Your Content Has to Be Better Than Free – So Why Don’t You Act Like It?

The speed-of-information-age has allowed us to access data better than ever before and has completely programmed us to expect everything* for free. Our music should be free. Our TV and movie entertainment should be free. Our news, and all other information should be free. Pay for a newspaper subscription? What are you, a Rockefeller? That app costs $1.99? Pshhht. That’s ridiculous. There has to be a free version.

Why? Because we deserve it.

What’s even worse is that monetarily free isn’t enough for us anymore. We expect not to spend any of our time either. We hate advertising. We get upset over having to wait five seconds so we can click the Skip button on a YouTube ad. In fact, we hate “wasting” our time so much that we’ll pay money in order to keep from enduring the interminable fifteen seconds of aural assault that is a Spotify ad.

Now, some of you who are slow to accept constructive criticism are saying, “But it’s not free. I’m paying for Internet access, aren’t I? I should be able to download as many Torrent files as I want.” The rest of you who have already agreed with me are thinking, “Okay, true, but what does any of this have to do with marketing, media outreach or content strategy?”

This: Your free content is no longer good enough. We’ve come to expect free content. We’ve also come to expect it to suck. Whether it does or not, that’s how many people feel, which leads to the next point.

“The free pool is . . . full of crap” —Danielle Look

I don’t have a television, partly because I don’t think I need one, and partly because I expect things for free. As a result, my wife and I watch episodes of shows online a day (sometimes a week and a day) after they air on TV. I don’t mind waiting — which probably shows that I often value money more than my time — but what I DO mind is that the quality of online shows is horrible. They’re often glitchy, slow to load and grainy.

But I still watch them. Because they’re free. But that age-old adage still stands: You get what you pay for.

Although businesses and content creators have come to accept that they have to offer things at no cost, they often ignore the fact that what they offer is pretty crappy. However, the vast majority of web publishers and bloggers out there recognize it for what it is. Nearly all of the hundreds of guest post submissions they get each day are junk, so they figure anyone who has something that’s really worth publishing wouldn’t mind paying to have their “sponsored” post published.

There are always exceptions to the rule, however. And YOUR free content is that diamond in the rough. But how are you to convince the jaded masses?

Content promotion, paid promotion and converged media

As more and more content is added to the World Wide Web daily, many marketers are expecting a content marketing collapse. As Mark W. Schaefer wrote in his Content Shock piece, the economics of content is no different from true economics. The rapid, exponential increase of content on the web will rocket past our ability to consume said content. This results in companies and agencies having to PAY more and more for their content to be consumed, the cost benefit flips, and those who can afford it will win.

The days of building an audience simply through blogging are over. The days of getting a guest post published as a piece of earned media are coming to an end. As marketers, we have to leave our expectations of “free” at home.

I’m not talking about pay-to-play. I’m talking about getting used to the idea of paying to have your content promoted. And when you do get those juicy earned media pieces published, throw a little coin at them for social promotion.

Luckily, we at DigitalRelevance are ready for the shift to content promotion. By helping you and your company create amazing content that solves a problem, which is still THE most important piece of the puzzle, we also help find places and audiences who want to be involved in your conversation. Then we help push those messages through the social channels, in turn gaining truly organic, quality backlinks as well as increases in traffic.

We call it our contribution strategy. Earned, owned and converged media all working in tandem for you. And it works.

So, forget everything you thought you knew (or at least most of it) about “if you build it they will come.” As much as our freeloading selves hate it, content marketing costs money, time and effort to get in front of the eyes that matter, or in other words, your audience.

* Obviously everything is an exaggeration, but please allow me some colorful language. It’s all I have in this world.