Whether a Web site makes money by selling ads or by conducting transactions, it needs relevant content to keep visitors returning.
Thomas Hoglund, principal with the e-business strategy group at Arthur Andersen Inc., Chicago, said the firm spends in the six- to seven-figure range for information on its sites, which include its Internet, intranet and extranet sites.
The firm's Web site offers a combination of information, including news and reports for different industries. If visitors to the Web site can't find what they're looking for, Andersen has professional researchers on board, who, for a fee, will find the information.
While using more news-oriented content, Andersen also offers some statistical information from professional organizations.
"We have a hospitality link where a hotel in Paris can compare its rate and quality of service to other hotels of its type in Paris," Hoglund said. "Our internal auditors have content from their professional societies, such as the American Hospital Association, for health care on our extranet site."
Hoglund said content is paid for by advertising on the site or by e-commerce revenue. "But news isn't all anyone needs," he said. Sites should have interactive tools where visitors can share experiences and solve problems, he said, which is usually free.
One of Andersen's news providers is Factiva, the joint venture between Dow Jones and Reuters that sells news and business information. Clare Hart, president and CEO of Factiva, said the venture buys and sells information and has 7,000 sources in its publications archives that "range from one minute old to information that goes back 30 years."
Factiva's broad information services include market research, investment analysis, annual reports and country risk reports.
By buying content from a news provider, Web sites can offer visitors the latest news. Companies can no longer rely on information that is days old, Hart said.
Hoglund said that looking at return on investment isn't useful now because content is a means to an end; that end is driving eyes to a particular site.
"Users come to a site for commerce, but content draws them back," he said. "No one has really figured out ROI yet."