Information Today
Volume 17, Issue 8 • September 2000
Outsell Says Latest Study Dispels Myths

Marketing, sales, and product development professionals rely most heavily on information from the Internet for their daily decision making. So found a comparative study of Fortune 500 business professionals’ use of the open Web and fee-based desktop information content services by Outsell, Inc., an information-industry research and advisory firm.

“The business-to-business (B2B) portion of the information content market is $140 billion,” said Anthea Stratigos, Outsell president and chief analyst. “Yet the traditional players, such as print-based publishers, are at risk of losing a significant share of this enormous market because they’ve seriously miscalculated the behaviors and preferences of business professionals.”

The report reinforces research findings from Outsell’s many proprietary research studies on end-users in corporations. “When seeking external information, corporate professionals use the Internet the majority of the time, and they’re satisfied with the experience,” Stratigos said. “Internet players have captured the hearts of the end-user and are poised to win if they listen to [them] and learn to play the value-added content game.”

The study also finds that the brand awareness for players in the B2B information content space is low. “This doesn’t come as a surprise to us, as it confirms findings from our other studies on corporate users,” said Stratigos. “What’s important is that new players have an opportunity to build a brand and presence in the high-value content arena, although it’s not easy in what Outsell calls the ‘invisible industry.’ And the entrenched players need to invest more in marketing to build their brand awareness.”

Outsell’s latest research study compares the behaviors of a major group of corporate consumers using the open Web as a source of information to their behaviors using commercial desktop information services such as Factiva, LEXIS-NEXIS Universe, NewsEdge, or OneSource. “The study dispelled a number of commonly held beliefs that employees are indiscriminate and unproductive information users,” said David Curle, Outsell lead analyst. We identified three major myths in the business-to-business information content market. One, that end-users waste large amounts of time searching the open Internet, which is frustrating to them and costly to their employees. Two, that end-users cannot judge quality and reliability of information sources, and that they rely on unverified information from the open Web. Three, that end-users don’t want desktop business information services to be encumbered by bandwidth-draining, biased advertising. The study ‘busted’ all three myths.”

The study uncovered a number of findings that dispel the time-wasting myth. “Respondents perceive that use of the Internet as an information research tool helps them save time by leading them to sources that formerly were unavailable, by allowing them to find information without leaving the desk, by eliminating the need to have others get them information, and by providing access to information on a 24/7 basis,” said Curle. “Knowledge workers have in fact discovered that they save time almost 75 percent of the time they use the Internet, while users of fee-based services save time only 46 percent of the time.”

The report also determined that corporate end-users evaluate themselves as good judges of information sources for specific kinds of applications. “This savvy group of corporate professionals prefers commercial desktop information services when they need to make mission-critical or high-risk decisions,” Curle said. “And they’re no more likely to trust unverified information than they were 2 years ago. Commercial information content vendors have an edge in providing trusted information from credible and known sources and should use this market message to differentiate themselves from the open Web.”

The study revealed a surprising attitude among end-users about the use of advertisements in commercial information products. “Vendors who don’t include advertising in their commercial offerings should reconsider this strategy,” said Curle. “While enterprise information buyers from IT and the information professional ranks have shied away from advertising-based e-content products because of performance and confidentiality issues, the end-users the products are targeted to are not so shy. Seventy-three percent of the respondents accept advertising if it reduces the cost of information, and 68 percent if advertising makes more content available at the same price.”

Comprehensive findings of Outsell’s nationwide survey of approximately 120 sales, marketing, and product development professionals in Fortune 500 companies are detailed in the company’s recently published briefing entitled “The End User Speaks: Attitudes and Behaviors Toward Commercial Desktop Services and the Open Web.”

The briefing is provided to subscribers of Outsell’s flagship advisory service, Information About Information. Priced at $19,500 per year, the service consists of in-depth Briefings, a weekly e-briefs newsletter, inquiry privilege, and other benefits to provide decision support and fact-based analysis to information buyers and vendors.

Source: Outsell, Inc., Burlingame, CA, 650/342-6060;

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