Competing With Free
February 29, 2012 by Joy Curtis
Some time ago, Techdirt posted an article titled, "Saying You Can’t Compete With Free Is Saying You Can’t Compete Period." If you like slightly sardonic explanations of margins, competitive advantages and profits, then you might enjoy the article.
What struck a chord, however, was its message that free resources aren’t the problem so much as understanding your margins and adding innovations to gain a profitable advantage. Publishers sometimes believe that so much information is available for free, it’s hard to break through the noise with their publication. I argue, if you offer more than that free service or your competition, you can get more out of your audience.
Some things to keep in mind:
1. The Google searcher is not your audience. There is a lot of information on the Internet, and it takes fractions of a second for Google to serve up millions of web pages. While your digital edition is indexed by Google, and you can gain an extra visit or two this way, a Google search isn’t how publishers build a following.
2. You have advantages over the mountains of information: you’re pushing content directly to readers who asked for it. By going digital, you can ensure your material is getting delivered safe and sound to your readers’ inboxes, accessible at any time. This is a great convenience for your audience – whether they’re paying subscribers or simply traded you their email – so they don’t have to go looking for you or remember to check your site for updates.
3. If you offer more, you put the margins back in your favor. A digital publication is not a website. With a digital edition, you build a relationship with your audience, which builds loyalty to your content and your brand. (This, in turn, is leveraged with advertisers or future subscribers.) To establish yourself as an experience worth paying for, you have to give the reader more. For an example, to borrow from an old post: "Round out the customer’s experience with your product; follow the likely story associated with the item. Take the Pampered Chef [catalog]: For a pan, add a link to open a pop-up of a recipe the customer can make in that pan. Recommend other products that will help in the cooking process for that recipe (such as measuring cups, whisks, etc.) and link to those products’ pages in the catalog. Make it easy for the customer to bookmark the recipe and come back to it again when all the products and ingredients have been purchased."
For more on this example of making a well-rounded experience worthy of a loyal following, click here.