To Make Money Online, Sell Content — Don’t Give It Away

“The only way to bring in real money from your blog or web site is to deal with the ‘c’ word,” says veteran mail order marketer Jim Straw.

“Yes, I’m talking about ‘charging’ for your content,” says Jim. Not — as so many new media gurus advocate — giving it away.

“Take a look at a few successful Internet marketers and pay attention,” advises Jim.

“It shouldn’t be too hard to guess what really brings in the big bucks — subscription-based products with recurring revenue!”

I imagine the readers of this blog will have a field day responding to Jim — both pro and con.

Let’s see if I am right…..


590 thoughts on “To Make Money Online, Sell Content — Don’t Give It Away

  • As usual, the answer is ‘it depends!’ What are you selling? Sometimes I use free content as a way to filter leads based on what they pick. (E.G. if I have a free white paper about ’20 Common errors in translating English Marketing into Spanish’ then I know that those who selected the article can be sold some consulting about hispanic marketing. Obviously if you are selling content instead of a service, do so. Are you relying on advertising for your site?, then Free content will always attract more volume than paid content. It’s a fact.

  • There are two aspects of Jim Straw’s argument that I would like to address.

    1. Whether to charge for content or give it away depends upon the goal of the blogger or web site owner. It may be more productive to give away content in order to develop trust and a relationship with readers that will yield long-term benefits (business deals, book or infoproduct purchases, etc.)

    2. I think that the success of subscription-based products depends heavily on whether the seller has brand recognition and trust from the consumer. For instance, I might consider a paid subscription to “Consumer Reports” but not to any of the blogs I read (intended as an example and by no means a slight to you, Bob!). In the case of “Consumer Reports” (which I did subscribe to online at one time), I knew that there was specific information available that would allow me to make better purchases, thus providing a return on investment. Finally, on a cynical note, there is an exception to the consumer that requires trust/perceived ROI before parting with their money for a subscription-based service…and that is the gullible consumer. Perhaps a niche that could be filled profitably, but not one that I would want to actively target.

  • In between saving room for a few copywriting jobs a month and completing my big freelance writing projects, I’m also gearing up for when I can work my own internet marketing sites after my projects are complete – during 2009. For this, I’ve taken specialized training and self-studied a lot and have came to the conclusion that I want a good balance of free verses “charged” content.

    Much the same as many do on the internet already.

    My sites will have plenty of free content. Some they will have to opt-in for, some they do not. The content they don’t have to opt-in for will point them to both the benefits of opting in and to my premium content that they have to pay for. The opt-in content will point them to the content they need to purchase or subscribe to.

    I think to make money, you have to make sure that your free content assures the prospect that you’re worth paying for over the other guy – or that you’re at least not fake. The same rules as when you do sell something – kick in those free bonuses to make it worth their while.

    Frankly, that’s how you’ve gotten recent orders from me. Your books are awesome, but the stuff you give away with them impresses the crap out of me and causes me to look at yours first if I have a number of offers in at the same time. And even if I’m dead broke at the time and have to wait one or two weeks until that check for the last job comes it – I’ve been known to not forget you and order it then because of how worthwhile it’s been for me in the past.

    I think it has more to do with how you use the free content. People are skeptical…sometimes you need to let them know that you’re trustworthy before they will try your product – and they like to feel as if they are getting more than what they paid for. Make them feel special.

  • Paid…costs the buyer something, but provides them with great value.

    Free…costs the reader in time to find the ‘needle of wealth’ in the haystack of crap’ but can be a gold mine that leads to financial investment for the writer.

    I provide free articles on my web site about how business owners can make the world wide web work for their business, and throughout when mentioning web hosting and web site design I stick in small plugs about the ‘other areas’ in which I exist online. (These others make me money)

    I give a little to attract a market to me over the other guy then try to sell to that market.

    Makes sense to me.

  • I agree pretty much with what’s been said. Sometimes I will buy content off the web, but almost never unless I’ve had other contact with that writer through his/her blog, free articles, published books, etc. and I trust that the price will be worth it. You have to have the credentials to back up charging for content though, I think.
    Kristi Holl
    Writer’s First Aid blog

  • When I was starting out, I discovered a charity I wanted to help and offered my services for free. I offered to write a direct mail fundraising package for them, and to help with the whole process, I asked my then between-jobs friend to come on board as the account exec. From that “give it away” experience, my friend landed a great job. And while I never did get the charity group as a client, it was well worth the effort.

    Give what you can, when you can. Give and get in return. I believe there’s a lesson in NOT being greedy. Every business should give back and be generous in one way or another.

  • Bob, your site looks great.

    Only thing I didn’t like is that I can’t see what the monetary requirements are for the site. Because it’s you and I feel I can trust you, I’d probably enter my information anyway. But if you were someone I was trying for the first time, I want those details up front.

    Not sure if I’m the minority or majority in this action, but I’ve often said “forget it” to similar set ups. I was expecting to see an online sales letter explain the details when clicking “Click here for details” on the side.

  • Love the breakdown of choices in levels for this site, Bob. And this site is greatly needed right now. It’s going on my list of recommendations.

  • This blog Is very informative , I am really pleased to post my comment on this blog . It helped me with ocean of knowledge so I really belive you will do much better in the future . Good job web master .

  • On our site we actually sell products (Contact Lenses, Solutions etc.) however we actually provide some free services like ask the Dr., where users and clients can ask an actual Eye Dr. questions and get them answered.

    Does anyone have any ideas on what we may be able to offer in terms of informational products or ebooks or reports to offer/sell on our site, any thoughts if this would even be effective given the nature of the products that we offer.

    Take a look and let me know if you have any thoughts.

  • This is the way I see it.

    I think you can give away a lot of content to attract prospects into your funnel.

    There is nothing wrong in re-purposing the same content and selling them.

    What do you think?

  • i think free and with charge needs to work both.. well a person will not purchase something if she or he is unsure on the quality of the content not unless she/he will see some contents that are free, just to convince someone that charge is worthwhile.. oh yeah! maybe SuFaq can be a help for contact information selling purposes.

  • Exceptionally informative many thanks, It is my opinion your trusty followers will probably want more content along these lines carry on the good effort.

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