I Need that Quote Now!

Poking around the nifty new Apple site to check out the iTunes Music Store, I began to consider all the times when a one-off purchase of an expensive bit of econtent has been critical for my business. I see an interesting similarity between the Apple Music site, where 99 cent tunes are available via "downloads done right," and the individual purchase of the snippets of econtent required to make a marketing program or press release more compelling. OK, maybe I'm stretching the analogy a little, but when I want music right now, I have the same feeling as when I've just got to have that research or image for my business.

Recently, I heard a reggae version of Pink Floyd's "Us and Them." I was overwhelmed with a desire to obtain the record, so I phoned the radio station—WERS—and asked the DJ for more info. I realize juggling phone, notepad, pen, and steering wheel on Boston's Storrow Drive wasn't the greatest of ideas, but I really needed this music—Easy Star All Stars, The Dub Side of the Moon— immediately. Can you imagine? This reggae version of The Dark Side of the Moon is a cosmic collision of two music genres like no other I've heard in a long while.

I remember experiencing a similar feeling several years ago as I was writing a press release and needed to quote a compelling statistic on the growth of B2B ecommerce to illustrate why the particular product I was promoting was going to sell like hotcakes. At the time, research and analysis firms like Forrester and Jupiter were tripping over themselves to see which could write the most outrageous predictions, presented as analysis, on the explosive, fantastic, amazing Internet Economy. But the deal was, you needed to buy the research report from the firm in order to make use of their quote. The pressure was on: Who offered the most over-the-top prediction? And how much would said "research" cost in order to quote it? I found exactly what I needed and bought it. "A projected $7 trillion B2B ecommerce market," I wrote in all seriousness and sent it to the wires for immediate release. Whew.

Stock photography and images also used to be a pain in the butt for marketers to work with. Prior to the convenience of Internet browsing, immediate downloads, and ecommerce, unfortunate marketers had to page through enormous books looking for the perfect photo or illustration. It was quite easy for the brochure, Web site, or print advertisement at hand to slip ones mind while digging through all those images. I distinctly remember drifting off into shots depicting vacation destinations before I managed to return my brain cells to less interesting images of businesspeople in meetings. Okay, the books were fun, but they were terribly inefficient. Not only did a marketer have to find the image in print form, but then arrange to pay and get delivery of the film, which could take weeks. Now with ecommerce, searching for the perfect photo using keywords is a snap. In a pinch, it's possible to get into the site, quickly search for that particular image of, say, a young businesswoman staring intently into her laptop screen, pay for it, and download the right format in just a few minutes.

The ecommerce provision of images is now a very big, but rather quiet, sector in the econtent space. The leader, Getty Images, did $463 million in revenue in 2002 and is quite profitable. Into the fray comes a particularly interesting new paid B2B archive, but from an organization every consumer knows. Recently, The National Geographic Society made 10,000 of its photographs available online for use in advertising and other marketing projects. Now those cute pandas or fantastic sunsets can be on your Web site or brochure with a few clicks.

Often I've needed information or research to back up a proposal or to illustrate a point and once again, when the right econtent is available for download, I've just got to have it immediately. For example, I was working on email marketing campaign ideas and needed some data on open rates of HTML versus plain text. A quick visit to the MarketingSherpa site and the report Email Marketing Metrics Guide: Useful Data was mine in PDF in exchange for dollars from my AMEX card. My need was sated in near-real time.

If proffering extremely useful econtent in bite-sized one-off chunks proves as beneficial for other professionals as it does for marketers, then I sense our industry has significant growth ahead. These days, when I just have to have my econtent now, I can usually get it and I don't mind putting some dollars into the pocket of smart, forward-thinking econtent providers.