I have a theory. It came to me at an event yesterday which was hosted by Ordnance Survey, Britain’s national mapping agency. OS were recently ‘incentivised’ by the UK government to give away mid- and small-scale mapping for free. In return they were going to get a government subsidy. Two months later, that government has gone and so, it seems, has the subsidy. So they have a problem. The horse has bolted and to make up for lost revenue, they hope to sell more mapping and geodata across all industries – including “unknown markets”. Hell of a marketing strategy.
Having worked in a number of industries, the value of domain expertise is crystal clear to me. There’s no point creating beautiful cartography or elaborate spatial databases if you don’t now how they’re going to get used. And using geodata is a very different skill to creating it. GIS analysts might know how to generate beautiful 3D models for architects but that does not qualify them to erect buildings. Mash-up artists might be able to create dazzling visualisations of population demographics but that doesn’t turn them into policy experts.
Many fellow geo-professionals still believe that everything that can be shown on a map, should be shown on a map. Similarly they also believe that the higher the geo-content of a knowledge product, the more valuable it is – and that it should be charged for accordingly. To me, that’s akin to astronomers saying I should pay them money every time I look at the moon.
So my theory is this. It is naturally true that geo-content adds value to solutions across all industries. But the value of the product is not proportional to the geo-content. Quite the reverse actually. A straightforward topographic map is 100% geo but you will never make millions from it (unless it’s a very BIG map). It is better to have some geo-content than none, but somewhere there is a point where geo-content becomes self-indulgent and counterproductive. That point of No-Geo Return™, as my highly authoritative graph shows, is at 21.5%:
Selling products made up solely of geo-content is not likely to generate massive revenue. Much better to team up with partners and build up an ecosystem that can deliver the 78.5% domain expertise for maximum revenue.