Getting People to Pay for Content You Give Away for Free By Charlotte Abbott

Posted on January 26, 2012


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.

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