I came across What Grocery Stores Teach You About Free Content this
morning. The author makes the point that websites give away too
I visited a blog recently that had one new post every day of the
week. There was a free newsletter opt-in. There were free resource
articles. I found a downloadable ebook — yup, free. There
was a forum, too, and that was — you guessed it — free.
Then there was a page promoting paid services.
Well, hell. I wasn't even tempted to hire the individual. Who needs to pay? I had everything I needed. Free.
I partially agree, but there's more to it. "Teaser" posts - posts
that pretend to give information but then ask for payment - can
make us angry. As Alex Fayle of
"Someday Syndrome" said in a comment:
One thing about free stuff that completely turns me off is when
people tell me that they are going to give me concrete tips and
actions in their free stuff and then don't actually give me anything
that a trip to Wikipedia can't.
Exactly. Teasers annoy us. We're being played, and we know it.
If that were the norm — if there were not so much freely available
information — we'd accept it. But the web is chock full of
information, so trying to reel us in with a worm on a hook is more
apt to tick us off than get us to bite.
I get annoyed when I search Google and they give me a
link to a post at Experts Exchange. It's not that I don't think the "experts" there shouldn't try to
monetize their knowledge; no, it's actually Google that I'm annoyed
with. Google is supposed to give me answers, not teasers. A post
from Experts Exchange isn't an answer, it's just a question. I know the
answer I want is probably out there somewhere, so giving me this as
a top search result just makes me peeved.
So do you just give it all away? Maybe..
I have a LOT of free content here. The purpose of all that has been to get me consulting work and it has done that and still does do it. That's great, but I'm getting older and don't really want to do the work any more. I'd like to move toward converting my knowledge and experience into direct money rather than the advertising venue (advertising my services) it is now. But I do
NOT think the way to do it is with teasers.
Though it does depend upon how you tease me. Let's say you write
a comprehensive article about how to replace the hard drive in a MacBook
Pro but you warn at the end that certain early models require a
different procedure (I don't know that to be true - this is hypothetical).
Well, heck, I own an early MacBook Pro! You've shown me your expertise
in your post, but the post doesn't quite help me — still, I'd be very
willing to hire you to upgrade my MacBook because I don't feel
cheated in any way.
But if you told me part of what I needed to know, and wanted money
for the rest, well, I'll keep looking. You did nothing but waste
There's another thing to consider here. It's the "Peacock Tail"
theory. Evolutionists suggest that male peacocks have those gaudy tail
feathers as a way of advertising their genetic fitness: only a strong,
healthy bird could afford to waste energy on this useless display, so
the females should choose the males with the best displays. In the
world of the web, if you give away a lot, you are saying the same thing:
I'm strong. I have a lot to offer. I can afford to give you all this
for free because I have so much more to offer.
So what am I doing to move away from the consulting model? I'm
trying e-books. My first is Psst - wanna work for yourself?, an e-book about working for yourself. A LOT of
what is in that book is right here on this website, freely available. The
main difference is that what is here isn't necessarily organized, isn't
always connected to the rest.. if you want the benefit of my knowledge
and advice nicely packaged up in one place, you have to buy the book.
I'm working on a Unix/Linux troubleshooting book also. Like
the self employment book, just about all of it is here too, scattered
around in hundreds of different posts. The value comes from packaging
it up in one easy to read place.
I think that's the direction to take. There are too many brightly
feathered peacocks strutting their stuff on the web - I do not think you
can put out promises of feathers and expect success today.
See also Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business.
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