Should You Offer Free Content?

Ning, the popular social network, has decided to shut the doors on its free services and offer only premium content. All of its existing free social networking customers will either have to start paying for premium services or shut down their social networks. That’s got to hurt.

This seems to be the way many online businesses are headed now. Instead of offering free services or free content, they are offering only paid services. Should you?

There are, of course, pros and cons to doing it that way. Here are some things to think about if you are thinking about making your site visitors pay for your content:

  • If you charge, you will lose some of your base.
  • Charging can often lead to greater ROI, but not always.
  • If you provide real value and your audience knows it and can’t get that value anywhere else then they are likely to be willing to pay for it.
  • If your value is no higher than your competition, which offers value for free, then visitors will not pay for your content.
  • One option is to offer services for free then, like Ning, begin to charge after you have built up your traffic.

There is nothing wrong with free content and there is nothing wrong with paid content, but before you decide to make your visitors pay, think about what will happen if they decide not to. There is the chance that visitors will not think your service is valuable enough to pay for. Make sure that it is.