Research on Main Street

To Pay Or Not To Pay?

Like most things in life, when it comes to local-level business and market information, you definitely get what you pay for. A lot can be found through the free web, but sometimes we need more.

For example, if you want a general comparison of the cost of living between two cities, Sperling’s Best Places  will suit your needs. But if you’re comparing several locations or need more details, than you probably want to try ACCRA Cost of Living Index ( At $7.95 for the first comparison and $4.95 for each one after that, it’s well worth the investment.

Generally, I turn to fee-based sources for local-level information when I need:

  • Specialized content
  • Searching/downloading content from multiple sources
  • Advanced search and/or filtering options
  • Alerts
  • Added analysis, opinions
  • Maps, charts or other visual formats

To save money, I always look for free trials, pay-as-you-go options, and low-cost annual or monthly subscriptions. If you don’t see these options on a company’s website, call customer service. They might consider selling you a single report on a one-time basis.

The next time you need hard-to-find information about cities, towns, and other small geographic areas, consider some fee-based sources. To help you make that decisions, I’ve listed some of my favorites on my website, and–after seeing what they offer–it’s clear that sometimes it pays to pay for information.

What are your favorite fee-based sources for local business and market insights?


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About Marcy Phelps

Marcy Phelps is the president of Phelps Research (, which provides market analysis for strategic business decisions. She blogs about turning information into insights at She is the author of Research on Main Street: Using the Web to Find Local Business and Market Information. Follow Marcy on Twitter (@marcyphelps) and LinkedIn (

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