How Studying B2B Content Consumption Patterns Can Drive 2024 Success

Promotional graphic for NetLine's study on B2B content consumption patterns. The title reads 'How Studying B2B Content Consumption Patterns Can Drive 2024 Success' in white text on a blue background. On the right, there is an open report showing graphs and data on job levels and company size in blue and white.

Consumption habits change. 

For the past eight years, our annual State of B2B Content Consumption Report has shed light on these behaviors and the potential insights they offer. When applied appropriately, these findings can be a keystone of effective content strategies. 

But each report has so much to deliver and limited time.

This year, we’ll be diving deeper into some of the most prominent stats, findings, and insights from our 2024 State of B2B Content Consumption and Demand Report.

In this article, we’ll delve into the major shifts in content consumption patterns observed over the past year and explore their implications for B2B marketers.

Key Highlights

  1. Total registrations increased by 14.3% year-over-year.
  2. Demand for gated content has risen 77% since 2019.
  3. The Consumption Gap widened by 2.5 hours in 2023, a reversal of last year’s shrinking.
  4. eBooks remain the most popular content format, representing 39.5% of all demand with registrations increasing by 34.5%.
  5. Webinars saw a 7.6% year-over-year increase in registrations; on-demand webinars grew by 56.7%.
  6. C-level consumption represented 12.7% of audience demand, growing 7.9% year-over-year.
  7. Demand for AI-related content increased 5.5 times year-over-year.

Demand Just Keeps Growing

2023 saw a 14.3% rise in total content consumption. 

This surge is particularly pronounced in the IT sector, which experienced a 25% increase, while the manufacturing industry saw a notable 10% rise in registrations.

The Five-Year Story

Some believe the growth from 2019 to be an arbitrary figure. Some think it’s just a stat to make NetLine look good. 

Perhaps that’s all true. But the fact remains that it’s still true and it tells a worthwhile story.

When COVID hit in March 2020, we wondered whether or not our 2019 retrospective (aka the 2020 report) would still have merit in a world turned upside down.

Four years later, the throughline remains unchanged: B2B content consumption continues to rise. 

Why Does This Matter?

For B2B marketers, these increases indicate a consistent and growing appetite for content among professionals, especially in key sectors like IT. 

Marketers must capitalize on this trend by producing more high-quality content to meet the rising demand. 

Understanding which industries are most active can also help in tailoring content strategies to target these high-engagement sectors. 

For a deeper look into your industry, we recommend taking a look at Audience Explorer. This free, real-time tool allows you to break down audience content consumption by Job Area and Industry—as well as filtering options by Region, Company Size, and Job Level—with real-time data from the past 180 days.

The Ever-Widening Consumption Gap

The Consumption Gap—the time between when content is requested and when it’s actually consumed—is one of the most intriguing stats we report on each year. 

2022 saw the gap shrink by 4.6 hours. 2023 was more in line with the trendline.

The gap increased by 8.7% in 2023—from 28.7 hours to 31.2 hours. 

So what’s causing this delay? 

  • Swift ROI demands due to economic pressures.
  • Balancing short-term needs with long-term goals.
  • Increasing workloads with fewer resources and time.
  • Professionals face higher expectations with limited means.

In our estimation, however, the growing complexity of the buying process is the primary driver of the Consumption Gap’s widening.

A whopping 59% of B2B buyers now involve at least four people in their buying committee.

25% include at least seven.

Why Does This Matter?

Does it take four people to open one document? Of course not.

But the amount of discussion, consideration, and planning that each team member requires is certainly a recipe for a slowdown.

Let’s take a look at how consumption differs by Job Level.

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

Consumption Gap by Job Level

Name Hours
Contractor 47.5
Owner 45.9
Executive VP 36.9
C-Level 34.0
Consultant 33.7
Supervisor 31.5
Manager 29.2
Individual Contributor 29.1
Director 28.9
Senior Manager 27.0
Senior Employee 26.8
Senior Director 26.1
VP 22.9
Senior VP 17.7

What the Data Tells Us
Job Levels such as Contractors (47.5) and Owners (45.9) show slower content consumption, indicating lower engagement or urgency. 

Conversely, roles like Senior VP (17.7) and VP (22.9) are more responsive, demonstrating higher engagement and eagerness to consume content. 

While each role features different priorities and content consumption behaviors across job levels, it’s clear that Vice Presidents should be viewed as key members of the buying committee. 

Perhaps these professionals should be held in higher regard compared to their C-Suite superiors.

The data also confirms the need for marketers and GTM teams to approach their target accounts with a multi-thread strategy.

Multithreading in sales involves engaging multiple decision-makers or employees of influence within a target organization. This approach helps sales teams navigate complex B2B buying dynamics, reducing reliance on a single contact and increasing the likelihood of a favorable decision.

As you would expect, each person within every account is proceeding at their own pace—even if the corporate pace is being set by someone else. Understanding and adapting to these varied consumption patterns is crucial for effectively engaging each member of the buying committee.

Now let’s look at how each Industry differs.

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

Consumption Gap by Industry

Industry Hours
Travel/Hospitality/Entertainment 38.2
Corporate Services 38.1
Real Estate 36.6
Retail and Consumer Goods 34.4
Insurance 33.8
Service Industry 33.5
Healthcare/Medical 33.3
Finance 33.2
Legal 33.2
Media 32.6
Education 32.2
Utility/Energy 32.1
Non-Profit/Organizations 31.2
Advertising/Marketing 29.9
Transportation and Logistics 29.9
Manufacturing 29.8
Agriculture 28.4
Computers and Technology 28.0
Telecommunications 27.9
Aerospace/Aviation 27.8
Biotech and Pharmaceuticals 27.6
Construction 25.9
Government 25.1
Automotive 21.5

Deductions from the Data

Professionals in the Automotive (21.5), Government (25.1), and Construction (25.9) industries show higher engagement and eagerness to consume content. While it’s surprising for many Americans to see Government professionals acting quickly (hey, we’re having fun here), these pros need easily accessible information.

Industries with higher numbers, like Travel/Hospitality/Entertainment (38.2) and Corporate Services (38.1) aren’t in as big of a rush to consume. This trend highlights the varying urgency and content consumption behavior across industry.

Can We Shorten the Consumption Gap?

An excellent question.

The easiest way to answer this is with another question. Is your content so good and so relevant that it absolutely needs to be consumed immediately?

If the answer is no, then you have your first answer to shortening the consumption gap. 

It’s also worth asking if it matters. Some content begs to be consumed right away, whether due its seasonality, newsworthiness, or its fleeting nature. But some content doesn’t need to be opened right away. It’s good for marketers and sellers to remember this. 

When we log off for the day at our day jobs, we remain human beings and consumers in the world. We know that there are things that need our attention now and others that can be tended to later. Your audience, prospects, and buyers are no different. This is why we believe so deeply in buyer-level intent. 

Advice for B2B Marketers and Sellers

For roles with higher engagement, such as Senior VPs and VPs, provide concise, actionable insights through executive summaries and strategic reports to meet their quick consumption needs. 

Moderately engaged roles like Directors and Managers should be targeted through relevant content like case studies and how-to guides. For less engaged roles, like Contractors and Owners, adopt a nurturing approach with in-depth content that can be broken into bite-size chunks.

  • Employ multi-channel strategies, including personalized emails and social media, to maintain interest and stay in their periphery. 
  • Leverage analytics to track content effectiveness and adjust strategies accordingly. 
  • Respect their time constraints by highlighting key takeaways in easily consumable formats like videos and podcasts.

The Bottom Line on Going from Consumption to Conversion

Patience is key. 

Our prospects need time to digest and discuss the content they’ve requested. Don’t be surprised when after less than 24 hours they’re completely unaware of anything you’re talking about. Rushing them with follow-ups could backfire. 

Give them space and time to consume the content, and plan your follow-up strategy accordingly.

Content Format Preferences

Webinars saw a 7.6% year-over-year increase in registrations, with on-demand webinars netting a 56.7% increase.

Those are great numbers…but eBooks remain the most popular content format for B2B professionals by leaps and bounds. [FLAG]

Representing 39.5% of all demand and with total registrations increasing by 34.5%, eBooks are the belle of the ball in the B2B world. Why? Because they’re convenient.

But unless you’re a TikTok star, popularity doesn’t pay the bills. What’s more interesting about the format is what we can learn from the “typical” consumption progression of its consumers. 

Maybe eBooks are TikTok stars after all…

Why Does This Matter?
Users are three times more likely to request an eBook than Guides, the second most popular format. Automatically, this makes eBooks a powerful tool for building awareness at the top of the funnel. 

More importantly, we found that eBooks were linked to a greater likelihood of purchase within the next six months (comparing 2023 to 2022). This demonstrates their effectiveness in driving conversions. 

Because eBooks are relatively straightforward to produce (writes the man who knows just how much work goes into one) creating eBooks that address the specific questions and pain points across the buying committee is a smart move. Our team did this in January by releasing the 2024 Content Trends & Planning Guide.

This approach ensures marketers can deliver valued and relevant information to all stakeholders, facilitating smoother decision-making and significantly increasing the likelihood of securing a purchase.

Tailoring content to these complex decision-making ecosystems not only aligns with the realities of modern B2B buying but also enhances the effectiveness of marketing efforts in driving conversions. ​

Implications for Marketers

Understanding these shifts in content consumption patterns is essential for adapting marketing strategies. 

Here are some actionable ways to leverage these insights:

  1. Diversify Your Content Formats
    The popularity of webinars and ebooks suggests that professionals are looking for both interactive and in-depth content.

    By offering a variety of content formats, marketers can cater to different preferences and stages of the buyer’s journey, ultimately driving higher engagement and conversion rates.

    Invest in creating a mix of webinars, ebooks, and whitepapers to cater to different preferences and stages of the buyer’s journey. Each format has its unique strengths and can drive engagement in different ways.

    Why This Matters
    Diverse content formats ensure that you meet the varied preferences of your audience, increasing the chances of engagement and conversion.
  2. Leverage Personal Profiles on Social Media
    Encourage employees, especially senior leaders, to share and engage with content on LinkedIn. Personal profiles are favored by algorithms and can significantly enhance the visibility and reach of your content.

Why This Matters
Leveraging the reach of individual profiles allows you to tap into broader networks and achieve higher engagement compared to branded accounts alone.

  1. Optimize Content for Preferred Channels
    Leverage LinkedIn for distribution while maintaining strong email campaigns and utilizing industry-specific websites to reach a broader audience.

    Why This Matters
    Channel optimization ensures that your content is delivered through the most effective mediums, enhancing reach and engagement.
  2. Create Evergreen Content
    Develop content that remains relevant over time to ensure sustained engagement. This approach not only maximizes the value of your content but also strengthens your brand’s authority and presence.Why This Matters
    Evergreen content provides long-term value, keeping your audience engaged and coming back for more.

Learn the Latest B2B Consumption Trends

The 2024 B2B Content Consumption Report provides a comprehensive overview of the evolving habits of B2B professionals. 

By understanding these shifts, marketers can adapt their strategies to meet the changing needs of their audience. In our next piece, we’ll explore how understanding consumption patterns is crucial for leveraging intent data to enhance content marketing efforts.

By integrating these insights into your content strategy, you can stay ahead of the curve and ensure your marketing efforts are both relevant and impactful. 

Stay tuned for our next article, where we’ll dive deeper into the role of intent data in shaping effective content strategies.