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3 Ways To Give Away Content Online (And Still Make Money)

There was a great billboard that the agency I used to work for in Sydney several years ago had created for the launch of Virgin Mobile in Australia. At the time, the other telcos were starting to charge for every feature, so the billboard promoted Virgin’s new offering with the declaration – "Voicemail is like sex, you shouldn’t have to pay for it." Today, that joke/truth could be equally applied to how people feel about online content. In the age of peer to peer music sharing and ease of cutting and pasting, getting people to actually pay for content is a tough challenge.

There are, however, three models that I’ve seen used on various sites that do work. To be clear, I’m not talking about monetizing content. There are lots of ways to fund content creation through selling advertising or capturing profile data for a sales cycle. This post is about getting some to pay directly for content that you’re creating. In fact, having this arrangement means that you can be more selective about the advertising you accept, or choose to forego it altogether. So here they are:

  1. Partial Access | Full Access. The simplest example of this is music download sites that let you get a 30 second sample of a song, but not the entire thing. I’m using a similar technique to market Personality Not Included by offering several sample excerpts in various spots online. Essentially, partial access can work if you have the type of content where someone can view a part of it and find enough value to be willing to pay for the rest.
  2. Standard Version | High Def Version. A good example of this is last night’s release of the television show 24 with Kiefer Sutherland, and how they will be offering a "Director’s Cut" version on DVD this Tuesday. Aside from realizing the viral nature of the show, the DVD promises an inside look at the rest of the season. In other words, it’s an enhanced version of the 2 hour premiere with bonus content. Again, offering a reason for people to want to purchase the expanded version even if they had already seen the whole episode for free.
  3. Limited Time | Archive. The site that uses this technique to great effect is MarketingSherpa. All the new articles published on the site are free to read for the first 2 weeks, and then they become part of an archive that you need to pay to access. UPDATE: MarketingProfs uses this technique similarly by offering users free access for a limited time to their vast collection of case studies and resources. Many newspapers and other media properties are also starting to use this method, realizing that their archives are worth something to people who need a particular type of information.

Have you discovered any other techniques for giving away content online and still being able to make money on it?  Let me know and I’ll update the list above with your example.

49 thoughts on “3 Ways To Give Away Content Online (And Still Make Money)”

  1. this is GREAT..
    I have been thinking about starting a membership based site for almost a year now and Just keep putting it off ..

    because of this article I think I now know how to actualy make money for my knowledge

    THANK YOU

    Reply
  2. this is GREAT..
    I have been thinking about starting a membership based site for almost a year now and Just keep putting it off ..

    because of this article I think I now know how to actualy make money for my knowledge

    THANK YOU

    Reply
  3. Great post Rohit. I would also add repackaging to this list. Many traditional media companies still show healthy revenue streams by taking free content and repackaging it into company-specific custom versions, or “best of” packages. I believe the Harvard Business Review has done this for years with their special reprint offers, such as leadership or growth.

    I would recommend this type of tactic for those going after larger corporations and leveraging content that works best for human resources or internal communications vehicles.

    Best
    Joe

    Reply
  4. Great post Rohit. I would also add repackaging to this list. Many traditional media companies still show healthy revenue streams by taking free content and repackaging it into company-specific custom versions, or “best of” packages. I believe the Harvard Business Review has done this for years with their special reprint offers, such as leadership or growth.

    I would recommend this type of tactic for those going after larger corporations and leveraging content that works best for human resources or internal communications vehicles.

    Best
    Joe

    Reply
  5. Another example exists within the video game industry. For most massively multiplayer online games (MMOs), a consumer is able to download a free trial and play the game for a few days without having a subscription. Another video game example that exists is how the developers of Spore used crowdsourcing techniques to populate their game with content. In a mutually beneficial move, the creators released a “Creature Creator” that allowed users to design and develop millions of creatures using the Spore game engines. Gamers were able to experience the groundbreaking game before its release and experiment with the gameplay, while the game developers had almost instant access to more content than they could ever have created themselves.

    These examples could potentially be included in the partial access / full access category, but I think they are differentiated enough to merit their own category.

    An example of a free MMO trial:
    https://www.blizzard.com/store/details.xml?id=11000

    An article with statistics on the success of the “Creature Creator:”
    https://aha-moments.com/2008/07/engagement-marketing-spore-creature-creator-update/

    The Spore game site:
    https://www.spore.com/

    note: I had to remove the active html links because TypePad thought this post was spam.

    Reply
  6. Another example exists within the video game industry. For most massively multiplayer online games (MMOs), a consumer is able to download a free trial and play the game for a few days without having a subscription. Another video game example that exists is how the developers of Spore used crowdsourcing techniques to populate their game with content. In a mutually beneficial move, the creators released a “Creature Creator” that allowed users to design and develop millions of creatures using the Spore game engines. Gamers were able to experience the groundbreaking game before its release and experiment with the gameplay, while the game developers had almost instant access to more content than they could ever have created themselves.

    These examples could potentially be included in the partial access / full access category, but I think they are differentiated enough to merit their own category.

    An example of a free MMO trial:
    https://www.blizzard.com/store/details.xml?id=11000

    An article with statistics on the success of the “Creature Creator:”
    https://aha-moments.com/2008/07/engagement-marketing-spore-creature-creator-update/

    The Spore game site:
    https://www.spore.com/

    note: I had to remove the active html links because TypePad thought this post was spam.

    Reply
  7. I feel that you have been reading my mind because for the past few days, as an emerging author (and blogger) I’ve been brainstorming ways to add value to my readers while striking a win-win. In other words, how do I give something and keep some for me too – so that the deal is sustainable. Your post has answered my questions!

    Reply
  8. I feel that you have been reading my mind because for the past few days, as an emerging author (and blogger) I’ve been brainstorming ways to add value to my readers while striking a win-win. In other words, how do I give something and keep some for me too – so that the deal is sustainable. Your post has answered my questions!

    Reply
  9. All GREAT ideas. Do you like the “Buy me a Beer” links for Blog posts? I will developing a training session on Quikonnex, a great way to blog or write in RSS without even knowing you are doing it. Others have found it a way to monetize their products by charging for access to their channels.

    What ever works, Right?
    Marianne

    Reply
  10. All GREAT ideas. Do you like the “Buy me a Beer” links for Blog posts? I will developing a training session on Quikonnex, a great way to blog or write in RSS without even knowing you are doing it. Others have found it a way to monetize their products by charging for access to their channels.

    What ever works, Right?
    Marianne

    Reply
  11. Great information! There are so many ways to generate revenue from your blog and/or website, but most people are so confused as to how to do it. One of the most important things, of course, is ensuring you have a website with software integrated into it that will allow you to take advantage of all the possibilities. Keep educating the public, you’re information is very helpful.

    Reply
  12. Thank you brother. See I am so confused like u say.I have come across SBI from ken evoy. He seems to have everything in one package. But my problem is that I cannot get started.I start reading and then go away.It’s been happening for 5 years now.And I still haven’t started yet.
    O gosh! it gets me so frustrated.

    Reply
  13. Thank you brother. See I am so confused like u say.I have come across SBI from ken evoy. He seems to have everything in one package. But my problem is that I cannot get started.I start reading and then go away.It’s been happening for 5 years now.And I still haven’t started yet.
    O gosh! it gets me so frustrated.

    Reply
  14. These are GREAT tips for someone interested in starting up a membership site. Great ideas!

    Because writing articles is vital in Internet Marketing, using the correct tools becomes just as vital. It is due to this that I settle for nothing but the best and Article Creator Review reviews all available article creators online. Check out the reviews and get tips on how to create articles that are valuable for your visitors.

    Reply
  15. These are GREAT tips for someone interested in starting up a membership site. Great ideas!

    Because writing articles is vital in Internet Marketing, using the correct tools becomes just as vital. It is due to this that I settle for nothing but the best and Article Creator Review reviews all available article creators online. Check out the reviews and get tips on how to create articles that are valuable for your visitors.

    Reply
  16. “You’re About To Learn The Exact Methods I Used To Go From Deeply In Debt And Working At A Job Barely Scraping By To Making Over $580,000 Net In Just One Year Selling Public Domain Works!”

    Reply
  17. I enjoy internet marketing. Developing relationships builds business through networking, advertising, learning & teaching others. I enjoyed reading your blog about 3 ways to give away content on line and still make money. You jusst have to have something that someone wants and is willing to part with something they have, money. I think that most of the sales copy I see uses the 3 Patrial Access / Full Access – Standard Version / High Def Version – Limited Time/ Archive. I see things just flat given away for free to gain affiliates and future sales. I think its probably a form of all three.

    Reply
  18. Nice post! Thumbs up. Another method to make some extra money online is to offer your best digital photos so-called image banks with stockphotos. Companies can draw from the images to be used for example in advertisements, magazines, leaflets or on websites, in short in their campaigns. You get paid when your image is downloaded.

    Reply
  19. Nice post! Thumbs up. Another method to make some extra money online is to offer your best digital photos so-called image banks with stockphotos. Companies can draw from the images to be used for example in advertisements, magazines, leaflets or on websites, in short in their campaigns. You get paid when your image is downloaded.

    Reply
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  22. That is true. I see alot of the partial/full access sites now days. Although isnt there some form of lock you can put on your work so you cant copy. My friend did it once a while back. Ill have to ask her and let you guys know.

    Nice post anyways, and thanks for sharing :).

    Reply
  23. That is true. I see alot of the partial/full access sites now days. Although isnt there some form of lock you can put on your work so you cant copy. My friend did it once a while back. Ill have to ask her and let you guys know.

    Nice post anyways, and thanks for sharing :).

    Reply
  24. Last few days I was searching for ways to make money by giving away content. Actually I have in my possession few good quality articles which can be used to make some money by selling it online. I am not sure how to sell those stuff. Do you have any idea Rohit how to sell those articles.

    At the last I must appreciate that your post is unique and I find it very useful for the people who like to take it that way. Congratulation on your success and hard work. With Blessing, Money Maker.

    Reply

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A keynote speaker on trends, innovation, marketing, storytelling and diversity.

Rohit Bhargava is on a mission to inspire more non-obvious thinking in the world. He is the #1 Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of eight books and is widely considered one of the most entertaining and original speakers on disruption, trends and marketing in the world.

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