Paid content vs. free content

The top advertisers are also the top content creators. Why? Because content is king, especially when it comes to marketing.

Paid and free refer to the content’s placement—not its creation. Paid content means that you payed to place the content (ads and sponsorships) and free content means you didn’t pay to place the content (news, features, etc. (Whether you pay a business to create content, or you create it in house, you pay for the creation of the content, even when the placement of it is free.)

All publications sell space (inside their magazine/newspaper and in their digital communications), yet all publications “give away” some of this space, that is, they reserve a percentage of their space for non-paid content (news, features, editorials, columns, crosswords, etc.).

It is often significantly cheaper to provide non-paid content than paid content (ads). Ads are paid for twice. You pay once for the space and you pay again to create the content. Even when the cost of creating an ad is included in the price of the ad, the resources needed by the publication to create the ad contributes to the inflated price of paid content. Non-paid content is only paid for once. You only pay for the creation of it.

Non-paid content has several other advantages over paid content.

  • People pay more attention to it. The table of contents for non-paid content is most often in the front of the magazine. The advertiser’s index is most often at the back of the magazine. This is because people love reading stories and learning new things and they don’t love being told what to buy.
  • People put more trust in it. Advertising is always treated as biased. Non-paid content is treated as less biased. Which do you find more convincing? A customer testimonial in a story or a customer testimonial in an ad? The testimonial will probably only play a small part of the story versus being the dominant part of the ad, but is it more powerful.
  • People are more likely to share it. This is so important, because it saves advertising/marketing dollars. This is where creativity and targeted messaging are important. If you can get the audience to invest enough of themselves into your content in order to share it, it could extend your reach exponentially. This benefit extends from traditional publishing to social media.
  • It has a longer life span. An ad placed in a publication will disappear once the next issue comes out. A non-paid content item that you own can be used by multiple magazines and a story can have a “longer life” than and a broader reach than an ad. You can also use it in your own communications.

However, there are several advantages advertising has over non-paid content.

  • Guaranteed placement. It is easy to create an ad that meets a publication’s ad guidelines, which is pretty much the only barrier to placing an ad. Once you do that, your content is in. When you create non-paid content, there is no guarantee that a publication will publish it.
  • Freedom of expression. You have a lot of more freedom to say what you want in an ad. Non-paid content has to meet editorial guidelines, which are stricter than advertising guidelines, and a publication’s editors tend to influence the form and substance of non-paid content, which can seriously interfere with your desired messaging. You also don’t see a lot of contact information in non-paid content.

Contact me to discuss this topic or non-paid content opportunities for your business.

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