How Business Professionals Actually Consume Content

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Over the past fifteen years, content marketing has become one of the most widely-used techniques in B2B marketing. Today, virtually all B2B companies are using content marketing in some form.

Ironically, the popularity of content marketing has made successful content marketing more difficult to achieve. As companies produce more and more content, the total volume of content available to potential buyers increases exponentially. And so does competition for buyer attention.

In these circumstances, understanding how business buyers actually consume content is critical to success. The 2021 State of B2B Content Consumption & Demand Report by NetLine Corporation provides several valuable insights on this vital issue.

NetLine operates a content syndication platform, and this report is based on data about millions of content downloads that occurred on the NetLine platform in 2020. This research is particularly valuable for two reasons:

  1. It captures the real-world content consumption behaviors of business professionals. The data used for the NetLine report was not derived from a survey or interviews, but from actual engagements with B2B content.
  2. The report is based on first party data. The business professionals who use the NetLine platform voluntarily share information about themselves and the organizations they work for in exchange for access to the content resources available on the NetLine's platform.

The NetLine study produced a wealth of information about content consumption behaviors, and I encourage you to review the full report. Here are a few of the report's highlights.

The COVID Effect

As might be expected, the COVID-19 pandemic affected content consumption behaviors is several significant ways. NetLine's analysis found that overall B2B content consumption increased more than 22% in 2020. In fact, the volume of content consumed between February 1st and September 30th of last year equaled 83% of the volume of content consumed in all of 2019.

COVID-19 also affected the topics that business professionals were interested in. The NetLine report states:  "The events of the past year led to a surge in content consumption related to remote work, collaboration software, IT bandwidth, security, and the ripple effects on HR and the like."

Most Popular Content Formats

The ten most popular content formats in 2020 were:

  1. eBooks
  2. Guides
  3. White papers
  4. Cheat sheets
  5. Tips and tricks
  6. Research reports
  7. Kits
  8. Webinars
  9. Magazines
  10. Subscriptions

Collectively, these ten content formats accounted for 82% of all downloads from the NetLine platform last year. The three most popular formats - eBooks, guides and white papers - accounted for more than 63% of the total downloads in 2020.

Webinars were the eighth most frequently requested type of content on the NetLine platform in 2020, but this ranking doesn't accurately reflect how important webinars and other virtual events became last year. The pandemic forced the cancellation of essentially all trade shows, conferences and other in-person B2B marketing events, and this drove a tremendous increase in the use of webinars and other virtual events.

The number of webinars uploaded to the NetLine platform increased 103% in 2020, and the number of registrations for webinars increased 49%. Registrations for live virtual events grew by a staggering 2,660%.

Measuring the Consumption Gap

One of the most useful insights provided by the NetLine report relates to the consumption gap, which NetLine defines as the time between the moment content is requested and the moment it's opened for consumption. This data point is important because it should be used to guide the timing of follow-up contacts with potential buyers. After all, it makes little sense to contact a potential buyer about a content resource before he or she has actually reviewed the resource.

In 2020, the average consumption gap across all job categories was 29.7 hours, up from 28.5 hours in 2019. The authors of the report attribute this increase at least in part to the distractions and disruptions caused by the pandemic.

More Data Points

The NetLine report provides numerous other data points, including what job categories most actively requested content in 2020. It also breaks down some data by industry vertical. As I indicated earlier, this analysis provides a wealth of valuable insights, and I recommend that you review the full report.


Image Source:  NetLine Corporation

Republished with author's permission from original post.

David Dodd
David Dodd is a B2B business and marketing strategist, author, and marketing content developer. He works with companies to develop and implement marketing strategies and programs that use compelling content to convert prospects into buyers.

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