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Customized Online Media: How You Respond to F-R-E-E

| March 31, 2011 More

As the worlds of digital, mobile and offline advertising become more integrated, advertisers and media owners are having to come up with new ways to get their content in front of consumers as well as track down potential leads. One of the tactics that has proved successful in recent years is offering online users certain pieces of key content for free. Many sites now offer their services for free, including all the major players such as Facebook and YouTube, and are supported financially by advertising revenue.


However, the market is now so full with media owners providing content for free that an important question is often asked: is free content the way forward for the industry and do users even respect and value content that comes with no price tag?

The Price of Free

More and more consumers are beginning to walk away from content that is perceived as free. As the market of free grows and more advertisers use it to drive their businesses forward, consumers are beginning to understand that even if something is free, there will ultimately be a price to pay for it later.

Even something as simple as an email address is often asked for in exchange for free content and while there may not be a monetary sum on the content consumers are accessing, it does allow media owners to contact them in the future.

As any online marketer will tell you, the real money lies in having a highly targeted list of customers potentially willing to buy your products in the future.

The Value of Free

Consumers are also beginning to question the value of something that they get for free. Something that is free, even if it is online content, can be judged almost as being worthless.

As a society that completes transactions financially and trades goods based on their monetary worth, the idea of free content comes with two large problems for consumers:

1) that even the owners of the content themselves do not judge it to be worth anything and thus are giving it away


2) that nobody else is willing to pay for the content, making it worthless.

The Future of Free

Free content is generally better accepted when it is offered as part of a more complete offer that will eventually cost consumers money. Users are more willing to accept that at least a taste of the future offer is free because it gives them faith in the advertiser’s intention to eventually charge them — in short, it reinstates the status quo that something worth having is worth paying for.

One good way for media owners to do this is by combining free content with a paid offer, as vacation rental firm HomeAway has recently done. The company launched an app allowing users to edit their own customized HomeAway commercial for free. This is great for branding and also allows the user to have a fun and unique experience with the company- something that will stick out in their minds when looking for a rental company in the future.

Striking the right balance between free and valuable content can be difficult for today’s brand advertisers. So, how do you respond to free content and how do you value it?

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Category: Online Business

About the Author (Author Profile)

Kori is the editor and owner of Netchunks, a premier blog about Webmaster and Blogging Tips. She intends to make the web a friendlier place by sharing info and articles which will help other webmasters and bloggers to become successful online.

Comments (19)

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  1. steven papas says:

    Thanks Shiva, I liked your post. Indeed, people tend not to appreciate freebies. In some cultures, free is equivalent to useless. Anyway, free stuff should be marketed on the side of a basic product, as you say, which costs real money. Then it’s highly accepted by the buyer.
    steven papas recently posted..World Of Warcraft Burning Crusade Collector’s Edition ReviewMy Profile

  2. Jacob says:

    I agree, leverage of free and paid is a good strategy. This can definitely increase number of visitors, loyalty and number of sales.

  3. Dana says:

    Yeah, the combination of free and paid service will be a good solution for the current situation.
    Dana recently posted..5 More Cloud Computing Applications for iPad-iPad 2My Profile

  4. Alexis says:

    Nothing is really FREE. But free sign is very powerful to attrack so it definitely a good idea to make free items part of a priced package.
    Alexis recently posted..Who Makes Money From LaunchesMy Profile

    • Mark says:

      Really this is the strategy used nowadays at every market place, first they attract the users to get free then motivate them for more golden featured products to buy.

    • LatestWorld says:

      Of course Alexis……….. First they announce “Loot Sale” i.e special price just like free. but in free the products or services are very cheap or rough. And then the user intimately thought to buy featured product due to quality.
      LatestWorld recently posted..Five Talented Young InventorsMy Profile

  5. Sam says:

    Free word hit on the mind and you thinking what’s the crap there. But combination of free and paid service is right way to look it geniune.
    Sam recently posted..Summer Holiday PackagesMy Profile

  6. Anna from Yachtcharter Griechenland says:

    As they say: Free things can turn out to be very expensive! ;)

  7. Akhilesh

    I have always believed that there is no such thing as a free lunch. So do most people. As you referred, when it comes to Internet Marketing, unless you tell a user how much a “free” product will cost “normally”, you are likely to fail badly.
    Akhilesh recently posted..How to Download Youtube Videos in Computers and MobilesMy Profile

  8. Usman from FirstHosting says:

    I need to put a point that its human nature, that the thing we get for free have no value for us, even it has much value.

  9. Mary says:

    Free-Free-Free Its the motto of brand advertisers to attract the public. Actually quality products are nothing are to be free, only rough and normal products could free. Any how your nice attention!
    Mary recently posted..Website Development ServicesMy Profile

  10. Great article, I’m a little sceptical about using the term free, however it can’t be denied as being just another effective way to promote anything. When I see the term free I always assume that what ever it is that’s ‘free’ isn’t of great value in any case, but just a largely watered down version of the term ‘premium’.
    Fabrizio Van Marciano recently posted..Giveaway- 31 Days To Build A Better Blog by Darren Rowse- Tweet &amp Comment To Win!My Profile

  11. Riya

    Hi Shiva,

    Now people understand it quite clearly that someone is giving something free only for the promotion and some benefit. We need to use some valid reason while giving anything free so that people understand the importance of the Free and take it positively.
    Riya recently posted..HostGator Coupon Codes- Latest Promo Discount Vouchers Daily UpdatedMy Profile

  12. Anu

    We should put some condition or criteria before giving something Free so that people don’t take it lightly or useless. They need to understand the benefit of any Free item/product/service.
    Anu recently posted..Do you know Heartbeat can charge your CellphoneMy Profile

  13. Anna says:

    Personally, I think that free content is not valuable – I mean it is rather strange that people can give something valuable for free. In our modern competitive world nothing is free and everything should be turned into money. Thus, I guess important and really valuable information and knowledge should be paid – reasonably paid.

  14. Lin Ching from San Tan Heights homes says:

    I guess the weight of something free can only be as much as the person giving it. I will most likely accept something “free” from a site or person that I trust than from a person or site that has contacted me out of the blue..

  15. Alvin Y. says:

    Yes you are right Shiva. When something is offered free, one would think that its quality is not that good compared to paid services. And some free service would be later require payment from the user.
    Alvin Y. recently posted..Three Spot-on Tips to Find Perfect Gifts for MenMy Profile

  16. niko says:

    Using the word FREE can be a double edge sword.

    It can work for you or against.

    The word FREE targets a certain type of customer.
    if you want paying customer and not cheap customers
    don’t use the word Free.
    niko recently posted..BackLink Profit Monster – Finding Leafy Snacks For The Panda updated Sun Jun 19 2011 6:57 pm CDTMy Profile

  17. Sameer

    Combination of both would be an awesome experience, since one can’t go for everything which is Free or Paid
    Sameer recently posted..Nokia’s social App Coming on Android and iPhoneMy Profile

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