Thursday, August 12, 2021

Building a Subway (Map): Annual Publishing Technology Report

As semi-frequent readers may know, I have been publishing a market research report reviewing technology companies which support publishing companies. My next report will be published in mid-September and, as I thought about how I would like to display the market environment for this version, I decided to try to depict the companies graphically in a "subway" map.

It turned out to be harder than I anticipated.  I like the result which I will present in the next weeks but there were a lot of twists and turns (and what-have-yous). I thought it would be interesting to show how this came together.

Firstly, I listed all the companies I wanted to cover in a spreadsheet and then added color coded the functional 'modules' attributed to each company.  Initially, I had many more columns with software capabilities but this became unmanageable so I consolidated into 13 specific capabilities. This is an example of the spreadsheet:


This document became my 'control' document and I eventually identified over 200 companies.  As I worked through the process of identifying which capability applied to which company I also concluded that these would define the 'stops' on my eventual subway map.

I researched whether there was and standard software I could use to create my map and basically came up empty handed. I think it exists but I was unable to find any.  That meant I had to draw the map by hand and figure out later how to make it pretty.  I did find a tool I thought might work but as this image (left) shows that didn't work at all.

The difficulty in drawing the map was trying to determine the overlaps and the stops which would apply to multiple companies and to draw the map so it would appear logical. This was much harder than it sounds and I went through many iterations.  





 As the following images show:


It was this version I sent to Upwork as a first draft.

Eventually, I was satisfied with a drawn draft and I posted a job on Upwork (which I had never used before).  I found someone at $45/hour (not the cheapest) who did great work. If anything he was too literal in translating my drawing into Illustrator but correcting this was a matter of iterating through versions.

I estimate I spent 40 hours on this - which I admit was probably a bit much. But that said, I think the final map looks pretty good.  I am even thinking mugs and t-shirts (so let me know).

We eventually got to this version which I will reveal next week.  Meanwhile more information on the report and a pre-publication purchase price is here.

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