Recently there’s been another stir about website owners (mostly bloggers) switching to a paid model for their business. It’s not a new conversation but it has received a lot of coverage lately.
Now, a blog in itself isn’t a business.
It’s typically used as a fulcrum for various things. You can use it to showcase your knowledge and skills, form a community around your content, sell advertising spots or just rant (as some do).
But regardless of whether you’re starting a blog, business, or already own one or both online, are you going to charge for content?
Should you charge a single fee or allow for à la cart content purchases?
Well if you haven’t given it any thought let’s take a look at some options.
Paid Access to Premium Content
If you’re making:
- A series of how-to videos and tutorials
- Offering in-depth analysis or
- High quality consulting/advice in article form
Then I’d say it’s reasonable to charge for access to that premium content. Also included may be podcasts, interviews with industry leaders or successful case studies, and eBooks. There’s nothing new here as we have all “paid to play” at one point or another.
Could anyone argue with this? (OK, stupid question. People argue with everything.) You’re investing generous amounts of time and effort on this stuff, more than your usual blog post, so why give it all away?
What about forums? An interactive community with savvy contributors on your site involves moderation and adding content. There are also costs to consider such as potential increased bandwidth and purchase of premium forum software.
Community is a benefit worth charging for access; be it a one-time entry fee or a recurring payment.
I think it’s reasonable to move all your high-end content behind a paid wall but you should keep offering some free content. More on that later.
What do you think? Is it OK to charge for premium content or do you think all information should be free? What types would you charge for in addition to those I mentioned?
À La Cart Payments (or micropayments)
Then you have the menu type of approach. Each article is a set amount (could be $.09; could be $5.00 – you choose). Each podcast may be purchased separately. Each PDF or video can be a set price.
This seems like a lot of work especially if you’re new to the scene. How do you set up the infrastructure to handle these purchases? How do you price things fairly? If you have no social proof yet how can you substantiate asking anything for your work?
This model is akin to the iTunes environment; you expect to pay for content there and each download on its own isn’t all that much. But before you run off charging people to read your “About Us” page, think about the annoyance factor. You’re likely going to annoy people if they hit a pay wall at every turn.
Would you switch to this payment model? Do you think you’d be overwhelmed individually pricing everything and tracking the added metrics?
Saying, “No,” to Free
I’m a fan of simplicity. Make the free things easy for me to find on your site and show me where your paid and premium content is hiding.
But if you slap a price tag on every piece of content, even $.50, you’ll see me raise guard. It’s not about being entitled to scrape freebies off everyone but perception is at play here.
You’re in business to make money but I vote to romance your visitors a bit. Woo them with some valuable content. Throw “Add To Cart” everywhere and you risk making them feel like they landed on a digital flea market instead of what could be their next favorite community (your site).
Some marketers have chosen to give up giving away free content entirely. Their loss. Think about the people that are in the early stages of browsing for whatever it is you offer. Without a little sampling of who you are and what they can expect from you how can they make an informed buying decision about you?
That’s why some of your best content should be shared freely. Not only will moving the free line with quality content put your best foot forward, but it’ll break down the barriers that can kill your sale.
From where I’m standing sitting, I say keep some things free. Charge for your powerhouse content but spread goodwill by giving out samples if you can. Let people sample your business, share their experience with their friends, comment on it or test drive it.
Why not? You stand the chance to win them over and retain them as a loyal, returning customer and make evangelists out of them.
How about you? Is it all-or-nothing where you’d charge for content but skip the free game? In your opinion, is there no reason to give freely?
Paid Content: Data vs. Experience
Let’s be honest, if people are coughing up money for every blurb of yours then you better be churning out some high-end content. You’d be surprised even at what people expect to get for just $5; money is money.
Will charging for your content make it dry, lack personality, and be all analysis and heavy talk? I think that the dynamic of having so many business website owners and bloggers sharing their content freely and giving trial-run demonstrations is we gain a rich experience.
Nowadays we enjoy seeing personality and personal stories infused into a company’s work.
Charging for content may take away the quips, fun fluff, or the occasional “a day in my life” article. Well, not if those things are what you offer. Maybe you’re OK with this.
You can hop across websites in just about any industry and see comments and engaged communities. You can download a PDF or see great value-only (no pitch) videos or listen to free podcasts that give you actionable advice. And guess what? You’ve probably purchased from some of these companies that led with free didn’t you?
I know I have.
Answer yourself honestly; if you had to pay to play there (wherever “there” may be), would you? That’s the barrier you’re dealing with when someone lands on your site if you’re nickel-and-diming them.
You’re in business to earn revenue. The bills don’t pay themselves and food won’t automagically appear on your plate by wishing for it. Your website will have to earn somehow; be it through products, services or even affiliate marketing.
But where do you draw your content-charging line and are there personal values at play?
Which pay-based model or blend of all of them do you see yourself employing? I asked a lot of questions but share any relevant thoughts you have in the comments.