Exclusive Blog Content: Spark of Genius or Flash of Insanity?

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.

Given that bloggers like David Risley, James Richmond, and others who’ve gone this route have generally been blogging a lot longer than me, I’m curious as to why they think it’s a good idea.

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?

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35 Responses to Exclusive Blog Content: Spark of Genius or Flash of Insanity?

  1. Katie Tallo May 26, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

    Interesting question. By the way, your writing style rocks and your humour, humility and fascination with blogging, and desire to help other bloggers really is what I call exclusive content. But I digress. Bottomline, I hate feeling like I'm being sold. Even some of the most fascinating bloggers out there, need to watch how much they push, sell and tease with their exclusive content. It gets tiresome in a world where everything's a sell, every newspaper article is really about some new product or book disguised as the latest news. I'm sick of begin consumed by ads and offers and stuff that will change my life if I just pay up. That's what's so great about blogs. There are so many that are free and fabulous. I go around and around on this, but as a new blogger, I will tread carefully and thoughtfully before moving my blog in new directions towards exclusive content, but likely I'll do it in some form or another. Hey, we've all gotta eat. This post will keep me thinking for some time. Thanks Jean. As always, insightful.

  2. virginbloggernotes May 26, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

    Thanks for your kind words, Katie. I definitely support the “got to eat” philosophy too so am always on the alert for ways to feed myself while feeding readers too. To me, free blog content is a “test drive” for products I'll eventually create and sell. An established blogger may already have a waiting list for their products, so I can see exclusive content making sense then.

  3. Brandon Connell May 26, 2010 at 3:18 pm #

    Funny because I am known to give people the finger in restaurants. I think though that if you have a balance of free and paid content, then it wouldn't be a problem. As long as you advertised it as such. It is ok for example that ProBlogger has all the free info, then the paid services such as job listings and forum.

  4. virginbloggernotes May 26, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    Well, remind me to watch myself if I ever serve you in a restaurant, Brandon :)

    I'm definitely in agreement with having paid services on the blog accessed via the navigation bar, etc. And I don't think there's anything “wrong” with paid/restricted content overall. A big part of my hangup is that I do remember stumbling around looking for info. and think how intimidating it would have been to run into that. Just one more thing when you're already feeling overwhelmed. Anther part though is that I keep thinking . . . what if instead of spending so much time dreaming up ways to get people on email lists we put that energy into creating something so amazing so they would BEG to be on our lists? Okay, I've probably had too much coffee :)

  5. Angela Artemis May 26, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    Hi Jean,
    I have to agree with Katie here. I'm also a newbie and there many, many techniques I'd like to master, but when I feel like I'm being sold I do walk away. I also don't have the time to pay and listen to all these teleseminars or products, etc. from so many probloggers. I think you have to pick one or two “gurus” to follow and stick to them.

    If some guru wants to offer exclusive content and I'm not one of their followers than so be it. If I were one of his/her followers I might pay for it if I thought it was worth it though.

    Jean, thanks for this interesting post. I think I'll just follow your advice from now on! I feel as if I “know, trust & like you.”

  6. virginbloggernotes May 26, 2010 at 6:25 pm #

    You hit on something about “guru's” there, Angela. When I first started out (like it's all that long ago haha) I was listening to everyone and everything and going nuts trying to take it all in. It helped me a TON to get clear on my own values and philosophies and then seek out “guru's” who seemed to model those things. That's why Leo and Mary resonate with me so much now. They're successful in business but their heads and hearts are in the right place. They'd have a cow if they knew they were being referred to as “guru's,” wouldn't they? :)

  7. Hulbert May 26, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    Hi Jean, I agree with some of the other commentors here. I'm not really a big fan of exclusive content, because it feels like the blogger is hiding something from their readers. But then again, if it's a blogger than I know has worked really hard and that I can trust, I wouldn't mind paying for something that I believe is valuable. So yeah… that's just my two cents. Nice new blog layout by the way. :)

  8. Kaizenvision May 26, 2010 at 8:24 pm #

    Thought provoking article! I'm on the fence about it, but that's because I'm still new to the blogosphere.

    When I feel a need and I see the value in subscribing to something, and if it's affordable to me, I will at least try it as long as I can cancel. If it provides incredible value and it's affordable, then I stay. That's just me as a consumer.

    Is it genius or insane…I'm not sure. That's part of what makes this genius article so thought provoking.

  9. Scott Barron May 26, 2010 at 9:30 pm #

    Free test drive (free content is always great).

    What I notice myself feeling & wondering is the “difference”, or “level of content” based on what price? Do most of us feel we are “gettng” something more when we pay? Don't we “expect” something more? Expect the answers? Expect to stop searching?

    What is the price of success & can you be successful for free?
    Yes, I'm very cautious with spending money & fight a daily battle of “you have to spend money to make money”.

  10. matthewneedham May 26, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

    I'm glad you took a break from gardening to share this Jean keep up the good work!

  11. Sally_Neill May 26, 2010 at 10:35 pm #

    Hey Jean, I wouldn't give my email but that's just me.

    Don't know if you ever listen to any webinars, but they are pretty much giving away some juicy stuff on the call to sucker punch you at the end with a high priced item for sale.

    I don't know why I seem to expect to receive everything for free now, I think maybe it's a bad habit I have to kick.

    It's weird because I don't want to pay for written content such as ebooks, but I am happy to pay for a piece of software, not quick sure why I think that way, I think it's because I have bought so much rubbish content, but anytime I buy software it delivers on it's promise.

    Great post as always, your content always takes my thinking to another level,

    Speak soon, Sally :)

  12. virginbloggernotes May 27, 2010 at 12:28 am #

    Thanks, Hulbert. It's always good to see you here, and I'll take your two cents whenever you're willing to give it :) I'm the same way, once I know someone. I definitely have a soft spot for other bloggers.

  13. virginbloggernotes May 27, 2010 at 12:35 am #

    The fence is sometimes a good place to be because you're higher up where it's easier to see both sides. It's when we're on the ground that we can get too rooted in our opinions. Gee, maybe I should take up philosophy if this blogging thing doesn't work out :)

    Hey, did I forget to tell you than Jean is short for Jeanious?? Okay, I'll stop now. Really I will. Haha.

  14. virginbloggernotes May 27, 2010 at 12:49 am #

    It will be interesting to watch this and see if it catches on and grows. And then the question would be, at what point do newer/intermediate level bloggers give it a try? The first one to figure that out based on page views/subscribers, etc. will definitely have something worth charging for!

    As to the money spending issues, I have completely blown my training budget for '10 and won't be buying any more books or courses unless God writes a blogging book.

  15. virginbloggernotes May 27, 2010 at 12:56 am #

    I have listened to tons of webinars, Sally, and continue to be amazed at the value in some of those sessions. In addition to being addicted to blogging, I'm a personal development/coaching junkie so have gotten in some great webinars there too. I mean, really . . . . spending time chatting with Wayne Dyer, Jack Canfield, etc., for free??? Who can even believe it? We definitely are spoiled!

    I've had to limit my learning time A LOT recently though because I realized I need to spend much more time in the front row of the “School of Doing the Work.” Hope I get a good grade :)

  16. virginbloggernotes May 27, 2010 at 1:00 am #

    We've got a whole row set aside for tomatoes, Matthew :) Actually, I spent hours away today enjoying the beautiful day and running errands with my hubby.

  17. mark May 27, 2010 at 1:45 am #

    Hi Jean,

    I think Scott makes a great point – the cost of a product, whatever it is, should be relative to the true value that the purchaser receives. If someone purchases something from a site and the product does not live up the expectations based on the price and previous experience with the site, that could be very bad. So, careful estimation of value seems paramount to creating a pricing scheme for a product or line.

    Then again, that could just be wild speculation.

    Have a great day!

  18. virginbloggernotes May 27, 2010 at 2:13 am #

    Ahhh, bring on the wild speculation please :)

    I'd probably end up with a bad case of performance anxiety (I don't really know what that is, but it sounds severe), if I had to pump out blog content that was “better” for some people, plus still produce “regular” content for the rest of the readers. Good Lord, it gives me a headache just thinking about it.

  19. stayingcalm May 27, 2010 at 3:54 am #

    Producing exclusive content is a great way for established bloggers to create income and to nurture loyal followers. People will pay for exclusivity. However, you need to convince them that what they are about to receive will be worth the cost. If, for example, a blogger has a successful, free-to-access site that has a large fan base, then the addition of exclusive content could be feasible. The blogger continues to produce free work which will advertise their worth, all the while producing extra that people need to pay to access.

  20. darrenlcarter May 27, 2010 at 4:53 am #

    Hey Jean,

    Really interesting post. I'm just getting into all this blogging stuff and I didn't even realize this kind of exclusive content was out there.

    I think making stuff exclusive will work really well on a certain segment of people visiting but none at all for others. I personally wouldn't pay to get any of the content I saw on those sites you linked to but I could understand why some might.

    Peace,
    Darren L Carter

  21. virginbloggernotes May 27, 2010 at 5:44 am #

    You're definitely right that some people will pay for exclusivity. They'll also pay extra for the word, 'premium.' A lot of factory workers laugh about this because they produce the same product and then it's packaged and priced differently for different brands/stores. Same product, but people will pay far more for that premium label. Lord, I hope I'm not that gullible, but I probably am.

  22. virginbloggernotes May 27, 2010 at 6:05 am #

    Hi Darren. Your reaction is especially interesting to me because you're newer to blogging. My gut tells me your reaction, and the way I would have reacted in the first days of blogging, is probably pretty typical. Then again, those readers might come back later on after they've gotten familiar with the industry and hear through the grapevine that these guys aren't scam artists. A first impression can be hard to forget though.

  23. virginbloggernotes May 27, 2010 at 6:05 am #

    Hi Darren. Your reaction is especially interesting to me because you're newer to blogging. My gut tells me your reaction, and the way I would have reacted in the first days of blogging, is probably pretty typical. Then again, those readers might come back later on after they've gotten familiar with the industry and hear through the grapevine that these guys aren't scam artists. A first impression can be hard to forget though.

  24. virginbloggernotes May 27, 2010 at 6:05 am #

    Hi Darren. Your reaction is especially interesting to me because you're newer to blogging. My gut tells me your reaction, and the way I would have reacted in the first days of blogging, is probably pretty typical. Then again, those readers might come back later on after they've gotten familiar with the industry and hear through the grapevine that these guys aren't scam artists. A first impression can be hard to forget though.

  25. Kaizenvision May 27, 2010 at 7:34 am #

    At the risk of your feet lifting off the ground, I dare say, Jean might be short for Jeanious – your writing is truly genius.

  26. Karen May 27, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    Hi Jean,

    Very interesting article and discussion here. I've read the comment and would agree with most of them. One thing that bothers me is not so much the selling, it's when I visit sites directly or in my RSS Feed and got hooked by the catchy title but when I read further, the contents are behind a paywall or you need to opt-in to actually view the video. If a site has too many posts where I can't even access the content, I'm unsubscribing for sure.

    I have no problem paying for quality stuff, but it turns me off when I see sites have their main page broadcasting exclusive content without knowing what to texpect.

  27. virginbloggernotes May 27, 2010 at 5:49 pm #

    Our feelings are pretty similar on this, Karen. I'm generous with my credit card (okay, not so much anymore since blowing my training budget . . . ) when it comes to buying quality products, but I really don't like feeling like I'm getting “hooked” or “lured” by exclusive content titles and then getting cut off.

  28. Sally_Neill May 27, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    Hi Jean, I love webinars too, and today I discovered podcasts, gold help me, I will get no productive work done at this rate. Please tell me about any webinars you know of, I cant believe you have been on calls with Jack Canfield that's amazing! Sally :)

  29. virginbloggernotes May 28, 2010 at 4:07 am #

    Step away from the podcasts, Sally. Step away, while you still have a chance . . . :)

  30. Anna Haller May 28, 2010 at 6:53 am #

    Hi Jean,

    I am a new blogger and just like you said I wouldn't want to opt-in to all these blogs just to get information that they weren't willing to share with me without my email. I would actually be turned off by it.

    With that said you listed some good pros and cons that I took into consideration which makes sense. I guess people would be willing to opt-in to exclusive content if they did it with someone that is already established and well known as they have a loyal following already. But in this case it should be opposite, if they are well known and have made it already so to speak they should want to offer as much good and valuable content as they can without making it exclusive.

    When it comes down to it, it all depends on the end user and what their personal preferences are. Some will and some won't and people doing exclusive content know this. It's a numbers game.

    Anna

  31. virginbloggernotes May 28, 2010 at 5:10 pm #

    Hi Anna, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I do think we get a little more relaxed about being open to different marketing methods as we start getting more comfortable with the world of blogging and internet marketing. I can see where the niche would make a big difference too though. What works for advertising on a 'make money online' site probably wouldn't work well at all on a site based on simplicity or pet training, etc.

  32. k0zm0zs0ul May 28, 2010 at 5:12 pm #

    I think you nailed it perfectly. It likely wouldn't work as well for newer blogs, because they simply haven't built up the current numbers high enough yet, to both be seen as 'credible' enough for random visitors to WANT exclusive content from… and it's a sure bet that it does scare quite a few new people away who might otherwise have stayed to engage and move on to become a loyal reader. But for more established blogs I can see it as a good way to monetize current traffic, or build a list with current traffic and readers.

  33. Peter Carr May 28, 2010 at 6:29 pm #

    Hi Jean,
    First time to your blog (sorry).
    Very interesting article. For me personally i would give my e-mail if i think it's worth it. Having said that i do have a gmail account especially for that sort of thing. Keeps it all seperate.As for spending money, i have been down that road. Cost me a fortune. So no to paying.
    Great Blog.
    Enjoy your summer.
    Pete

  34. virginbloggernotes May 28, 2010 at 11:42 pm #

    I'll forgive you for never being here before, Peter, but just don't let it happen again :) I have a friend who slightly alters her gmail address when she signs up for a new email list. That way she has an easy way to keep track of people who sell her email address. Which reminds me, I need to switch everything over to gmail myself soon. Thanks for stopping by, and have a great weekend!

  35. virginbloggernotes May 28, 2010 at 11:50 pm #

    Well, considering how much my free content scares people sometimes, maybe I would be doing the world a favor by blocking off a bit of it where people can't trip over it so easily. :)

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