(This month's Research Round-Up is devoted exclusively to the latest B2B content consumption report from NetLine Corporation. NetLine publishes this report annually, and it consistently provides a wealth of real-world insights regarding how business professionals actually consume content.)Over the past two decades, 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 make 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 and mindshare.
In these circumstances, understanding how business professionals actually consume content is critical to success. The 2022 State of B2B Content Consumption & Demand Report by NetLine Corporation provides numerous valuable insights on this vital issue.
NetLine operates a content syndication platform, and this report is based on data about 4.6 million content registrations that occurred on the NetLine platform in 2021. This research is particularly valuable for two reasons:
- 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.
- 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 platform.
NetLine tracks content consumption for more than 400 job functions, 24 industries and organization size. Therefore, the NetLine report produces a wealth of detailed information about content consumption behaviors, and I encourage you to review the full 65-page report. Here are a few of the report's highlights.
Content Consumption Continues to Grow
Overall B2B content consumption in 2021 increased more than 9% compared to 2020 levels. Last year's growth followed a 22% increase in 2020 compared to 2019. So overall consumption was up 33% in 2021 compared to 2019. Content consumption by C-level executives is also on the rise, growing by 15.8% in 2021 compared to 2020. In 2021, C-level executives represented 14.8% of NetLine's total audience.
Most Popular Content Formats
The ten most requested types of content on NetLine's platform in 2021 were:
- Cheat Sheets
- Tips and Tricks Guides
- White Papers
- Research Reports
Collectively, these ten content formats accounted for 87% of all content registrations on the NetLine platform last year. The three most popular formats - eBooks, guides and cheat sheets - accounted for more than 60% of total registrations in 2021, and eBooks alone accounted for more than 43% of total registrations.
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 content.
In 2021, the average consumption gap across all job categories was 33.3 hours, up from 29.7 hours in 2020.
eBooks vs. White Papers
NetLine's data regarding eBooks and white papers illustrate why marketers must consider multiple factors when evaluating the performance of content assets. As noted earlier, eBooks accounted for just over 43% of all content registrations on NetLine's platform last year. Meanwhile, white papers represented only 7.41% of all content registrations.
Clearly, eBooks are far more popular overall with business professionals than white papers, and marketers might be tempted to stop producing white papers based on this data. However, NetLine's analysis also found that business professionals who registered to access white papers were more likely than other registrants to be expecting to make a purchase in the following 12 months.
Therefore, the consumption of white papers is a strong indicator that a potential buyer is actively "in-market" and expects to make a purchase in the relatively near future. NetLine found that on-demand webinars and live webcasts were also good indicators of short-term purchase intent.
Beyond functioning as a good indicator of purchase intent, white papers and other more "weighty" content formats play an important role in the later stages of the buying process. As potential buyers more further into their buying process, they tend to seek more detailed information, and information-rich content resources such as white papers fill this need.
Content marketing is a vital part of the marketing strategy at most B2B companies, and the NetLine report provides data that marketers can leverage to improve the performance of their content marketing efforts.