Understanding market demand for maps is critical

Understanding market demand for maps is critical


joel minster
joel minster
senior vice president and chief cartographer
Rand McNally
Rand McNally celebrates its 150th anniversary next year and has been making maps since 1872. Joel Minster, the chief cartographer of this Rand McNally discusses the salient features of understanding the market of maps and map based products in this interview with GIS Development

In your opinion, who are the main user segments of maps and map-based products? How do you identify the sections with minimum demand?
The primary uses of maps are for leisure and business, and we tailor our products for these uses. Leisure uses include activities like planning vacations or learning more about our world. Business uses include navigating to city addresses, determining mileages for shipping goods and comparing locations for potential business expansion.

How do you assess awareness levels and demand for spatial information or map based products in an area?

Understanding and gauging market demand is critical to how we modify existing products or introduce new ones. We commission and use both qualitative and quantitative consumer research. We compare market demographics to information for existing products and markets. We also gain market insight from existing and intended distributors of ours.

What are the key techniques used for generation and updating of maps?
We deliver map products to consumers in both print and electronic formats, nearly all of which are derived from Rand McNally’s proprietary digital map databases. We keep these sets of graphic data up-to-date through our own research and other public and licensed data sources.

How big do you see the demand for map based services / location based services customized for meeting business or enterprise needs?
Businesses always have had a significant and growing need for spatial information. As technology continues to evolve, it will allow Rand McNally to further simplify and customize the delivery of reliable maps, directions and services information — especially through mobile and interactive devices. For example, we recently unveiled an online custom wall map tool that allows businesses to create high-quality maps from their desktops. And our Commercial Atlas Online is a Web-based, interactive tool that offers extensive economic, demographic and business information to improve business planning .

What initiatives have been taken by the company to promote use of maps among general public?
Rand McNally is always engaged with the public directly and through the media in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of maps and geography. Our goals are to educate audiences about the role of reliable, up-to-date cartography in staying safe and bring productive. We view print and electronic maps as critical to social welfare, from helping emergency medical responders navigate cities as quickly and safely as possible to equipping teachers to educate their students about history, geography and the social sciences.

How significant is the role of GIS in your domain?
The tools and concepts GIS provides allow Rand McNally to deliver products tailored to the needs of market segments using a common data foundation. GIS tools simplify the manipulation of our products’ underlying data, allowing our cartographers to focus their efforts more on the art of making maps.

In wake of the possible changes in Asia due to the recent Tsunami, what is Rand McNally’s approach and observations?
This devastating natural event likely will affect all but the smallest scale maps, but it’s not yet clear what those effects will be across the region. We continue to monitor both government and private data sources, including satellite photography, and over time will determine the most appropriate changes to be included in the various products we offer for that part of the world.