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Would You Pay to Read a Blog?

What about an article on selling written by a top sales expert?  Or the online edition of the Wall Street Journal?  What about a research report providing you with an in-depth, comprehensive assessment of your major competitor’s strengths and weaknesses and advice on how to outsell them? If not that, what content would you pay for on the Internet?

Fifty-percent of ESR’s revenues are derived from online sales of our research reports.  As a result, we have an ongoing debate at ESR about “fee versus free” Internet content.  A significant percentage of people we speak with believe they can get any content they want—including what we publish—for free on the Web.  So why should ESR subscribers, Gartner, Wall Street Journal online, Lexis-Nexis, Hoover’s or Consumer Reports subscribers pay for content when 99 percent of what is online is free?

There are three reasons:

First of all, it’s the completeness of the content.  You get to see the front page of Wall Street Journal Online for free.  Want the rest?  Pay.  Consumers Reports gives you information about some products to some level of depth.  Want the rest?  Pay.  Dozens of sales experts continue to write hundreds of articles on selling.  Include me in that group.  Those articles are free.  They’re a form of advertising.  Do we tell the truth?  Sure.  Do will provide you with all you need to know to achieve sales mastery?  No way.  That would require considerably more than anyone could provide in an article or a book.  We charge for that. 

Secondly, it’s the quality of the content.  If you want content from trustworthy and experienced sources that have conducted methodical research, interpretation and analysis and have issued conclusions, recommendations or advice, you’ll likely have to pay for it.  If that’s what you need to run your operation, or buy the right car, or the right ERP package, take out your credit card. Or, hope that the site posting relevant and accurate content is making enough money from paid advertising to support a staff of experts. 

The last reason you’ll need to pay is that you can’t find everything for free on the Internet.  I founded ESR because there was no content available, fee-based or otherwise, that evaluated and compared sales effectiveness programs and the companies that provide them.  If you need what we provide, you’ll have to pay for that as well.

Now that I’m publishing fee-based content, I’m skeptical about what’s free. Some of it is terrific. A lot isn’t—a large percentage of white papers, for example.  To me, free could mean real value, but it could also mean biased, self-serving, incomplete,  one side of the argument or just plain wrong.


4 Responses

  1. Nice post David. The topic is highly interesting and I suppose its hard to definitely answer the question. Probably it varies depending on what your goals are.

    From my personal and at-the-moment point of view (it may change) I don’t think you can be too generous with what you hand out. The reason for this is that the people reading your material may still need help interpreting it or turning theory into practise. Another things is will they have time to read what you write at all or will they still need to hire you to develop and implement a new sales strategy, CRM system or what have you. What your post does is basically to signal that you’re initiated in the subject and most probably can help my firm solving a problem. Then again, this probably varies from case to case.

    Kevin Kelly has written about this http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/01/better_than_fre.php

    And so has Chris Brogan http://www.chrisbrogan.com/am-i-too-naked/.

    Maybe their postings further can help shed some light on this topic.

  2. Though I agree with your article Dave, I would have to point out that the quality of paid content doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in quality. If there is a strong brand, such as the Wall Street Journal then you would assume there is an amount of accountability to a paid service or product, but there are plenty of internet based operations that are geared to selling publications that I would view with as much scepticism as I would the free content.

  3. * Dave, not David

  4. […] charge for attendance?”   Jonathan’s question reminded me of a blog post by another friend, Dave Stein, from several months ago wondering if anyone would pay to read a […]

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