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Study looks at value of online content

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Online content plays an influential role in technology purchase decisions, according to a study by the Chief Marketing Officer Council and KnowledgeStorm, a technology content and search site.

The study, "Define What's Valued Online," was based on a survey of nearly 1,400 business and IT professionals in KnowledgeStorm's user base. It was conducted in July and August.

"The purpose of the study was to find out what types of content are downloaded and how content influences technology purchase decisions," said Scott Van Camp, editorial director of the CMO Council. "We want to be able to tell our marketer members that this is an important segment of Internet marketing."

The study found that 33.1% of respondents said online content has a major impact on technology vendor preferences and selection within their organization, and 55.9% said it has a moderate impact. Only 9.0% said online content has little influence in vendor preferences and selection, and 2.0% said it has no impact.

When asked what types of content are most frequently downloaded and read, vendor white papers received the highest response (58.3%), followed by product reviews (53.8%), analyst research reports (52.2%) and product literature (51.6%).

Trust in content accuracy

The study also asked respondents to rate the level of confidence and trust they have in the technical accuracy of various types of online content on a scale of zero to five, with zero representing very low confidence and five representing very high confidence.

Professional association research reports and white papers received the highest ranking (3.95), followed by industry association research reports and white papers (3.79), analyst-generated research reports and white papers (3.78) and articles by industry journalists (3.45).

"At first, traditional marketers were just hustling to get their content online," said Matt Lohman, manager of business development and market research at KnowledgeStorm.

"Now it is getting down to the next level, which is being more intelligent in their strategy of using content online," he said. "Professional and industry association research reports ranked the highest, so marketers should partner with these types of organizations to improve the credibility of their online content."

The study also asked respondents to identify their "pet peeves" with online technical content. The top responses were hype and puffery of offerings (53.0%), poor communication of business value proposition (46.3%) and too few proof points that evidence the ROI of the solution (44.8%).

"Marketers really need to get to the point in their [online content] offerings, communicate the value proposition and give real world examples," Van Camp said.

Respondents were also asked to name the most pressing issues or problems associated with researching IT solutions online on a scale of zero to five, with zero representing least pressing and five representing most pressing.

The most pressing issues or problems identified by respondents were invasive online advertising and pop-ups (3.91%), spam or phishing (3.79%), biased or slanted content (3.73%) and viral or spyware contamination (3.71%).

Technology buyers spend considerable time researching IT products and services online, the study found.

Nearly half (46.3%) of respondents said they spend between one and five hours a week researching IT products online; 24.6% spend between five and 10 hours; 10.9% spend between 10 and 15 hours; 5.0% spend between 15 and 20 hours; and 4.9% spend more than 20 hours.

Another key finding was the process that technology buyers use when they research products and services online.

The study found that 68.5% begin conducting online research for technology products with search engines and directories; 5.8% begin with vendor Web sites; 5.3% begin with industry-specific Web sites; 4.8% start with research analysts; and 4.3% begin with online magazines. The remainder of respondents said they begin searches with online communities, professional or industry associations, solution-specific Web sites, vendor search sites or other types of content.

The most popular search engines for research are Google (96.5%), Yahoo! (52.9%) and MSN Search (28.6%). Respondents could select more than one engine. 

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