Use It or Lose It: Tracking Content Usage and ROI

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Tracking Reuse 
Measurement of econtent reuse is another critical factor in determining ROI, according to Bret Freeman, senior sales engineer for Vasont Systems. "The more a company can increase the reuse of content, the more their man hours will decrease," Freeman says. "But most companies don't track content reuse. If they did, they'd be surprised how much they have." 

Vasont's software enables companies to track the use of econtent across the enterprise. In a sampling of its customers, Vasont found that 71% reused econtent. By tracking such reuse, a company can better allocate resources such as knowledge workers, Freeman says. Though large high-tech companies were the first users of this technology, it's increasingly making its way into mid-size and smaller firms, according to Freeman. 

Monti Lawrence, content repository librarian for Symantec Corp., a Vasont customer, says that tracking of econtent has helped the company improve the translation efficiency of electronic and print publications (software support materials) and has also helped the company produce econtent and print materials more quickly.

Acquired Content Value 
How others use your content on the web or through other delivery mechanisms is not the only critical information about content usage. Many types of businesses license costly content for use within their organizations and want to ensure that this content is being used and is earning its keep. The legal profession provides an example of a need for content ROI: as law firms have come to rely more on econtent databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis for legal research, it has become more critical to accurately account for their actual use of these resources.

"A majority of the research is done online now rather than with books," says Scott Mulka, director of marketing for Advanced Productivity Software, Inc. "While each of them may have some unique content, there's a lot of duplication among them. Librarians need better usage statistics and metrics so that they can cost-justify the digital databases they subscribe to. By using indexing systems, they know the frequency of the use of content." 

Though many of the larger econtent libraries like Westlaw and LexisNexis will provide feedback to customers on the usage of their systems, some of the smaller ones will not, according to Mulka. However, some of the smaller ones may be valuable to some law firms, while being a wasted expense to others. Measurement of actual usage is needed to determine this. 

"The ability to measure the use of these databases is somewhat of a new concern, but the subscription fees for them is going up every year," Mulka says. "The information manager needs to know the full use of each database in order to justify the increase in spending." The information that they have collected in the past has been largely anecdotal. 

Mulka likens the use of Advanced Productivity's indexing technology to that of a paper or electronic system that tracks how often a person checks out a book from a traditional library. Armed with this information, law firms can not only eliminate some legal databases entirely, but may also be able to reduce their licensing commitments to the larger databases, according to Mulka. 

Without a doubt, content creators and consumers alike need to understand content usage in order to maximize its value. Alongside ever-emerging content offerings and delivery mechanisms, analytics will evolve to help internal and external users of econtent as well as advertisers determine how to get the best return for their digital content dollars.

Companies Featured

Advanced Productivity Software, Inc.


Nine Systems Corp.

Pheedo, Inc.

Symantec Corp.

Tacoda, Inc. 

Vasont Systems

WebSideStory, Inc. 


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