I came across a rather colorful comment on a Facebook thread recently that criticized a web site for requiring a name and email address to access the article she began reading. Her indignation at the request was evident in the language she chose: “Let me read what I want to read for free or f@%$ you, I’m outta here”.
Normally I’d ignore those who resort to such prose but the subsequent (more professional) rants and virtual “nods of agreement” from others reminded me that there’s little appetite for paid content, even when payment is due as limited personal information.
I wondered if the objection so many have with this request is a privacy issue. Overwhelmingly, the public seems to subscribe to a plethora of social networks as well as social and mobile apps with no hesitation for privacy concerns. Studies continue to demonstrate that few, if any read the actual Terms and Conditions they so willingly check “I Agree” to. And in most cases, the networks and apps they subscribe to are folly in comparison to the exchange offered by many businesses and news sites online.
I’ve often quipped that as a nation we’ve accepted lower privacy standards for the right to public voyeurism through social channels. Yet ask those same people to provide a valid name and email address to access good thought-provoking content and they’ll go out of their way to create and maintain fake email accounts or turn to Facebook with spirited outrage.
Is there too much content on the Web?
Maybe the issue isn’t privacy at all but the customer experience? A well-known marketing slogan for Tootsie Pops once asked: How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? Today that question might be: How many clicks does it take to get to the center of a web site’s content?
I wonder if there is simply too much content being produced on the Web today that there is no willingness to take a few extra steps to access quality content; to provide the producer some value by means of your personal information, which may enable them to continue to produce that content?
Yes, they may sell your information or use the collective audience profiles for targeted advertising campaigns but isn’t that a fair price to pay for equally targeted and valuable content? Have our standards for content fallen to such low levels that we’re willing to tell Facebook our most intimate secrets but not be willing to provide basic personal info to serious content producers? What does this say about us?
Newspaper and magazine subscriptions have steadily declined and paid digital content was a failed experiment for most in the media industry. Even the early success of E-Newsletters, which required at a minimum the user’s email address are now in decline in favour of free RSS and Social Feeds for that same content. There’s no question that the media industry has been turned on its ear due to Internet’s public access and sharing culture but what are the ongoing implications for businesses and content marketing?
Can free be valuable?
Often we’ve been asked about the return a business can expect from investment in content production and open public dissemination when the audience is no longer prepared to invest – financially or otherwise – in such content. We were never questioned when the content was blatant advertising and “about me” marketing messages; however, to be effective, marketing content today must provide personal value (information or entertainment) to the audience beyond marketing speak. Something that requires greater investment, is challenged with increased competition and is more difficult to produce.
So can free content drive value for the business producing it? My belief has always been that the value is generated by the author and not the reader. Great content marketers should not be afraid to produce and offer content without encumbrances.
They should be afraid of:
– producing content that does not add value to their readers
– producing content that does not demonstrate their understanding of their reader’s needs
– not producing content for fear of ROI
– not producing content period
Don’t wait for your audience to deliver you that value – create it through great content.
I’m turning the debate over to you. Is there value in free content produced by corporations? Or is there simply too much content being produced for any to be considered valuable? Does the author dictate the value generated as suggested? Join the debate in the comments below.
Sam Fiorella – Sensei
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego