Every content has a price. I mean, every piece of content ever published on the web has a price. The amount is sometimes explicitly stated. Better so. But sometimes it isn’t. Not cool!
So, there is no free content.
Even if there really should be free content for the very purpose of content marketing. Practitioners are abusing it.
Let me explain.
Free Content Even to Sell Content
This essay is my call to action to “content marketers,” I’m beginning to hate that expression, to free content.
I mean, content marketers should stop gating content that is “free” (that wants to be free, that is meant to be free, that they intend to be free).
For such “free” content, people’s email is the price they pay. (And sometimes, their privacy is sold alongside.) It’s free, but you can’t get it except you hand over (read, pay with) your email.
Giving over your email doesn’t hurt, right? You can always unsubscribe immediately. Or later. You might’ve cheated. But I digress. My point is, why ask for email if the content is (truly) free? What do you fear?
[Tweet “#contentmarketers, stop gating #content that is “free” (wants to be free, is meant to be free, you intend to be free)!”]
Content Marketing for Lead Generation
But it’s content marketing best practice to use a practitioner’s “best content” to generate leads. Naturally, the “lead in” starts from getting someone’s email.
“To drive profitable customer action,” to quote what is unarguably the most agreeable definition of the practice of content marketing, a marketer needs “to attract and retain a clearly defined audience.”
The ultimate mean? Email.
Get them to sign up!
Fine. I don’t have a problem with anyone getting my email. I don’t have a problem with a brand getting my email. I don’t have a problem with a marketer getting my email. Perhaps, neither should anyone who consumes content online.
My problem is getting my email as a price.
As if I would otherwise not give it away!
I hate that. I really hate that!
But imagine this. If you as a marketer for a brand has prepared a nice, shiny, but informative book, have eed it, and put it here on the web. “Free.” You’re “focused on creating and distributing [such] valuable, relevant,… content to attract and retain” a like me to your brand.
Do you think after consuming one piece of your awesome content I’d be less inclined to take the following actions, which you so desire? Follow on Twitter? Like on Facebook? O, yes, subscribe to your lists, yes, to as many as I see appetite?
You, content consumer, would you do otherwise? You marketer (because you consume content, too) would you do otherwise?
Think a little.
Then why gate content that can be free? That wants to be free, that is meant to be free, that you intend to be free? That you loudly proclaim is free?
Free Content Is Dubious
You hope (and beyond hope, because it’s been severally proven) that from sending me emails, announcing your products/services, “nurturing” me, I might become a customer. Great.
I, as well as a billion others, have become customers of several brands this way. And we love the products we consume, the services we get, the free content. The ones that are now truly free.
So, again, repeating my point, getting the email is not the problem. Email marketing is fine. What one values they subscribe to. I subscribe to. The nasty part is the way the email is gotten. Or ill-gotten.
Preventing access to otherwise free content, making email the currency to buy it, makes content marketing a practice of dubious authenticity.
And, yes, Joe Pulizzi says “be strategic.” but let your “clearly defined audience” have a choice. Don’t bait them with “free” content.
Have I not sounded this enough?
What I Advise
Here’s what I do after finishing reading (looking at, watching, hearing) a piece of good content.
By “good” I don’t mean excellently written. I don’t mean Stephen King or Chimamanda Adichie.
By “good” I mean it makes me jump up and thrash around wherever I am, repeating, “I got to do this, I got to try this, let me see how this works, let me see, wow, awesome,” and more more of such expressions of uncontrollable delight.
I’m human. And there’s at least 7 million persons like me to every one content marketer. We all must be doing that. And the actions we take? Check your Twitter following. Your shares. Your likes. And? Ultimately? YOUR LIST!
Let my email be your reward. Then my loyalty.
Have I advised? Let content that wants to be free free. People will subscribe to your lists voluntarily, willingly. Email is not currency. Stop making it one!
Start or follow conversation around this essay with #FREECONTENT. Thanks. 🙂