Revealing the True Intentions of B2B Buyers: Key Takeaways from NetLine’s 2024 Content Report

Having a pulse on the state of content consumption and demand is not just an advantage—it’s a necessity.

Fresh off of our recognition at the 2023 KIller Content Awards, we’re thrilled to announce the latest edition of our award-winning annual report.

Introducing NetLine’s 2024 State of B2B Content Consumption and Demand Report

For years, NetLine has taken the line that we let the data speak for itself.

This year, however, (likely spurred by Chrome’s sunsetting of third-party cookies) we wanted to make sure the quality of our first-party data was front and center.

Further emphasizing this was David Fortino, NetLine’s Chief Strategy Officer, as he called attention to it in this year’s introduction to the 2024 State of B2B Content Consumption and Demand Report

“Before you read on, there is a key distinction to callout that sets this report apart from other industry studies: This report is not a summary of survey findings.

When we say we have insights into what B2B professionals actually want and need, we mean it.”

An Analysis of 6.2 Million First-Party Content Registrations

Indeed, this report—our eighth—is the totality of more than 6.2 million first-party content registrations.

The 2024 report dives deep into the behaviors of B2B professionals, backed by an unprecedented analysis of the consumption of more than 45,000 individual content assets from the past year.

Let’s begin with one of the more “controversial” subjects in modern marketing and NetLine’s bread and butter: Gated content.

Marketers May Hate Gates, But Users Are Unbothered

Contrary to the narrative surrounding it, our findings reveal demand for gated B2B content increased 14.3% YOY—a clear sign that high-quality, gated content remains a critical tool in the marketer’s arsenal for capturing first-party intent signals.

Since 2019, demand has risen by 77%, a figure that stands in direct defiance of what many marketers believe: That users don’t consume gated content.

In 2021, the wise Andy Crestodina tweeted, “Don’t hate the gate.”

He had good reason to say it, too—users told him they didn’t hate gates.

As third-party cookies become deprecated, we need to have a plan of action around how to best keep in touch with our prospects and buyers.

Gating middle- and bottom-of-funnel content is a great way to alert you and your team of which individuals and accounts may be progressing toward a purchase decision.

Does this mean you should gate EVERYTHING?

Of course not.

As Robert Rose wrote on the subject in September 2023, “You can’t create content to both move a buyer in their journey AND create an audience member of your content.”

Said differently, you need it all: Gated and Ungated content.

35% of B2B Buyers Intend to Make Investments Within Next 12 Months

WIth the introduction of INTENTIVE in June, we at NetLine suddenly had access to an entirely new group of buyer intent signals.

By leveraging our extensive buyer-level intent insights, we’ve identified that, despite economic uncertainties, the propensity for B2B purchases remains strong.

An impressive 35.2% of B2B buyers anticipate making purchase decisions within the next 12 months, marking a 5.3% YOY increase.

There’s even more good news. 9.4% of respondents stated their plans to invest within the next three months, a 6.8% YOY increase from 2022.

Our research continues to validate the connection between content engagement and investment readiness, solidifying the idea that increased content consumption correlates with approaching purchase decisions.

We articulated this further on page 35 of the report in our Content Format Intent Matrix.

Ultimately, the takeaway is clear: A significant portion of the B2B market is ready to engage, provided that marketers and sellers can effectively interpret and act on the right signals.

Be vigilant in listening to your intent data and be ready to act when your prospects are in position to move ahead.

The Consumption Gap Widens…Again

First “coined” in NetLine’s inaugural 2017 report, The Consumption Gap is the measure of two distinct actions; between when a user requests an asset and when they download it.

This year’s report shows the Consumption Gap now at 31.2 hours.

Last year’s report revealed a big surprise: The Consumption Gap shrank in 2022.

This was short-lived, however.

For years, as registration volume grew, we’ve seen the Consumption Gap widen. Unless something drastic changes in the future, 2022 will likely be an anomaly – destined to be the data point we look back on and wonder what caused such a deviance.

This insight into the delay between content request and consumption offers a crucial reminder of the need for patience and precision in follow-up engagement strategies.

Remember: Unless your contact has explicitly requested that you get in touch with them, it’s best to wait at least two days before asking about whether or not they’ve enjoyed the content.

Otherwise, chances are they haven’t even opened it.

Interest in AI Content Soars

It was bound to happen sooner or later.

Shortly after last year’s report was released, I had a conversation with Ann Handley. She quickly asked why there wasn’t anything that touched on AI.

I told her the truth: NetLine didn’t have much to report on at the time.

This certainly changed in 2023, demand for AI-related content exploded by more than 5.5x from 2022.

If current patterns hold true, we expect demand to double in 2024.

eBook Dominance Continues

eBooks have once again emerged as the most sought-after content format among B2B professionals, accounting for 39.5% of all content demand.

This preference highlights the ongoing need for in-depth, accessible, and comprehensive resources that support decision-making processes across industries.

The format’s ability to initiate and sustain engagement marks eBooks as a cornerstone in B2B content strategy, marrying the art of capturing interest with the science of fostering meaningful progress toward purchase decisions.

The popularity of eBooks has had a ripple effect on other formats. Book Summaries, Cheat Sheets, and Tips and Tricks Guides have all seen greater interest in recent years.

This gets back to the idea of what we shared about the C-Suite and how everyone, regardless of seniority, craves simple, straightforward content. Intent signals aside, the formats designed to deliver the most information in the most concise manner wins.

Preparing for a Successful 2024

We all know how important B2B content is. If you didn’t, you certainly wouldn’t be reading this sentence.

Cliches aside, what our 2024 report does drive home is how important B2B content is in the present and future state of digital marketing.

Thanks to AI and innovative buyer-level insights, the door is open to exciting new ways of connecting with buyers, further identifying the content to create, and smartly assisting in its production.

As we chart our course through 2024 and beyond, the insights from this year’s report arm us with the knowledge to navigate the complexities of B2B marketing with confidence and creativity.

We invite you to dive into the full report to discover the nuances and narratives shaping B2B content consumption today.

And as always, we’re excited to see how you leverage these insights to forge deeper connections, drive meaningful engagements, and achieve unparalleled growth in the B2B space.

NetLine’s 2024 Content Consumption Report is now available for download.