Free vs Paywall content

Discussion in 'Everything Else' started by wespom9, Jul 25, 2019.

  1. wespom9

    wespom9 More than 500 posts Certified Instructor

    This was slightly inspired by the thread for Q&D, but I hope that this conversation doesn't devolve. Rather, I'm genuinely interested in thoughts on the trend as a whole.

    There is a growing trend in many industries to provide free content. (I think this is mainly due to the explosion of the internet, but that's another story). As we all know, in the fitness industry it's expected to provide vast amounts of free information. If you don't constantly do Twitter/IG/whatever and have a regular blog, the path to financial success is a little bit steeper. There is a sometimes subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle message that if you are going to charge a fee for a product, you need to offer a corresponding amount of products for free.

    It's interesting that some industries have this mental barrier for consumers that the information should come for free. Journalism has suffered greatly; as a regular follower of many sports, I know that when the online magazine The Athletic started putting paywalls for certain articles, there was an uproar not only with the company, but with the journalists themselves - as if wanting income for their work was heresy. I feel the fitness industry is the same. I listen to the Peter Attia podcast, and he recently put a paywall on all podcasts that are an "AMA' style, while so far keeping all other interview based podcasts free. I'm actually torn on this one - I really enjoy his info but struggle with the yearly and monthly cost to subscribe. I'll admit I was actually kind of mad about it- like all the work he's doing for the podcast was only worthwhile to me at no cost. Then I realized how crazy that thought was.

    I'm interested in hearing other's opinions on this matter. Do you feel hurt if you have to pay for something that you don't think should require a fee? Do you think it's wrong to have any free content at all and everything should be for purchase? How do you feel when there is a mix of paid for/free content? Where is the line? Would you buy a product that you may not really want, but comes from somebody/some company that has provided you with a vast amount of free information?
  2. Pavel Macek

    Pavel Macek More than 2500 posts Master Instructor

    Free, payed, doesn't matter - what is important is the quality of information. I am a member of a few payed instructional portals (combat arts, stoicism... ), and the membership is worth every single cent.

    I am always more than happy to support my favorite authors - it means they will write more books, shoot more videos, share more of their knowledge - and I will learn more, faster, safer, without reinventing the wheel.
  3. Steve W.

    Steve W. Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    I am very reluctant to subscribe to content behind a paywall when:
    1. I don't have a strong sense of the type of content, the amount of content, and the quality of the content.
    2. The content relies on an individual and not an established organization.
    3. The content is not the main business of the organization, but a sideline, upsell, or "premium" add-on.

    So I currently only have one content subscription, The New York Times. I've been a Times reader for decades and switched over to a digital subscription because I live in the suburbs and the physical paper gets delivered too late for me to read it in the morning (I get up very early to have breakfast, walk the dog, read the "paper" and mentally prepare for my day. The Times also has a digital "replica edition," which is a digital facsimile of the printed paper, which I much prefer to reading the article in website format (even though the navigation format of the replica edition is diabolically, sadistically terrible).

    I'm a big sports fan, so I am considering a subscription to The Athletic. In contrast, based on its free content, there is no way I would consider spending a penny on ESPN+.
  4. Dasho

    Dasho Triple-Digit Post Count

    I think the big problem is that "free" content has traditionally been driven by advertising, which is all well and good. A line was crossed on the internet when sites would display misleading (at best) and actually harmful (at worse) advertisements. Internet users, rightfully so, have decided to start blocking advertisements. This leaves certain forms of media scrambling to figure out a way to earn revenue again.

    Also, journalism has suffered greatly at the hands of "journalists" themselves.

    P.S. Just to clarify and avoid debate, I'm not alluding to politics. I'm referring to the deluge of headlines which end with "...(person) says", "...according to (unrelated third party)", etc. Things that are basically tabloid-tier have become all too common.
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2019
  5. North Coast Miller

    North Coast Miller More than 2500 posts

    I think if you're pitching what amounts to a service, in a crowded market, you should put up a bit of free high quality material.

    After that folks should pay for stuff that takes skill and experience to generate. A free teaser from time to time, excerpts, but actionable or at least very little.

    Look at S Maxwell's approach. His site has plenty of snippets, video demo of individual lifts and a few circuits, Q&A with various clients and others, but very little you could put together and say "this is a Maxwell program".

    You're free to contact him...

    The less market presence/brand recognition you have, the more free stuff you will have to put out there initially. After that, what good does it do to pump free stuff if you go broke doing it. Better to speak quietly to a smaller audience than shout into a crowd.
    cheldelformai likes this.
  6. Neuro-Bob

    Neuro-Bob More than 2500 posts

    Good or bad, if it’s behind I paywall 98% of the time it’s not for me.

    People should be compensated for their work. It’s unquestionable. But a lot of stuff that interests me is more “nice to have” than “need,” and from that view my budget will normally go towards high quality food before a new book or subscription.
  7. wespom9

    wespom9 More than 500 posts Certified Instructor

    Interesting to see the varied responses here.

    I think what really drives it for me, as @Pavel Macek has said, is that the information is the quality of information. The catch here, of course, is that sometimes you don't know the quality of the information if there is no free content beforehand! I know that I have bought an individual or organizations's content directly because their free content was so good (Tim Anderson and OS come to mind), but I don't necessarily think that is a pre-requisite. That being said, I'm struggling to come up with a fitness industry related book/product that I had NOT read free content prior from the author.
    cheldelformai likes this.
  8. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Dir. of Community Engagement Senior Instructor

    @wespom9, you've gotten a number of different responses, but they're all from the point of view of a consumer, IMHO. A business needs revenue, and a broader look at "free" content, again IMHO, is that it's a different business model than charging for directly for all goods, but it's still a business model and it still brings in revenue and someone's still paying for it, somehow.

    I think there are lots of opportunities for everyone to be a winner in the free content model, e.g., in my music teaching career, I offer all my first lessons for free. I hope a first lesson will be the beginning of a long-term relationship that will bring me income, and I want prospective students to take a chance in coming to see me for the first time that they might not if it cost money. I give because I'm also hoping to receive, and I also give because I believe strongly in the value of what I offer for what I get paid, and it's all driven my love of and passion for music.

    Are my first free lessons all that different from the grocery store offering 12-packs of 16 oz. Pepsi for $12? We are both hoping to "get you into the store" and that once you're inside, you'll like what you find, feel you've found good quality and good value.

    What I do here at StrongFirst is also a passion, as I think it is for all of us who have been part of StrongFirst for a long time - we believe that helping people become stronger can make the world a better place, and that's why we do it, but we've also decided on our particular mix of what we offer for free and what we charge for. And like any other business, we hope that what you find here for free encourages you to buy some of what we sell, too.

    And there is the whole history of the Internet to consider as well - it began as a kind of cooperative. I wrote a lot of things in the late 1980's and 1990's that were posted in free sites online by a magazine that "paid" me in prestige for being a writer. They hoped my articles would bring them more magazine subscribers, and I hoped my articles would enhance my reputation and bring me more business. (I had an entire career in computers, specifically custom PC software, during a break in my music teaching career - roughly 1990 to 2010 or so.)

    Glass half empty: nothing is really free.

    Glass half full: free content is a wonderful way to introduce people to products and services you believe add value to lives. It's 'try before you buy' and that, sometimes also known as a "loss leader," is a win/win if what you're selling is good.

    JMO, YMMV.

    wespom9 and Maine-ah KB like this.
  9. North

    North Double-Digit Post Count

    FWIW the “train on your own” section and these forums are amazing quality for free — especially for the bold souls who post videos of themselves! I own S&S and naked warrior. The material in the books and on the website “sold” me in the content, but also connected me with local SFGs and an associated gyms. It’s how I found @Tony Gracia and his Industrial Strength gym (happy to recommend those folks if you’re in Portland BTW).
    Steve Freides, Tony Gracia and Anna C like this.
  10. Maine-ah KB

    Maine-ah KB Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Okay so I have worked in retail in retail for years. one thing we should remember is that if your not buying something then you are the product. for instance Facebook is free to use, and they make money via selling our information to advertisers. Free Programs, tips and advice are best used to get people interested, give potential consumers a taste of what to expect. SF has MANY free program and advice that based on what ive seen I basically auto buy a lot of there merchandise (I even bough Reloaded and I've never seriously trained with a barbell before)
    Put simply I like free content if its a good representation of what the business stands for. I will pay for products that I believe in.
    Bauer and Steve Freides like this.
  11. Neuro-Bob

    Neuro-Bob More than 2500 posts

    Another take on the business perspective:

    My wife works in the very entrepreneurial side of health/wellness world. More heavy on the diet and lifestyle side than fitness specifically, but often hand in hand. For example, the owner of her company is BFFs with the Bulletproof Coffee guy.

    Every year they put on a huge week-long conference for these folks on how to brand, how to get your podcast out there, build your email list, get a NY times bestseller, network, and so on.

    Their members that make the most sales are the ones that provide science and knowledge that can be used APART from their product. The ones that give all their info but the only solution is their product, those are the worst performers.

    I kinda see that as relating. Useful information APART from the product is the “free” content that then drives people to purchase behind the “paywall.”

    A different way of saying what some above already have...
    Anna C likes this.
  12. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Dir. of Community Engagement Senior Instructor

    To "make the most sales" has never been our mission at StrongFirst. We want to make ourselves known to everyone so that those who are interested will find us. Put another way, we are not troubled by anyone's lack of interest in StrongFirst, only by someone's lack of awareness of who we are and what we stand for.

    Amar, Bunn and Neuro-Bob like this.

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