What is an Industry Overview?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An industry overview is a document providing some basic information about an industry of interest. People use overviews in research when they are making decisions about investments, entering industries, and other activities. A number of publications produce industry overviews for their readers, and people can also prepare or commission their own if they have some specific research needs or concerns in mind. People looking for sources may want to start with trade and financial magazines, as they often provide a good source of basic information.

An industry overview can forecast future market activity based on current economic trends.
An industry overview can forecast future market activity based on current economic trends.

In an industry overview, a variety of information can be available. The document usually defines the industry, talks about its major products, and discusses the size. It can include a list of major companies and provide information about the number of people working in the industry, baseline qualifications needed to enter various job positions, and the earnings of the industry in recent years. Graphs and charts may offer visual representations of data, showing people how earnings, size, and other key metrics change over time.

In addition to discussing the start of the industry and providing historic information for context, an industry overview often includes projections into the future. The document can forecast future market activity based on available information and current economic trends. This can include a discussion of whether growth is likely, and how many opportunities will be available to new entrants into the industry. A list of companies and people to watch may also be part of this projection, to help people learn more about who to follow if they want to learn more.

These documents can be useful briefing for investors ranging from venture capitalists looking for new projects to fund to people who want to make good stock and bond buying decisions. Companies preparing to issue securities may commission an industry overview and include it in disclosures and promotional information to appeal to investors. Government agencies also use these documents to make financial projections and take note of trends to watch.

When evaluating an industry overview, it is a good idea to look at the source of the information and consider what kind of slant may be put on the document. Companies within an industry usually have reasons to want people to think the industry is growing and doing well, for example, and may have a specific incentive to stress their own rapid development. Financial publications may not be an unbiased source, depending on who owns them, and government agencies may also have specific agendas in mind when preparing overviews, such as attracting foreign investment.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


How can you tell what parts of an industry overview are slanted and which parts are true? As a professional business and technology writer, I have written at least 20 of these overviews that have been edited by several "industry leaders." I can tell you that if an industry overview lists statistics and facts to support one area of the overview, but gives opinions and vague, ballpark figures about other areas of the industry, then its purpose is to intentionally mislead you into thinking that the industry is doing better than it actually is within the global marketplace.

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