Even for top executives, digital content is a fact of work life.
Senior executives around the globe have embraced the Internet and smartphones, according to “Decision Dynamics 2010: Tech and Media,” a survey released last month. The survey, conducted online in October by marketing communications company Doremus and the Financial Times, also found these senior executives don't view all media equally.
“A major theme of this year's "Decision Dynamics' survey has been "who do you trust?' ” Daniel Rothman, the FT's director of research in the Americas, said in a statement. “Media outlets created by professional journalists are preferred over user-generated content sites three to one, and so we expect that they will remain relevant and vital to decision-makers in the global business community for years to come.”
The message for b-to-b marketers is that the executives surveyed tend to cleave to traditional brands. The survey, which had 529 respondents, found 82% prefer websites tied to traditional media brands such as newspapers and magazines, compared with just 5% who prefer sites that originated as digital channels. Similarly, 53% of respondents said they favor professionally reported and edited websites versus just 19% with a preference for sites featuring user-generated content.
For the most part, the latest “Decision Dynamics” survey, which has been conducted annually since 2003, didn't see large jumps in the use of digital media by executives. “This year, use of digital media seems to have plateaued, with little change for most categories other than online video,” said Hope Picker, director of research at Doremus.
She added: “It seems like there's a little bit of a pause in adoption. Maybe it's that the people who will embrace digital have already climbed on board. The people who are not using these things now are people who aren't ever going to.”
Nonetheless, online content is essentially ubiquitous at work. More than 70% of executives view online video or attend webcasts for work.
Despite digital content's ubiquity, many of the executives surveyed are still regular readers of print, although the consumption of newspapers and magazines varied by geographical region and by age. The survey, for instance, found executives from small businesses prefer newspapers and trade publications in print, while respondents from Asia and executives under 45 preferred online versions.
Picker expects consumption patterns to gradually move toward digital as the under-45 demographic takes on more executive roles and the 55-plus demographic retires over the next decade. About 70% of respondents said they use a BlackBerry, iPhone or other smartphone for work.
The use of smartphones for more than email and phone calls will also continue to grow, which may provide additional opportunities for b-to-b marketers, Picker said. The survey showed, for example, that almost 60% of respondents use their smartphones to check news.
For now, however, the conclusions to be drawn from the survey are clear. Integrated marketing using a variety of media still appears to be the most prudent way to reach executives. “Offline and online still work tremendously well together,” Picker said. “They do both online and print. Why not get them in both places?”
As an example, she cited a Doremus campaign for Thomson Reuters that included a number of online and offline executions, such as a takeover of a Canary Wharf train station in London. “You could see some of the offline media being referenced in some of the online conversation,” she said.