(This month’s Research Round-Up discusses 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.)
|Source: NetLine Corporation|
Virtually all B2B companies now use content marketing in some form. But 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 and mindshare.
Understanding how business professionals consume content is critical to success in these circumstances. The 2023 State of B2B Content Consumption & Demand Report by NetLine Corporation provides many valuable insights on this vital issue.
NetLine operates a content syndication platform, and this report is based on data about more than 5.4 million content registrations that occurred on its platform in 2022. The NetLine research is particularly valuable for two reasons.
First, it captures the real-world content consumption behaviors of business professionals. The data used for the report was not derived from a survey or interviews, but from actual engagements with B2B content.
And second, 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, more than 300 industries and sub-industries, and organization size. Therefore, the NetLine report contains a wealth of detailed information about content consumption behaviors, and I encourage you to review the full 59-page report.
Here are a few of the report’s highlights.
The Continuing Growth of Content Consumption
As measured by registrations on the NetLine platform, overall B2B content consumption in 2022 increased by 18.8% compared to 2021 levels. NetLine found that the total demand for B2B content has grown by 54.8% since the 2019 edition of the research.
Content consumption by C-level executives is also still on the rise, growing by 7.3% in 2022 compared to 2021. However, there were significant differences in executives’ content consumption behaviors depending on the size of their organization.
In 2022, C-level executives at companies with 100 or fewer employees requested 96% more content than in 2021, while executives at companies with 1,000 or more employees requested 56.7% less content than in 2021.
Most Popular Content Formats
The ten most requested content formats on NetLine’s platform in 2022 were:
- Cheat Sheets
- Research Reports
- White Papers
- Tips & Tricks Guides
- Book Summaries
- Live Webinars
- On-Demand Webinars
Collectively, these ten content formats accounted for 85% of all content registrations on the NetLine platform last year, and eBooks alone accounted for 33.6% of total registrations.
The Consumption Gap Shrinks
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 constitutes a guide for timing 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 2022, the average consumption gap across all job categories was 28.7 hours, down from 33.3 hours in 2021. It’s worth noting that the 2021 consumption gap was the largest ever recorded by Netline. In 2020, it was 29.7 hours, and it was 28.5 hours in 2019. So, the decline in 2022 may be more of a return to normal than the beginning of a long-term trend of shrinking consumption gaps.
Content Consumption and Buyer Intent
Marketers have been told for years that it’s important to have content tailored for each stage of the buying process. This advice was and is based on the common-sense notion that buyers’ interests and information needs change as they move through the buying process.
The NetLine research shows that the content format a potential buyer chooses to consume can be a good indicator of where he or she is in the buying process. This point can easily be seen by comparing the consumption behaviors for eBooks with white papers and webinars (live and on-demand).
As noted earlier, eBooks accounted for just over 33% of all content registrations on NetLine’s platform in 2022. Meanwhile, white papers and webinars accounted for, respectively, only 7.5% and 3.5% of all content registrations.
Clearly, eBooks were far more popular with business professionals than white papers or webinars. However, overall popularity doesn’t tell the whole story of the importance or effectiveness of a particular content format.
NetLine’s analysis revealed that white papers and webinars were more likely than eBooks to be associated with a near-term buying decision. For example, Netline found that business professionals registering for live webinars were 22% more likely to make a purchase decision within three months than professionals registering for other content formats.
Beyond functioning as a good indicator of near-term purchase intent, white papers, webinars, and other “weighty” content formats play an important role in the later stages of the buying process. As potential buyers move further into their buying process, they tend to want more detailed information, and information-rich content resources such as white papers and webinars fill this need.