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Should You Give Away Your Content for Free?

Should you give away your e-books, white papers and case studies for free, or should you require a name and email address before people can download your content?

It’s an excellent debate.

Content has a higher chance of being downloaded and shared with peers if it is FREE – A study that David Meerman Scott conducted showed that the ratio is 50:1 for free downloads vs form downloads.

On the other hand, organizations that have an obligation to investors, management and sales must incorporate a system of capturing leads. In fact most corporate organizations measure the performance of their sales and marketing teams by the number of leads they’re able to generate on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Where the two points of view converge is in the use of a secondary offer. The idea would be to offer your initial content for free and then towards the end of the e-book or white paper, to offer another type of content e.g. a webinar, for which people would then be required to register. I think that’s an excellent idea that business should experiment with.

One of the best arguments I’ve heard against requiring registration for your content is offered by Seth Godin. He argues that ‘registration for content’ feels more like a transaction.

The problem with transactions he explains, is that people expect both sides to be of equal value. But what if they give away their information and don’t perceive that value? Then they feel cheated and they go away. Free content on the other hand is a gift. And as the old adage goes, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

I am all for free content. I think that organizations that want to spread their ideas faster and farther should consider giving away free content. In any case the response is always the same. If your ideas are valuable and relevant people will pay for them when you offer a paid version. It happens all the time.

This is certainly a very fruitful debate with both sides of the argument carrying muscular points of view. What side of the issue are you on?

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