HomeBlog The Myth of Free Content

The Myth of Free Content

May 28, 2015 | By Erin Provey

  • We recently launched a methodology for quantifying and analyzing the total cost of content creation in b-to-b organizations
  • In this methodology, we ask organizations to reconsider the “fact” that internally generated content is free
  • A lot of organizations create most of their content internally but have trouble estimating the dollars represented by that effort

We recently launched a methodology for quantifying and analyzing the total cost of content creation in b-to-b organizations of all sizes. Beyond allowing organizations to – often for the first time – actually understand how much they are actually spending on content, a standard methodology also allows them to benchmark against a peer set, which is really exciting both for clients and for us nosy research nerds who have had hunches about this for a long time and love to see these real numbers suddenly pouring in.

FreeIn this methodology, we ask organizations to do a number of things differently and with more discipline. And of all these things we ask for, far and away the most difficult is to reconsider the “fact” that internally generated content is free. IT'S NOT.

Most organizations create most of their content internally, and we have yet to encounter an organization that does a good job (or, really, any sort of job at all) at estimating the dollars represented by that effort. What we do encounter quite a bit, on the other hand, is the mindset that this content is “free.” And often not just free but (gasp) disposable.

And we wonder why there is so much low-quality content on our portals and Web sites? And we wonder why there is so much good content buried in internal systems and never used because no one can find it? It's because we think about this content as somehow "less" than the content we pay for explicitly, and we forget that we do indeed pay for this content implicitly.

Think for a moment about the last time you got a “free” thing. Was that thing free? No. It was packaged into an explicit cost. That free ice cream sundae my stepson choked down on Saturday night wasn't actually free. We paid for a kids’ meal, and it's part of the kids’ meal – part of the entire cost. 

Somehow our minds have played this same marketing trick on us – that we can pay someone's salary (feel free to stop reading if you rely on unpaid labor) but that their output is somehow free. And it is much higher than the cost of a kids’ meal. This idea is,if you don't mind me saying so, straight bonkers.

At the very least do yourself (and your CFO) a favor and start being more conscious about the effort behind (and thus the cost of) internally generated content. Not until this mindset changes will the quality of the content increase and the access to it be better supported through better tools and processes.

Erin Provey

Erin Provey is a Senior Research Director of Corporate and Executive Marketing Strategies at SiriusDecisions. She has more than 10 years of experience in brand strategy, including positioning, identity, public relations, digital strategy, copywriting and account management. Follow Erin on Twitter @erinprovey.

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