Content That Works: The two kinds of online content that matter most to business customers

[#1 in the Content that Works series.]

Business people do lots of things on the internet other than read or watch or listen to content. So when I say that only two kinds of content matter to them, I don’t mean web-based applications and email.

I mean the kind of content we typically think of as news, information, advertising and the stuff now called “post-advertising” — the kind of content that marketing people, journalists, bloggers and Twitter users create and add to the internet. The kind of content that companies hand over millions of dollars to Google so that business people will click through to see it.

I refer to the two kinds of content that matter most to business customers as:

1. Chronological content
2. Research content

Chronological content is any content that is valued by a person because of its time stamp. And typically, it is valued for how fresh or recent that time stamp.

Chronological content can be a tweet or a story appearing on the front page of the New York Times, a breaking news story on CNN, a blog post or anything else that comes in rivers, streams, flows, updates, subscriptions, blasts or other metaphoric words implying constant movement.

People in business need chronological content to stay on top of the information and knowledge they need to understand the ever-changing context of their jobs. Chronological content helps them comprehend and navigate change. It helps them see opportunities and learn who is doing what in their industry. It makes them aware of new products and new processes. It helps them learn of new suppliers and new customers. It helps them impress their co-workers with how much they know about hirings and firings in every company in their industry.

Chronological content is necessary and addictive — and it keeps business people coming back for more.

Research content is any content that is valuable to a business person because it helps them shorten the “time to result.” Time to result is a term used by Google engineers to describe the time it takes for a Google user to get to the information they are looking for. I had never heard that term until reading this blog post about music search — Now I use it whenever I can drop it into a conversation — and by my unofficial estimates, I’m up to 2-3 times per day. Heck, I love the term so much I registered the domain because I thought it would be a great name for a book or blog or to sell to someone who realizes it captures the essence of their well-funded startup company.

In business and online content, the concept of time to result typically refers to the time necessary for a busy business person to get to the information he or she needs to answer a question, make a decision or re-order the filter for 300 Acme-55-AA Gizmos.

This content is some of the most valuable content your media, business-to-business or business-to-consumer company can provide. It’s the kind of content that is mission critical and worth paying for because it shortens a person’s time to success.

Unfortunately, it is some of the worst content most companies provide online. It is often crap. And if you care about the future of your business, want to provide content that people will pay for or want to have a future in marketing, then you better tune into the rest of this “Content That Works” series. Creating content that isn’t crap is what this series is all about.

The next post in the “Content That Works” series will appear on Monday, March 8. It’s tentatively titled: “Everything you’ll ever need to know about ‘research content’ can be learned in this wiki entry.”

[This blog does not carry advertising. It is advertising: If your company needs to shorten its time to success, I work with an exceptional team of content creators, analysts and strategists at Hammock, a firm that for 20 years has helped companies create content that works.]