Before I get ramped up, let’s make sure we’re on the same page.
First, here’s what I’m NOT talking about when I say ‘exclusive blog content.’ I’m not talking about membership sites, ebooks, forums, or courses that require an email address or payment to access.
No, what I’m talking about is when an information-hungry reader lands on a blog, starts nibbling on a juicy title or the first succulent morsels of an astoundingly delicious post, only to run smack dab into a message that says “Hold it right there, pal! Not one more bite of this amazing goodness for you til you hand over your email address or credit card number.”
Now, pretend for a moment that this hungry reader is you. Suddenly, your feast–a feast traditionally served up free of charge–has been snatched away and placed just beyond your reach, forcing you to make a choice:
Will you agree to this abrupt change of terms, finish the meal you started, and enjoy future access to more of the same?
Or, will you practice some middle finger calisthenics while showing yourself to the door?
After all, there’s an attractive restaurant across the street offering free, fresh, all-you-can-eat content. Sure, there’s a charge if you order ebooks, courses, and membership programs from the dessert menu, but that’s no big deal. Every restaurant in town operates that way.
Decision time . . .
You slide back your chair . . . .
Credit card or middle finger?
Which will it be?
While the above scenario might be a hair over the top, is it really that far off the mark from a reader’s standpoint?
Let’s face it, readers come to blogs expecting a buffet of free content. Whether they arrive from a search engine, through word of mouth, or via social media, it’s the quality of the free content that makes them settle in long enough to appreciate the ambiance of the place. Maybe they’ll buy something from the dessert menu on that first visit, but chances are they’ll want to drop in a few times before they feel comfortable enough to do that. Of course, some folks never will get around to ordering dessert, but they’ll tell their friends and family to stop in, and there’s bound to be a few sweet-lovers in that bunch.
And that’s how things work. Or at least it was how things worked until some bloggers started labeling certain posts as exclusive content.
Granted, I could just ask them, but that would blow my chance to engage in wild speculation, and we all know how much I like that
Anyway, when I ponder the reasons a blogger might think posting exclusive content is a good idea, here’s what I come up with:
- They ran the numbers, which showed the truly insane thing would be not testing this out.
- They figure if they start doing it, other bloggers will follow suit, and eventually it will become the new ‘normal.’
- They think this lets them identify prospective buyers more quickly, so they can focus more effort on that group.
- Whether the idea is a winner or loser, loyal readers will likely applaud their maverick style and love them all the more.
- They’re counting on the fact that withholding something or labeling it as exclusive can trigger a strong desire to obtain that item.
- They know that the world’s greatest advances usually come from ideas others dismiss as insane.
Now, those are all ‘spark of genius’ reasons for posting exclusive content, but still, my mind keeps wandering back to our hungry reader, which makes me think about all the ways this falls into the ‘flash of insanity’ category:
- Skittish new visitors might bolt because they mistake the blog for a snakey marketing site.
- Existing readers in a financial bind might feel abandoned.
- Some prospective purchasers have a strong belief that all blog content should be free and are haters to anyone who says otherwise.
- Exclusive content limits the number of posts available for sharing, so social media traffic could take a hit.
- Readers who ponied up email addresses and credit card numbers now expect content above and beyond typical blog post standards and will feel cheated by anything less.
Chances are I missed a lot on both the pro and the con lists, but that’s okay.
Because I don’t need to look at a list to know posting exclusive blog content is a flat-out insane idea for any newish blogger who wants to massively grow their readership.
Then again, I could be wrong.
All I really know for sure is that as a new blogger, I spent a lot of time on the blogs I linked to in this post, back when all of their content was free. Once I got to know and trust those guys through their content, I gladly opted in to their email lists, and later, entered my credit card numbers for products that have delighted me. And, because I’m a subscriber and current customer, I have access to their exclusive blog content and consider it top-notch stuff from top notch people who I’m glad to know.
Which is probably the real reason I got to thinking about all this in the first place.
Because the truth is, if I’d stepped into this exclusive content thing on their sites back when I was a nervous virgin blogger, I would have been out of there in a blink.
But, that’s just me.
What do you think? Is posting exclusive blog content a spark of genius or a flash of insanity?