How to predict the future

Emarketer has an interesting description of how they arrived at their broadband forecast.

I’ve done a lot of forecasts, and taught forecasting at IDC, and I think this is a good description of one way to approach the problem. This is worth reading. Emarketer is very smart, their forecasts are reasonable, and I really admire their presentation.

3 thoughts on “How to predict the future

  1. I used to work in the research industry, too. The eMarketer folks are good writers and reasonably good at graphic design. But it has always bugged me that they refer to themselves as a ‘research firm’.
    The hardest kind of research to do is to tabulate numbers — because it’s slow, it’s painstaking, and the extra time shows up nowhere but in the virtue of being not wrong.
    eMarketer skips that step. They, uh, “aggregate” everyone else’s research. Which is fine, as far as things go, but frustrating as hell when you’re one of the grunts doing the original work that eMarketer “aggregates”. For them to then rail sanctimoniously against the providers on whom they depend for keeping secret their “special sauces” therefore strikes me as more than a little bit disingenuous. These other companies actually do the work, unlike eMarketer, and so they have to find models to make the work pay. This is one of them.
    Bottom line: eMarketer is fine, but it should give credit where credit is due. The article talks a lot about eMarketer comparing “its” numbers to other sources. “Its” numbers depend on other sources to begin with.

  2. That’s a fair criticism.
    One reason that Emarketer is able to do this is that the research firms give away the forecasts most of the time anyway. They’re able to gather most of this data from press releases and news stories.
    The other issue with forecasts is of course that the research firm has a vested interest in high numbers. No one’s going to pay you to predict a market will fail.
    Emarketer is a still a good resource — especially if you’re on a budget. But they’re not the same as a “real” research firm.

  3. eMarketer never purports to be a real research firm – it tried billing itself as more of a research aggregator, but no one could really understand that to well. And it does more than just publish research. It does also have relationships with other firms, getting data from far more sources than press releases. Many firms, such as the one I worked with, was generally psyched to be cited by eMarketer, since eMarketer tended to weed out really bogus numbers.
    It constantly gives credit, linking back to original sources, citing the original report names, crediting the primary research firm wherever possible.

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