Don’t be afraid to give

Giving away your content can seem counter intuitive. You sell this information. Or you’ve kept this information for only your best clients. Let’s consider how others have made money by giving content away.

Avinash Kaushik published a book that has been translated into six languages. He’s the analytics evangelist for Google. That’s not what sold the book.  The source of the book’s content and one major reason it’s sold so well was Avinash’s blog, Occam’s Razor. I recently attended a webinar where he expressed his initial surprise that people would purchase what they could get for free. And they have.

I’ve attended and recommended seminars by the folks at Adaptive Path because I’ve read their blogs. Do I feel ripped off if they talk about something I’ve already read? No. I feel lucky to dig a little further into a topic or get it in another context.

I listen to This American Life for free via a podcast. And I’ve paid for a CD of past programs that are also available for free.  I paid because I love their work, I want to support them, I wanted stories available to me in another format, and because a CD means more as a gift than does a link to a podcast.

Companies are even successfully selling content they’ve collected from their own customers. A local craft store in my neighborhood collected ideas for craft projects using no more than a yard of fabric. The store owners selected the best ideas submitted, added a few of their own, and are now successfully selling a book with 101 craft ideas. Are their customers angry? No, they’re buying their own copies.

Taking the risk to give away content you’ve always seen as a tradeable commodity often pays off.

It’s a little like sharing on a playground. If you want the other kids to play with you, sometimes you have to let them play with your toys for a while. The other kids are tempted by the free trial, watch how you behave, and then offer their friendship. If you hoard your toys around you, afraid of the bully who might try to take them from you, you’ll never get to play with the other kids. If you don’t share, you appear to be hiding something or just weird and unfriendly. No business today can afford to appear unfriendly.

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