The value of free content

Are you tired of “free content” that leaves you needing to buy something to really get the value?

There seems to be a number of different marketing ideas out there, and there are two that I notice in effect that include free content.

First, there is free content that is designed to just whet your appetite for the premium content that is, of course, not so free. This model seems to be built on the premise that if you get too much good stuff for free, you won’t buy the premium content, products or services. 

I’m learning that this is quickly becoming a failed business model. Why?  Simple: Humans like you don’t have time for free crap. You want value for you time…not just for your money!

Duh? Yes, I know. But so many providers out there are thinking that their stuff is the best stuff that you can find. They think once you find it, you’ll stop looking. After all, their crap is as good as the rest. But no, you’re gong back to Google to look again and find something better. Then, once you find the really good content (and you are finding it), you’re doing three things:

1. You are sticking with it.
2. You are telling your friends in real life.
3. You are posting about it on FaceBook, Digg and Squidoo.

You might even be buying from those better sites. And here is the why (and the second kind of free content marketing):

Some providers are making content available for free that stands all by itself. It’s good enough that you don’t have to buy from the provider. This may seem like a risky business model, but it’s not. Let’s look at some examples:

LinkedIn –Yes, LinkedIn has premium features available for a cost. Many users don’t even realize it. How cool is that? Here’s how it works – the basic features are plenty for a large percentage of users, and cost almost nothing to maintain. In fact, it’s the free users that help sell the premium features to the small percentage of users that need (or just want) them. After all, who would pay for those if there were only 500 users on the whole system? No one. But with nearly everybody there (or so it seems), there’s a market for those wanting to use those features professionally. And because the main site is free and worth the time, more people sign up each day. Imagine if it required you to pay $10 a month once you had 10 or more contacts? Guess what? 50,000 abandoned accounts and no one wanting premium access.

WordPress – All hail WordPress! That’s right, it’s free and the more people that use it, the more that want it. But if you need more (space, users, hosting ad free, etc.) there is a premium service. Again, the free version stands on it’s own and you could go years using that every day and not miss a thing. Making that available makes the premium version more valuable, and therefore attracts some paying customers. Sweet!

Copyblogger – and other content-driven blog sites (like…ahem, mine). Some of these may (most do) have premium content that you can buy. The fact, though, is that you could spend days going through the free stuff and learn a ton of useful things. The extra content is totally optional.

What makes this work? The fact is that humans (like you) value useful stuff. Period. People that provide useful stuff (could also be you) will find that they are in demand.

Here’s the real catch. If you don’t have enough content that you can give useful information away for free, then you probably don’t have enough useful content to make a living anyway. Read more…learn more…experience more…write about THAT and see where it takes you.

If you’re looking for the free content, look no further. Not only do I buy into the goal of providing it, but I also like to point out where else I’m finding it. So what do you think? Which marketing model is for you?

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