All Aboard the All Digital Train - Matthew Yorke-IDG

Thought Leaders
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Technology vendors and users are important indicators of the future of media and marketing. They took to the web earlier than most and tend to be early adopters of technologies and gadgets. Marketers are also willing to experiment. According to a recent survey by IDG Research Services, both buyers and sellers of technology are united around digital and mobile.

Last August, two-thirds of the technology marketers surveyed online said they expect their budgets to rise on average 3.5% next year compared to 2011. Digital programs will capture half the spend with 58% on demand generation and 42% on branding. Events came in second at almost 24%.

Respondents to the IDG survey included 185 tech marketers and 89 agency professionals with 86% in the US.

The survey found that digital spend will be evenly split between branded tech media sites with more than 51% and a combination of ad networks, exchanges without real-time bidding (RTB), and RTB systems.

Spending Priorities and Metrics

As might be expected in a difficult economy, lead generation topped all digital budget categories with almost 27% followed by display/banner at just under 20% and search at almost 19%. As to what is driving digital media investments in 2012, audience composition, ROI and measurement capabilities, audience reach, and data targeting were selected by more than three-quarters of the respondents.

By a wide margin, click through rate is the most important factor in campaign success with cost-per-engagement and interaction rate almost equal in importance.

Content/Custom Marketing

Content marketing, which includes white papers, case studies, custom websites, videos, and white papers, is among tech marketers' top five spending priorities for 2012. Led by collateral at 71%, followed by webcasts/virtual events at 61%, videos at 59%, research at 55%, and articles/features at 54%, marketers are investing in a wide variety of content marketing or custom programs. Agencies are much more inclined to use custom within media sites/programs than vendors (50% vs. 28%). When asked about the biggest challenges in producing marketing content, marketers cited producing enough material, creating engaging content, and measuring the results.

Approximately two-thirds of the marketers indicate they will outsource one or more projects involving content creation, creative development, ad unit creation, and online production/services.

Social, Mobile, and Events Marketing

Seventy-five percent of respondents noted that programs are meeting or exceeding expectations, though issues exist around lack of standard metrics, a shortage of experience with social media, and lack of budget.When compared to mobile marketing, social is out front in adoption, 95% to 64%. This indicates that for many marketers, social has advanced beyond the experimental stage unlike mobile. Of note is that almost half of the marketers – especially agency pros -- will devote funds to tablet ads next year.

Event spending will rise sharply as 70% of respondents plan on increases for 2012 with a significant shift to small/local roundtable programs and virtual events.

Buyers and Marketers Are in Sync

Technology buyers share many of the same media interests as the marketers of products and services as reflected in both the buyers' business and home purchases. In the August online survey of 14,000 users in 11 countries in North and South America, Europe, and Asia Pacific, the top source for information is technology websites (78%), followed by tech-related print publications (61%), tech vendor sites (48%), and social sites (28%). In results weighted to reflect response numbers by region, North American and European users (80% of the weighted results) had identical information source preferences: tech sites, tech print publications, and tech vendor sites. In a major difference, Asian and Oceania (Australian) users rated, social networking as being a more important information source.

An amazing 95% of the respondents watch tech videos and three-quarters of them share or post video. What respondents look for in video varies from one region to another with in-depth product reviews and how-to videos being of most interest. Most people said they watch on their computers with the majority of viewings after business hours and on weekends.

An overwhelming majority — 85% — of readers said they are more likely to go to and/or click on a trusted source than rely on a top search ranking. Ninety-five percent of the buyers said they have registered for content or events online or are likely to do so in the future. As media companies increasingly offer paid content, the interest in such content is strongest in Asia Pacific and South America

IT Buyers Rely on Mobile and Social

Apple iOS leads in all regions except Asia Pacific where Android is out front; Android is number two in every other part of the world. Smartphone and tablet owners use their devices for similar activities: read/send email, read tech news, and interact on social or business networking sites. The respondents access tech content anywhere and anytime as they are as likely to use their devices after business hours and on weekends as during normal business hours. Half of the respondents report being receptive to mobile ads.

As for social media, YouTube and Facebook lead all platforms with LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter not as popular. Among BtoB respondents, 53% found social extremely/very valuable for finding relevant technology content on the Web, which is double the 2010 figure. Not surprisingly, 18- to 34-year-olds are most active with social media. According to all users in the IDG survey, 60% rely most on tech sites, 46% peers or colleagues, and 43% independent tech journalists/bloggers.

IDG Insights

Wow, so that's a lot of data to digest in one article. The reality of course is that there are some mega trends at work, we are in those once in a decade moments where the media industry goes through dramatic change. Like all things in the technology industry with every cycle of change the output grows rapidly and the pace of change accelerates at alarming rates. What we are seeing are explosive adoption rates for mobile, social, video and data. As humans we are programmed to think in terms of linear growth, so it's actually difficult to fully realize the impact of these trends, but they are explosive and will show up in more meaningful ways in future budgets and operating statements. Just as all media has become social, over the coming 12-18 months all media will be mobile, video will be pervasive and the discussions we have today around data will seem quaint. Data will become the lifeblood of both media companies and marketers. We will wonder how we made decisions without data in the past!

Matthew Yorke is president, IDG Global Solutions (IGS), and is responsible for a sales organization that serves IDG's largest technology vendor customers worldwide. He continues to serve as president, IDG Strategic Marketing Services (SMS), an organization that provides social media marketing services and multimedia programs for clients such as Microsoft, IBM, Dell, Avaya, Citrix, and Cisco. Matthew can be reached at matthew_yorke@idg.com

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