Free Content Syndication – Is It Worth It?

A client writes:

“I’ve received e-mails in the last month from two vendors (online publishers) offering to post my white papers and other content on their site for free. What’s the catch? I can’t think of a legitimate reason to turn down the offer.”

My response:

“Have you heard the one about the free lunch?

Yes, we’re seeing these offers also. Every vendor is different, but here are some general observations about “free” content syndication programs:

* Free programs (generally) don’t generate leads.

For the most part, online publishers offering to post content free will do so minus any kind of registration process. In other words, prospects will be downloading your content without your knowing about it. On the one hand, at least you’re getting your message out. On the other, you have no idea who’s downloading the content, and how to follow up with them.

* Free programs can be a precursor to a sales pitch.

We know of at least one instance in which a client accepted such an offer and six weeks later received an e-mail from the same ad representative saying that 200 people had downloaded the white paper, that they were in possession of contact information for all 200 prospects, and did the client want to buy that information for $X. Here again, you’d be under no obligation to pay anyone anything. Just know that a “free” listing may be another way of getting you to buy advertising.

* Free listings can cannibalize your paid (lead generation) listings

Face it, no-one wants to provide his/her contact information if it’s not required. If a prospect googles your white paper topic and has the option to download your content anonymously, he/she will choose that option every time. By posting your content for free, you may be diminishing the performance of other, concurrent programs that are designed to generate measurable leads.

* Most paid listings come with promotion included

Most free listings sit in content libraries with no promotion driving traffic to that listing. Most paid listings, on the other hand, come with built-in promotion, in the form of newsletter alerts, text links, search ads, etc. In an era when most syndication deals are negotiated on a Cost Per Lead (CPL) basis, syndication vendors have every motivation to drive as many downloads of your content as possible. If you’re not paying them for that listing, that motivation is eliminated.

Again, if your only objective is getting your message and content out into the marketplace, then free listings may be just the ticket. If, however, you’re out to generate qualified, measurable leads, and utilize content as a means to identify, capture, and engage prospects interested in the very business problem you can help solve, then paid listings are the way to go.”

For more information, download a free copy of CDI’s white paper: “10 Tough Questions to Ask Your Content Syndication Vendor

One thought on “Free Content Syndication – Is It Worth It?

  1. Matt Heinz

    It’s all about value exchange, and what you (as a marketer) want back from the exchange.

    Howard, you give a LOT of great, free advice on this blog. I don’t have to pay for it, and you don’t require registration to read it. I assume you do this to develop thought leadership for yourself and for your business (I think it’s working, by the way – full disclosure to other readers, I’m a happy Connect Direct client).

    But that exchange has value to you. You may see that dozens of people have visited your blog today, but you don’t necessarily know who they are. You trust that a % will like what they see, figure you’re a smart direct marketer, and contact you for your services.

    In many cases, that free exchange is worth the effort. In other cases, you’ll want something in exchange for value-added info. The key is understanding precisely what you want back from the exchange, how you’ll measure it, and how you’ll evaluate – at the end of day – whether it was worth it.


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