Does Free Content Equal Cheap Content?

Often, the distribution model for online content is to offer it for free. If content is good enough, it’s assumed audiences will pay for it. However, a look at the music industry and its struggles with piracy might suggest otherwise.

Last Friday The Guardian’s Helienne Lindvall wrote a post “Why piracy is perpetuating plastic pop” that suggests that since there is now a built-in expectation to have music for free, “authentic” artists have to demand more attention among “manufactured pop.”

Massive Attack’s 3D told the BBC how frightening it was to see the total amount of downloads on unlicensed sites: “What does that actually mean for the future. It will cheapen music eventually. And it forces the business to take more drastic action, and I think that compromises the bands and the listeners out there.”

Content strategy can either fall into promotion for a brand or could be a major component of the business model itself. While a content marketer wants their content consumed, do they do so at the price of cheapening their content?

When following a model where audiences get a free preview and then expected to pay for the rest (the NY Times paywall, iTunes, limited trial on Hootsuite), the company has inadvertently created a demand for their product (the content) but has limited the means of which audiences can get it.

What happens next? In terms of the music industry, piracy. For a content marketer, it could mean audiences go elsewhere.

Research from Pew has proved that People Crave Free, Digital News and traditional newspapers need to engage with audiences like never before in order to keep audiences.

However, content marketers can keep audiences around by delivering their brand promise through their content and truly listening to their audiences through social.

Image courtesy of kldy/shutterstock

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