Getting People to Pay for Content You Give Away for Free

By Charlotte Abbott, DBW contributor, @charabbott

A novel approach for publishers interested in building their brands: Give away content for free.

Book publishers, imprints and brands should market themselves by using new media and social media channels to talk to their audiences about relevant areas of interest, according to a panel today at the Digital Book World Marketing Summit in New York.

Essentially, “content marketing,” as popularized in part by the efforts of the Content Marketing Institute, a Cleveland-based firm that helps marketers build their own media channels, is marketing that uses storytelling to help sell a brand. The Content Marketing Institute has built a community of companies that have revised their marketing strategies to focus on sharing content online – and substantially increased their marketing budgets in this area.

The strategy is to turn engaged readers into paying customers.

Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi spoke at the Digital Book World Marketing Summit in a session called Capturing and Dominating Your Market with Content Marketing. Pulizzi recommends that savvy marketers cede the territory of big niches to big companies – like Proctor and Gamble’s websites targeting adult women (; adolescent girls ( and men between the ages of 25 and 50 ( Better to talk to people with a less popular topic of interested: Get “super niche” – like, a site with information and blog posts for people who want to work from anywhere, created by remote work software companies GoToMeeting and Citrix.

One way to determine popular but underserved niches is to use the Google Keyword Tool, which allows users to research popular keywords and find ones with low and medium numbers of search results. Google Trends can also show which keywords are trending up.

E-books are also a key part of Pulizzi’s content development and distribution strategy. He developed his CMI Content Marketing Playbook over six months, involving more than 50 influencers in his community. While writing and producing the book, he repackaged parts of it as blog posts, and for sharing on sites like Slideshare, Facebook, and Linked In. Pulizzi generated high interest with a teaser for the e-book, Predictions: Social Media and Content Marketing – Predictions for 2012, when it was featured as the “slide of the day” on Including an excerpt from the book, contributor spotlights and embedded links, Predictions generated thousands of downloads and brought in several pieces of consulting work to CMI.

For publishers, who have long been in the paid content business, the trick is getting people to pay for something once they’ve been given a taste for free.

Write to Charlotte Abbott

3 thoughts on “Getting People to Pay for Content You Give Away for Free

  1. Crafty Mama

    The article title had nothing to do with the article itself. In the article, you said, “Give away content for free,” “The strategy is to turn engaged readers into paying customers,” and “the trick is getting people to pay for something once they’ve been given a taste for free.” All you did was put the title into the article 3 times. Please write a post explaining how you get people to pay for your content! That’s the reason people are clicking on this article.

    Thank you.

  2. Luis Peazê

    Courtesy from Clinica Literaria, the agenda of the dbw conference & expo 2012 in ePub format at Comes with the TOC feature to access the exact time of certain presentation or event within the show, indexed by Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 download now into your eReader or Tablet, keep your self ontime and enjoy the show in loco or remotely. Cheers!

  3. Amanda

    I think it is interesting that shortly after I clicked on this article, I saw that the discussion at the Romance panel had turned to how readers are suspicious of free and lower priced content. At least in the romance genres, readers equate lower prices with lower quality or very short pieces. So not only do publishers want to move away from cheapening their content, but some consumers may be moving the demand away from it as well.



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *