I was talking with an entrepreneur earlier today and the conversation centered around strategies for monetizing highly specialized content. Her company provides niche business services and supporting collateral (books, white papers, worksheets, etc) to a valuable audience. The question was as follows: should I sell my content or give it away for free?
In the end, my advice was to go the free route for the following reasons:
- The conversion rate for unique visitors to buyers of digital content (e.g. a PDF for $20) is likely 1 in a 1,000, so it’ll take a ton of visitors to make much money
- Most people don’t like to buy content online, and pulling out a credit card to purchase a PDF results in tons of friction
- If instead of 1 in a 1,000 that spend $20, you give the content away for free in exchange for providing a valid email address that opts into an occasional newsletter (no more than 2x a month), the number of emails you earn is 20 in a 1,000
- With opted in email addresses, and thus a targeted audience, new articles and content can be sent out with sponsored, context-relevant advertising, that will command a high quality rate (e.g. $5 – $10 per email of annually), resulting in significantly more revenue than the digital content route
- The biggest value of focusing on email as currency is that not only is the revenue higher, but that it is recurring revenue, which is one of the best business models
Selling digital content appears to be an easy way to make money online, but I believe that building a loyal, opted-in audience around the content is a superior strategy for value creation.