.) is an important first step.

  • If a company is public it is required to file disclosure documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  These documents are publicly available at the SEC- EDGAR site or through several online business databases (Mergent, Factiva, etc).
  • If the company is public, but part of a conglomerate or holding company, the SEC documents will be filed by the holding company with less information available about subsidiaries or business segments.
  • If the company is private now, but had been public, the original disclosure documents filed as a public company should still be available.
  • If the company is private it is under no obligation to file disclosure documents with the SEC, so it's financial information may be difficult to find.
  • If the company is private and part of a holding company, it becomes more difficult to find information about it.  This is when any information gleened from news, press releases, interviews, etc. becomes important.
  • If the company franchises, you may be able to obtain a Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD), usually only available to qualified potential franchisees. 

Types of information about companies/industries that can be found:

  • The company’s website and media kit will tell you what they want you to know or think about them. Look for the "About" link on their website.  If the company is publicly traded, find corporate relations information.  Dig into SEC filings (10K, etc.), corporate governance, political contributions, etc.  Trace corporate board member connections with NNDB, a website that aggregates and tracks noteworthy people.
  • Business and Media wires aggregated in Factiva will provide new product announcements, new hires.
  • Trade journal and mass media articles, including news Business Source Premier, Communication & Mass Media Complete , Factiva will provide information about what media and businesses outside the company think as well as point to successes and failures of media campaigns.
  • Company/Industry databasesStandard & Poor’s Net Advantage, Mergent Online, IBIS World and Factiva can provide information on the company’s financial health and outlook, how they compare with peers in their industry, barriers, challenges, and opportunities.
  • Advertising Databases Redbooks.com and Ad Age Data Center can tell you which advertising agencies the company uses for each brand and how much they spend per media.
  • Market Research Databases (Frost & Sullivan- student access), eMarketer, Mintel, Forrester, Gartner, etc.) can provide secondary market research about services, products, technologies, etc. that the company provides.
  • Government/Quasi-Government Databases EDGAR can provide inside information (risks, losses, litigation, board members, company executives) that must be disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission and shareholders if the company is public.
  • Online magazines, Blogs, etc. can provide additional insight
  • Client Information If you are assisting a client, ask them about their company, its culture, finances, and position in the industry.  Ask them about their competitors.  The more you know about the company and it's position in the industry and the community in which it competes, the better able you are to find relevant information that will be helpful to your client.

Trends, Challenges & Opportunities

Company Culture  Search business article and news databases using “corporate culture” or “company culture” or culture and “company name.”  Don’t forget to check the company’s Web site  and media guide for what their public relations folks want you to know about them.

Company Challenges Search business databases using terms “risk,” “challenge,” etc.  Look at S&P Net Advantage, Mergent Online and EDGAR’s take on the company’s challenges.  Look for SWOT analysis in Business Source  Premier.

Industry Trends  Identify the “industry” in which your company does business. This could mean identifying the “lines of business” by NAICS or SIC codes. Business Source Premier, Mergent Online, S&P Net Advantage, IBIS World, and Factiva will be helpful. 

New Opportunities  Search business and technology databases to learn about new opportunities, change in barriers, etc. exist.

Competitive Analysis  Check to see if a SWOT analysis for the company is available in Business Source Premier, S&P Net Advantage, Mergent Online and Factiva can provide insight into the competitive nature of the industry and how peers compare.

Product or Service Analysis  Learn about the products and services offered by the company.  Have distribution and pricing models changed?  Might they need to change to keep pace or move ahead in the market?   Check Business Source Premier for advertising/marketing campaigns, including past and present successes and failures.  Check to see if innovations in technology and distribution models have changed or provide opportunity for change.

Consumer Analysis  Business Source Premier, Factiva, Mintel,  and free data sources online.eMarketer is a market research aggregator. Online Media Daily is a free resource to which you can subscribe that provides aggregated data on online usage, etc.

Market Analysis  Locate DMAs through several sources. Market share can often be found in Factiva  and Business Source PremierFrost & Sullivan (student access) can provide in depth information about industry trends and innovation. eMarketer can provide online market information.

SWOT Analysis  Find company SWOT analyses in Business Source Premier. Use as an example, but use the information that you’ve gathered from your searches to create a more comprehensive SWOT analysis.