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© November 2008 Anthony Lawrence

I came across What Grocery Stores Teach You About Free Content this morning. The author makes the point that websites give away too much:

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 my time.

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.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:

Take Control of IOS 11

Photos: A Take Control Crash Course

Are Your Bits Flipped?

Digital Sharing Crash Course

Sierra: A Take Control Crash Course

More Articles by © Anthony Lawrence

Tue Nov 25 01:32:32 2008: 4813   ScottCarpenter

I not long ago learned that the answers on "expert sex change" are on the page if you scroll past all the other crud. Still annoying, but at least they're there. (I'm sure they do this to place in Google but still try getting people to pay.)


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Computers have been taught to distrust each other and will reject attempted connections most of the time. Nowadays, most computers and firewalls are utterly rude about it: it would be like asking someone to dance and having them ignore you as though you were invisible and inaudible. (Tony Lawrence)

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