Welcome to the Tuesday 2¢ . It’s Tuesday, the weekend is a distant memory and it’s time to let off some steam and give our 2 cents on a hot industry topic. This week Ian Truscott dives into the consequences of setting content free, and the implications this has on the value of our content.
Last week, I shared that going forward we are going to share all of our content without a registration wall and the need to share contact details. I shared this on LinkedIn and there was an interesting discussion, mostly giving me encouraging words suggesting it was about time we did this, but also, a note of concern that suggested people taking advantage and “helping themselves” to free content. This got me thinking – what is the value of our content?
"For those who may not be familiar, my entire business philosophy pretty much revolves around the jab jab jab right hook method. Jabs are the value you provide your customers with: the content you put out, the good things you do to convey your appreciation. And the right hook is the ask: it’s when you go in for the sale, ask for a subscribe, ask for a donation."
But, crucially he adds when talking about why he shares so much of his time and content for free:
"I have to land the hook. It’s my hope. It’s my aspiration. But it’s not why. I do it because it gives me a chance to even throw the right hook at all. You have to be okay with not landing the right hook."
This is the hard thing, by un-gating content you are swapping a known outcome, a set of emails addresses for an aspiration, a trust that it will happen, whatever outcome is your objective.
In the gated world, we can value the content by email addresses, we can call them contacts, put them into the top of the funnel, nurture them, run the metrics and then create models that tells us how many contacts we need to make our true outcome – leads and revenue. We have a direct line of sight, between revenue and the content.
We don’t care that 99% (or whatever it is) of people that give an email address for a piece of content never convert and impact our outcome, the comfort is we can measure it and even better we can attribute revenue to this activity. If only 1% of the audience converts, we just need to do MORE of it.
It’s a well understood value exchange – but is it really valuable?
As an example, we shared a Gartner report, paid a fair amount of money for it, put it behind a registration form and from a contacts perspective it yielded a lot of email addresses, it could be described as the most successful campaign we have run.
But, is it the most successful?
Well… no.. maybe…
It’s an asset that people liked, they found it useful, splendid!
But a big proportion of the people that downloaded it were, if I am honest, probably more interested in the asset than in us. To use Vaynerchuk’s terminology, there is no chance of a right hook, no valuable outcome for us.
So, do we need their email addresses?
And by not getting their email addresses, is the content less valuable?
You also get the behaviour that you measure, if we value content by the number of email addresses we collect for people not interested in censhare, the value of the content (to us) that we write, and commission would become skewed away from our outcome.
The next question then is, if you give away content for free, throw it into this unmeasurable void between publishing and outcome do you lower the value of your content?
Not just in the eyes of the consumer, but also as a producer, do you purposefully lower the quality?
This is discussed at great length in this article by Nico Ryan on Medium, who points out 2 problems he sees to Vaynerchuk’s approach, which he calls Give, Give, Give, Ask (I like this more than punching people):
It encourages subpar content
It undervalues the inherent worth of content
OK, so the article goes on to become a promotion for the social platform Steemit, but from my perspective, these are serious points to consider and can only be answered by the actions you take.
Would I commission a Gartner reprint again if I couldn’t justify it with a bump in contacts? Choose to be generous and useful to folks that may never buy our products.
Will I reduce my content marketing budget, if I can’t justify it with contacts?
Let’s see – I’ll keep you posted…